KINGSTON — Former Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Karl Blythe, will appear before the FINSAC Commission of Enquiry at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Thursday, July 14.
Dr. Blythe is expected to answer questions from the Commission’s attorney, Judith Clarke, as well as attorney for several of the debtors, Anthony Levy, all day and could return, if the engagement prolongs, to answer questions from lawyers for the creditors.
A member of the People’s National Party (PNP) administration of the 1990s, the period of the financial sector meltdown which is at the core of the enquiry and a debtor himself, Dr. Blythe has apologized to his fellow debtors for the role of that administration in the financial collapse.
He has said that the former administration must shoulder much of the blame for the crisis that led to the collapse of several institutions, and the establishment of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC). He said that although FINSAC was set up to bail out companies that suffered, with its takeover of troubled financial institutions, debtors incurred very high interest rates resulting in many of them losing their businesses because they were unable to pay.
Dr. Blythe’s statement followed one from former Prime Minister, the Most Hon P.J. Patterson, who headed the 1990s cabinet, that mismanagement of the commercial banks was the root cause of the collapse.
Mr. Patterson acknowledged that the meltdown cost Jamaica 40 percent of its GDP and stifled economic growth. However, he insisted that if his administration had not taken a decision to protect the savings and insurance policies, “the blood that would have flowed in Jamaica would make the Morant Bay Rebellion look like a picnic”.
Mr. Levy had requested the appearance of both Mr. Patterson and Dr. Blythe,after their public statements, suggesting that they could provide valuable inside information to the enquiry on the administration’s policies and interventions. Commissioners Worrick Bogle, chairman, and Charles Ross, eventually agreed to call Dr. Blythe, but denied the request for Mr. Patterson, on the basis that they already have access to documents with the information required of him.
Both Mr. Levy and attorney for the Jamaican Redevelopment Foundation (JRF), Sandra Minott Phillips, criticized the commission’s decision, but the commissioners stuck to their position. JRF bought the bad debts, some of which are still outstanding, from FINSAC in 2002.
The enquiry will resume on Tuesday (July 12) at 2 p.m. at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, with current General Manager of FINSAC, Errol Campbell, being cross examined. It can also be seen live on the Public Broadcasting Company of Jamaica’s (PBCJ) television channel.
By Balford Henry, JIS Reporter & Editor