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KINGSTON — Former Minister of Water and Housing, Dr. Karl Blythe, says that while the National Commercial Bank (NCB) might have been “too big to fail”, after the 1990s meltdown, it should have been offered to the workers and the public, after the removal of the bad debts.

“My concern was, having agreed that the National Commercial Bank was too big to fail, and removing its bad debt portfolio, this bank ought not to have been sold to any private individual or company, unless there was no other option,” he said.

Dr. Blythe was appearing at the FINSAC Commission of Enquiry at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, Thursday July 14, 2011.

He also criticised the decision to give the Jamaican Redevelopment Foundation (JRF) the right to act as a commercial bank in relation to charging interest, especially as it was not under the control of the Minister of Finance, the Financial Services Commission, the Banking Act or the Bank of Jamaica.

“This company does not have the same obligations to the debtors as a bank would,” Dr. Blythe said. He claimed that the 1990s administration had placed the JRF in a position to abuse debtors, “with absolutely no recourse to the debtors but to beg for mercy, or to take the matters to court."

“There is no way the debtors could afford to pay the high profile lawyers for prolonged periods, to fight these cases all the way to the Privy Council,” he said.

Dr. Blythe, who was Minister of Water and Housing for the latter part of the 1990s when the financial sector meltdown occurred, said that for FINSAC to have sold the bad debts to the JRF, for 17 to 20 cents in dollar, without offering them to debtors willing to pay a much higher price, was contrary to statements from then Managing Director, Patrick Hylton, that FINSAC’s priority was getting back as much as possible from the outstanding debts.

 

By BALFORD HENRY, JIS Reporter