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(SNO) – Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre on Wednesday came under fire from Finance Minister Ubaldus Raymond over government’s decision to borrow $100 million from the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) to settle two bonds that matured last week.
This decision by government has fuelled a raging public debate about its merits and demerits, one that is still ongoing, led by the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and government critics.
Raymond told this reporter that he will not entertain Pierre, also known as ‘Pip’, who yesterday requested answers to questions Pierre said concerned the country’s taxpayers.
Minister Raymond said that Pierre, as Opposition leader, has access, like any other government minister, to information regarding finance or anything regarding the economy.
“But in this situation (government’s decision to borrow $100 million from the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) to service bonds totalling $120 million), if he needs any particular question answered, like the bonds, he can make a call to the Department of Finance, he can talk to the Board members of the NIC on any matter concerning the bonds,” Raymond said.
He added: “I am sick and tired, and St. Lucians must be sick and tired, of the politics Pierre is trying to play with the pensioners. He raised concerns once, the concerns were addressed. Second time they were addressed. Now he is trying to shift the goal posts asking questions he can get answers to. I will not entertain Pierre in his political games. I will not do it,” Raymond said.
Pierre at a press conference on Tuesday said the SLP makes no apology for requesting answers to questions that concern the taxpayers of Saint Lucia, saying that his party will always give special attention to the hard-earned savings at the NIC of pensioners.
“We note the arrogant and mudslinging response of Ubaldus Raymond. In his usual style he attempts to attack and vilify the opposition for asking pertinent questions on behalf of the people of Saint Lucia. The Saint Lucia Labour Party will never be silenced with intimidation, threats or vindictiveness of the UWP,” Pierre said.
He then went on to list five questions he claimed the SLP requested answers to.
The questions are:
* What are the names of the persons, companies or institutions that purchased bonds in the most recent sale of Saint Lucia government bonds?
* Did the Saint Lucia National Insurance Corporation purchase additional shares in the latest sale (sale of government bonds) thus increasing the NIC holdings of Saint Lucia Government Bonds?
* Did the Saint Lucia National Insurance Corporation rollover any of the Saint Lucia Government Bonds that it had originally held in the most recent transaction?
* Did the Saint Lucia Government purchase $5million worth of their own bonds in that latest sale of bonds?
And what is the balance on the sinking fund at 30th June, 2018?
“We request the Minister of Finance to answer these questions so that the public of Saint Lucia can have an accurate and truthful picture of the situation regarding the earnings of the pensioners of Saint Lucia,” Pierre said.