Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Mark Wignall | Lingering hurt from FINSAC

Published:Thursday | May 4, 2017 | 5:00 AM

Sylvia's voice on the telephone conveyed a mix of pain, frustration and powerlessness.

"The country needs to see that report which I hope will faithfully capture the governmental wrongs committed against many people whose only crime was in believing in Jamaica."

The next week I saw the documents. A letter from Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation, Inc (JRF) dated August 26, 2005 to her husband's lawyer.

"Even now I can still see the look of shocked resignation on his face as the letter fell to his lap."

Principal: $13.8 million. Interest: $6.7 million.

"Richard suffered a stroke by the next year as we struggled to find a way out. We really tried to work our way out of it, but by 2014, his mind and body had had enough. After many years in a wheelchair, he died."

Over 10 years later, January 2016, there is another letter from the Foundation. Principal: $13.8 million. Interest $50.3 million.

 

NOTHING LEFT

 

"In the end," said Sylvia, "I was hoping that when they sold our property, it would be more than enough to meet the debt and leave me with a little something to give me a chance to make a new start. Instead, when they sold the property, there was nothing left for me."

The governmental policy that brought about the ruination of thousands of ordinary Jamaicans who were trying to advance their lives and build this country - mopping up liquidity (the excess money that could be used to purchase US dollars and moving the exchange rate) by paying high interest rates - has basically followed more than a few of those people to their graves.

One man who asks that I not call his name said, "We could only bear the high interest rates for so long. An entire entrepreneurial class had its hands on the chopping block. But if you think that was bad, the interest rates continued to grow long after we were ruined. We could not get any accounting, but once numbers were presented to us as the latest balance, the interest was galloping faster than a racehorse."

It is a common view among those who have come out on the right side of sanity after being affected and brought to their knees by FINSAC (Financial Sector Adjustment Company), that the ordinary Jamaican you would meet in the streets or at a corner shop doesn't see any connection between himself and the meltdown of the 1990s.

"It's a pity. All we were doing is trying to realise the Jamaican dream by daring to believe that we could achieve what only one socially powerful class in Jamaica believe was bequeathed to them."

In the run-up to the 2006 PNP presidential elections, I interviewed Dr Omar Davies, one of the candidates, whose participation was worth little more than nuisance value. According to Davies, he had a good shot of winning, the expected response, and he had grand ideas about where he could take this country.

 

BLAMING OTHERS

 

I specifically asked him about his performance as the finance minister who was the sole policymaker behind the damaging monetary policy of the 1990s. How would it affect him in the campaign and results? Would some people see him as just plain overrated and incompetent?

Not so, said Dr Davies, who then cast a wide blame of 'mismanagement' by the principals of the many companies who were caught in the FINSAC snare. Dr Davies existed in a world far apart from those who saw the rescue organisation, FINSAC, as worse than the problem that brought about its birth.

How could so many be so wrong and one man, Dr Davies, a politician, in blowing his own horn as one man, be so right?

"I am hoping that the long overdue report is ready by July of this year and the people of this country can see what we went through," said Sylvia.

"I am certain that Richard would still be here if FINSAC, through the JRF, had worked out something with us instead of acting with financial hostility. I want the ordinary Jamaican to know that it could have been them," she said.

The People's National Party administration of 2011 to 2016 deliberately drew the brakes on the completion of the FINSAC report. It obviously had something to hide.

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