By Carl Joseph
Prime Minister Gaston Browne appeared cheerful on Thursday as he delivered the feature address at the official opening ceremony of Caribbean Union Bank (CUB)’s new branch at Starlings Business Centre on Factory Road.
Browne used the opportunity to speak about what he termed a “remarkable turnaround” of the non-performing indigenous bank since the government acquired the majority shares in 2015.
“We can boast that Caribbean Union Bank is a well-capitalised bank and a bank that is turning a profit,” he said.
According to the prime minister’s reporting, CUB would have turned a $4 million profit during the last financial year. In previous years, the bank, which he said had never recorded a profit since it opened in 2005, had had losses as much as $3 million in a calendar year.
“That’s a swing of $7 million,” boasted Browne as he justified the government’s decision to invest in the bank in 2015 to the tune of $30 million giving it a 66 percent shareholding.
“It was a sensible transaction, to save money, to save jobs that we could have transitioned the bank from a loss-making institution into a profit-making one. And, it has worked,” Browne explained.
The prime minister described the government’s involvement in the bank as one of many public-private partnerships his administration has engaged in since taking office in 2014.
“Our investment into the Caribbean Union Bank was done with the understanding that there would be consistent returns for the government and the people of Antigua and Barbuda,” Browne said.
The share value in the bank, he reported, appreciated by 25 percent since its $30 million three years ago giving a present share value of $48 million. You can do the math… That’s a return of at least 12 percent per year,” he stated.
“We can say that this investment is a highly-performing investment with a superior return compared to many other investments.”
Browne further sought to justify the CUB investment as he outlined that his own total salary and benefits since taking office in 2014 would have totalled approximately $1 million.
“But I just said to you that we’ve increased the value of that initial investment in CUB by about $18 million.”
He said that his $1 million in personal emoluments during the five-year period would have been covered 18 times.
“So, I just want you all to know that you have a prime minister that is working for his money. I’m not here to loaf. I’m here to perform,” Browne said.