Political Leader of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell is highly critical of the government’s decision to place the State Insurance Company (SIC) under the control of the National Asset Management Company (NAMCO), calling it a recipe for disaster.
Lovell cited many things that could go wrong with the set-up and suggested alternatives that could be considered by the government.
NAMCO is an asset-holding and consolidated management corporation which is owned and directed by the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The stated aim is to use it as a vehicle to facilitate public private sector partnership and joint investments in existing ventures or in the development of new ones.
The UPP political leader said he sees no justifiable reason for going to NAMCO, adding that it will create a plethora of problems.
“If the government intends to use NAMCO as an instrument for funding projects for the government, then the West Indies Oil Company Limited and State Insurance are going to be the two main drivers within NAMCO. Success does not mean that every year you are going to meet the same success and conditions. State Insurance could be hit with huge claims and at the same time we could see a change in the price of oil where West Indies Oil could find itself in difficulty,” Lovell said.
Lovell also spoke about the public losing trust and confidence in SIC.
“Two people have informed me that they are moving their business. That is a sad thing. We are proud of State Insurance, but the spectre of government quango sitting over State Insurance, a lot of people do not have confidence in that. They have confidence in Antiguans and Barbudans who are professionals and who are capable of running it without having three ministers of government breathing down their necks,” Lovell said.
The political leader for the UPP went on to suggest that, “The Antigua Commercial Bank’s model has to be the best model. Get Antiguans and Barbudans to own shares in State Insurance, elect their board of directors to have the thing properly run. The bank has demonstrated that we have the capacity to do it. To me, NAMCO is a vehicle that is open to corruption.”
SIC’s transfer to NAMCO took effect last Thursday. In addressing the transfer, Information Minister Melford Nicholas said that among the benefits is the fact that the company is not being sold to any foreign entity.
He also noted that State Insurance Corporation, the name, is a strong local brand and NAMCO is owned by the government, so the profits will continue to stay in Antigua to help develop the economy.