Harold Lovell, Political Leader of the United Progressive Party, is rejecting as “foolishness” and “lies” the claims and implications by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that the Party opposed the sale of Scotiabank Antigua to a local entity.
“We have never been against the acquisition of Scotiabank by any legitimate institution or consortium. That is foolishness!” Lovell says.
“What we opposed and criticized was the behaviour of the Prime Minister in his approach to the matter.
“We refer, specifically, to the offensive and insulting language he used to describe the Canadian principals of Scotiabank and to the threatening statements he made about the Country Manager of the Bank, who, incidentally, is a CARICOM citizen,” Lovell says.
The Political Leader also reminds Browne that Scotiabank had followed all the requirements for divestment, according to the existing law, and had duly advised the ECCB of its intention. However, it was he, Browne, who – after the fact – amended the legislation simply to withhold the necessary vesting order.
“That was an act of bad faith and not of good negotiation skills,” Lovell says, “and it still holds implications for other investors.”
Far from opposing the take-over of Scotiabank by a local institution, Lovell says the UPP – like other responsible parties – pressed Browne to name the entities that comprised the consortium to which he referred. But this information was never shared.
Lovell also refers to Browne’s often-repeated lies about “saving ABIB.” He reminds the banking fraternity and the public that the UPP’s plan to save depositors’ accounts and assets were centred on a take-over by the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank (ECAB): a plan that, after much posturing, was eventually adopted by Browne, himself.
Finally, says Lovell, the enduring proof of the UPP’s support for local economic empowerment and the stability of the banking sector is the actual existence of ECAB, the former Bank of Antigua.
“ECAB, the very institution that Browne is now crowing about, is the same bank that the Spencer Administration stepped in – personally, as the Government, and regionally – to save, and without bad-playing anybody, to boot!” Lovell declares.
The Political Leader says his feelings mirror those of retired banker Everette Christian, who, earlier this week, expressed relief that the Scotiabank matter has been resolved.
“I am happy that this long and stressful period in the lives of the Bank’s employees has come to what appears to be an amicable end,” Lovell says.
“The Prime Minister has assured the people that there will be no job losses by way of involuntary severance, and we are holding him to that.
“I also have every confidence in ECAB General Manager Michael Spencer and his team, and I wish them success in managing yet another acquisition in the interest of both their clients and the country,” Lovell concludes.