This proposal has been put to the Government and was yesterday endorsed by scores of policyholders attending a meeting at Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain to get an update on negotiations between their representatives and the government inter-ministerial team headed by Agriculture Minister Vasant Bharath. Five meetings have taken place between October 11 and 18. Peter Permell, of the Clico Policyholders Group, said the team has asked for the bonds to be amortised, “which means in this particular instance we have asked for it to be paid on a quarterly basis over the next five to seven years between four to 4.5 percent interest on this money.”
He said 50 percent of the balance should be paid in five-year bonds at a rate of four percent, and 50 percent in seven-year bonds at a rate of 4.5 percent. Persons who want to sell their bonds for cash will be able to do so. Permell said by paying quarterly, persons could get access to cash in times of emergencies. Bonds must be redeemable by the Government at full face value, and transferable. According to the proposal Clico Investment Bank, the Government and private corporations whose principles and balances exceed $75,000 will get “bullet payment” from a zero coupon seven-year bond. “The State could wait, corporations could wait. We cannot wait.”
Permell said there should be a specific cut off date for determining the liabilities to policyholders. The last interest payment was for August and this was adding to the liabilities. The policyholders are asking that while the liabilities are being quantified and a plan implemented for Clico, for the interim an interest rate of five percent “market rate” should be implemented. Permell said the onus will be on Government to implement the plan as soon as possible.
Policyholders also want a stake in the sale of any Clico assets sold above their book value.
Permell said, “Those bonds will have an equity participation by the issue of warrants. The warrants will give bondholders the right to participate in the upside or any gains in any sale of all assets.” Any profits will be divided 49 percent to Government and 51 percent to policyholders.
The warrants could be traded on the secondary market. Permell said there should be a policyholders’ representative on the boards of CL Financial and Clico to look out for their interests and ensure assets are not sold below market value. Another proposal which was discussed at the forum is from Ryan Asset Liability Management (RALM), which was invited by the policyholders to give input, to invest US$600 million from Government and convert it to US treasury bills which will be managed over 20 years so at the end its value will be equal to the debt. Policyholders’ representative Prem Beharry said RALM said within three months of engagement it could sell bonds and get US$1.8 billion which could be used to pay all policyholders but the country will have to carry a debt. Beharry said the proposal could only work where interest rates in the US are on the rise.
Permell said the proposal from Finance Minister Winston Dookeran of payment over 20 years at zero percent interest has been rejected outright by policyholders and is off the table. The policyholders are calling for Government to honour the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) from the PNM administration which guaranteed investments of policyholders. Permell said anxiety is growing and investors wanted to hear “very quickly” from Government. “The ball is now in the court of the Government,” he said.
During the open forum tears, anger and frustration came from policyholders. Peter Hinds, of Tarouba, was overcome with emotion when he spoke of investing for his two daughters’ future. He demanded that policyholders get their money “right now”. Hinds told the gathering he had not voted for the People’s Partnership and was not sorry. Phillip Lyder said he supported the Congress of the People but now wanted to have nothing to do with the party. He warned that the handling of the Clico policyholders will determine if the Partnership is ever re-elected. “I would have died for them. As far as I am concerned, Dookeran could drop...,” Lyder said without saying anything more. The father of attorney Lynette Seebaran- Suite, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Leo Seebaran, said his investment had matured last December and based on the Government’s commitment he reinvested several thousands. The 85-year-old told Newsday he was very disturbed and disappointed since he heard the Central Bank Governor give assurances. “The Government has no right to renege in the change from one government to another. It does not say much for Government. Government must honour its obligation.”