Friday, February 27, 2009

Jagdeo's arrogance on display #1

Guyana360: At a time when our nation's financial structure is facing collapse, the elected Government is more concerned about how it looks in the press than being truthful about the people's investment in certain banks. Why should they care. Oh yea they do care now about the money in Clico than the money that was involved in Globe Trust.

From the Government Incompetent News Agency (GINA): The Government of Guyana wishes to express its strong disappointment over what appear to be deliberate attempts to distort and misrepresent important aspects of the press conference hosted by President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday on matters related to ClICO, Hand in Hand Trust, and the financial sector more generally.

In its issue today, the Guyana Times carried three stories related to this matter on its pages 2, 3 and 5. In all of these three reports, the Editor very cleverly omitted any reference to the very important statement made by the President that he had briefed the Leader of the Opposition, when he met with him at 12 noon on Wednesday, February 25, on the situation and on Government’s intention to approach the Courts to seek an order with relation to CICO.

It is on this basis that the President then expressed his disappointment that the Leader of the Opposition nevertheless engaged in grandstanding in Parliament on the matter subsequent to their meeting.

In the Guyana Times page 2 report on what the newspaper described as differences between the Government and the Opposition on the matter, the President’s disappointment at the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition is reported, but absolutely no reference is made to the fact that the President had briefed the Leader of the Opposition even before Government moved to the Courts.

This striking omission can only be intended to withold information on this important step taken by Government, and perpetuate the misleading impression that the Opposition was not apprised on developments on this matter.

The omission of the sentence is significant because it creates the impression that the President’s disappointment was a result of the Opposition Leader raising the matter in Parliament. Indeed, this is the legitimate right of the Opposition Leader.

Instead, the origin of the President’s disappointment is that the statements made by the Opposition on this matter seek to create the impression that they were not aware of action being contemplated by Government while, in fact, they were briefed in advance.

By the studious omission of this fact on the part of the Guyana Times Editor and reporter, the newspaper contributes to a perpetuation of this misinformation by the Opposition.

Secondly, in its report on page 10, the Stabroek News quotes the AFC as saying that the move to the Courts by the Government came in the wake of statements by the President that the economy of Guyana was sufficiently insulated from the effects of the global financial crisis, and that ClICO Guyana would not be affected by problems in the ClICO Group.

This is a blatant distortion of all previous pronouncements made by the President on the matter. Indeed, the President has been widely quoted as explaining the potential for mismatch between asset and liability maturities in the event of a run on any financial institution, including Clico, at the press conference he hosted immediately after returning from his official visit to the Middle East.

The same edition of Stabroek News on page 11 states that the President had at his earlier press conference “added that the only problem he could envisage in the short- term is a mismatch between liabilities and assets in the event of significant changes of the company’s investments abroad”.

In fact, the developments of earlier this week in the Bahamas constituted exactly that, a significant change in the status of the company’s investments abroad.

By no stretch of the imagination, therefore, could any of the President’s earlier statements be interpreted as suggesting that Guyana was fully insulated.

Thirdly, the Stabroek News report on page 11 by Mark McGowan makes reference to the President being “clearly irate” when asked certain questions.

It would be eminently obvious to anyone viewing a recording of the press conference that any hint of exasperation or impatience in the President’s responses was the result of redundant, repetitive, and clearly uninformed questions being asked by certain reporters, including the reporter from Stabroek News. Indeed, in at least one instance during the press conference, a reporter repeated a question that the President had just answered, resulting in the President responding by indicating that he would give the same answer that he had just already given. I

n addition, at no time did the President suggest the avoidance of “unnecessary unease among the populace” as a reason why Government did not indicate to the public earlier the likely financial difficulties faced by Clico Guyana. Instead, the President explained that no responsible Government or regulator would make premature statements which, simply by virtue of being made, could precipitate the demise of a functioning financial instutition. Indeed, this is evidenced and corroborated in all of the countries where action was taken in relation to ClICO.

Neither in Trinidad nor the Bahamas did the Government preempt regulatory intervention by making irresponsible statements to cast doubt on the strength of the institutions. In both countries, the first pronouncement by the authorities was the announcement of regulatory action or intervention.

A fourth example is found in the the same page 11 article in which the writer states that the President indicated that, if the NIS were to lose its investment of $6 billion, the Government would not be bound to provide the lost sum of money. In the first place, this discussion did not take place during the press conference but during a post-press-conference informal chat with some of the journalists who remained in the room.

In the second place, the President never made such a statement. When asked by a reporter if the law requires that the Government cover losses on NIS investments, the President indicated that he did not think so.

He went on to explain that if there are financial shortfalls at the NIS, such as might be indicated by an actuarial review, the Scheme would normally be required to reverse this deficit either by increasing its investment returns or raising its contribution rates.

At no point in time did the President indicate a departure from the commitment given during the press conference that steps will be taken to protect the pensions of those who have saved and invested in the institutions affected by these recent events, including NIS.A fifth example of misleading reporting is found at page 3 of Stabroek News.

During the press conference, the newspaper’s reporter asked about an alleged release that Guyana had been dropped from the list of countries to receive aid from Canada. Several reporters present at the press conference immediately turned to the Stabroek News reporter and advised him that there was no such report, and that they had already checked the matter with the Canadian authorities.

The President likewise indicated that he was not aware of any such release. Instead of clarifying the fact that there was no such release and that previous reports to this effect were inaccurate, the page 3 story attempts to suggest that the President undertook to check whether there was such a release. In fact, there was no such release, and this was made clear at the press conference, including by other reporters to the Stabroek News reporter.

These examples, and others, highlight the regrettable resort to incomplete, ill-informed, or misleading representations of what transpired in the press conference, and are symptomatic of a broader lack of accuracy in reporting these issues in recent times. The Government would urge greater responsibility on the part of journalists and editors in the interest of ensuring that the public receive the benefit of full and objective information on such matters which understandably and rightly are of interest to them

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