Suggesting that NLA should not borrow from NIS is absurd – Gonsalves
February 20, 2015
Suggesting that NLA should not borrow from NIS is absurd – Gonsalves

It is absurd for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) should not borrow money from the National Insurance Services (NIS) to finance projects it is undertaking.

This view was shared by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves {{more}}earlier this week, in response to concerns raised by Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace about a loan the NLA is taking from the NIS.

Gonsalves said as part of their mandate to facilitate growth in sports and culture in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the NLA will borrow $6.5 million from the NIS at a 6.5 per cent interest rate for the development of sporting facilities across the country.

He also said the NLA is in a good position to help the NIS to navigate the current downturn in the investment climate.

“Things are not done by accident, you know, and the NIS in this downturn in the investment climate will be very happy to get an entity which can service the loan at the rate of interest, 6.5 per cent, which is the rate of interest which the actuary in the last actuarial report said they should get for their investments. So, it’s not a favour which is being done,” Gonsalves said.

During a radio programme on Monday, the Opposition Leader questioned why the NLA is not in a position to finance these projects themselves, as they have a regular income stream. Saying he is not opposed in principle to the NIS lending money, the Opposition Leader, however, opined that the NIS is currently not in a state to facilitate that kind of loan.

“I can’t see why the National Lottery is not making sufficient money to deal with the issues that confront them. Equally, or more so, I can’t see why they should be going to the National Insurance to borrow money.”

He said he is concerned because the Government had only recently increased the retirement age and employer and employee contributions to the NIS, because the NIS needed a boost.

“Why can’t the National Lottery meet its own expenses? It’s getting money every day. What is happening at the Lottery that caused them to borrow from the NIS?” Eustace questioned.

Gonsalves, however, dismissed Eustace’s comments as an absurdity.

“So, what is Mr Eustace telling me, that the …National Lotteries can’t borrow in the normal manner, satisfying all the requisites of transparency, interest rate, capacity to pay? That’s what you’re telling me? What kind of absurdity am I hearing here?”

The Prime Minister, who also has responsibility for the National Lotteries, declared that St Vincent’s lottery is the best performer of all the lotteries in the Windward Islands and that their good income stream will be able to facilitate even more growth in the NIS.

Several sporting facilities will benefit from this NLA project, including those at Cumberland, Hope, Richland Park, and others in East St George.

Gonsalves noted that he has advised the NLA to organize a project implementation unit with an engineer, proper accounting staff, in addition to what they already have, and other posts that are necessary to carry out such a significant project.(BK)