August 5, 2020

COMMENTARY: Federation fire sale … is Barbados buying out St Kitts and Nevis?

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By Joel Liburd

The headline is not misleading. For far too long, developing countries in particular have mulled over and teased the idea of campaign finance reform to their respective electorates. It’s a problem when unknown magnates pump money into an election campaign, and then reap tenfold when their parties get into power. Governments want to assure their publics that the money they collect is blood and drug-free and that their campaign machinery isn’t washing cash for warlords and drug dealers.

On the other hand, honest and decent people are simply not able to generate the countless millions of dollars required for campaigning. But those who sow the seed of cash must reap the benefits. These unknown persons hide in the shadows and constantly pull and twizzle the strings of the elected leaders, forcing them to dance to their tune of choice.

After listening to the revelations of Labour’s Political Leader Dr Denzil Douglas, I – and thousands of my countrymen, surely – was shocked by the ease at which our little country was being fitted into the Barbadian puppeteer’s gloves.

Bottom Line Upfront:

–        Anthony Da Silva is the chief financier of Timothy Harris’ 2020 Campaign

–        The rationale for pumping so much money into this Campaign is personal enrichment for Tim Harris and the Bajan Businessman

–        Team Unity administration is selling out to a privately-owned Barbadian company. Fact or Fiction?

–        The economic consequences of St Kitts and Nevis being indebted to a private company are many

The Barbadian financier, Anthony Da Silva, is a bit of an enigma. His father Frank is much more well-known, and was a strong supporter and financier of the Barbados Democratic Labour Party for many years. His investment paid off with an ambassadorial appointment. Innotech was founded in 1999 and its Board consists of Chairman Anthony and a number of the Da Silva clan. Da Silva has had run-ins with the Government of Barbados over a rural water project, where it is alleged that he modified the tender and supplied bigger water tanks for which he billed the government beyond its budget. The impasse lasted for months. Da Silva was also said to have been the only bidder for the construction of the Barbados Water Authority headquarters. A number of unverified reports claim that the project was being funded by a private entity from the Turks and Caicos; but that the representative for this company had the same registered address as Innotech.

When Timothy Harris threw his tantrum and walked away from Labour, Da Silva rushed to his side with the offer to fund his fledgling Peoples Labour Party. Players like Sam Condor and Dwyer Astaphan may have been able to woo voters, but they were not as successful in attracting the Labour party’s financiers. It created a perfect storm of both confusion and necessity for Da Silva. As he pumped cash into the toddling PLP, Team Unity insiders say that the plan was to keep one major financier, so that should the party gain governance, there would be no need for a complicated kickback mechanism to reward too many players. Less than two years later, the Team Unity government announced that Innotech Services was a key contractor in the controversial, scandal-ridden new Basseterre High School Project.

Harris also knows that he ascended to the throne by a freak accident. All the conditions were right. And like the dog who gets a bone, he did not know what to do with his new prize. Enter Da Silva – a cunningly shrewd businessman. Harris quickly announced a slew of infrastructural work in all sectors; renovating public buildings, roadworks, drainage, housing and the new high school. Harris had no clue how to repay – and pay – Da Silva for his kindness, and so used unorthodox tendering and procurement procedures in order to bring Da Silva to the front of the line. But Da Silva threw his very small hat in a rather large ring, for despite being touted as a regional construction company, there had been much furore in his homeland over what was said to be very poor engineering work on the Ocean Reef project. When approached for a comment on the issue, Da Silva dryly told a local reporter that he wasn’t going to comment on a private issue between himself and his client.

There is no reason to doubt the veracity of the recording that Labour has aired. Investigation of two anti-Labour Facebook pages (Team Unity USA and The People’s Federation) show they were registered on the same date, and that one is administered in Barbados, while the other is managed from Florida. Coincidence? I think not. In fact, the only doubts that surface pertain to the judgement of the Prime Minister in managing the economy. It’s true that he said the Federation is in good financial standing, but we are yet to see the actual balance sheets. After all, people can say what they want. Also, simply repaying debt means little, if it is at the cost of education, healthcare and livelihoods. But more worrisome and precarious for St. Kitts and Nevis is the contractual arrangement Timothy Harris entered into with a private company from Barbados. It means that the hard-working people of St Kitts and Nevis have become beholden to Harris’ campaign financier from Barbados. Massa day is back. And a Black leader is selling out his people and country to a White man.

We know that the Federation is saturated with skilled workers and more than its fair share of engineers. Why weren’t they given a share in Tim’s national pie? How is it that in five years Tim was unable to secure mutually beneficial government-to-government arrangements to assist with these massive projects? Is it because private companies are better back-office chefs? How much cream has been skimmed off the top? The price tag for the new Basseterre High School, for example, has gone from an initial estimate of $60 million to $140 million. Who is going to end up with the difference? Tim and the Harris family? Da Silva? Or some other foreign vampire who we are yet to uncover?

Team Unity came to power in 2015 and inherited a strong economy and a surplus of EC$900 Million left by the Douglas government. That is a huge sum for a small country by any measure. It spoke volume of the prudent financial management of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party government. But in less than five years, Timothy Harris single-handedly squandered and frittered away this reserve. Today, SKN is in a precarious economic state. And Tim, the bean-counting accountant and friend of the Bajan Businessman, along with his family have benefited. Have you? Another five years of this choke-and-rob gang would mean the economic and financial demise of our country.

— 
Joel B. Liburd
Communications ConsultantBasseterre/Quebec

END

DISCLAMER: The above Commentary and the opinion, belief and viewpoint expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinion, belief and viewpoint of iNews Cayman/ieyenews.com or official policies of iNews Cayman/ieyenews.com

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Comments

  1. I have visited St. Kitts and Nevis several times over the past 40 years and feel at home there. As happens even in “family” islands politics can get quite vicious. The time is long overdue for the abandonment of insularity in governance, business and finance, politics. After all Barbados is now substantially Trinidadian owned! The hope maintained by UWI, CXC and other organisations of all kinds (even Caricom) encourages me to still believe that out of many islansds will come a sense of one people!

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