In a broadcast to the nation, Bird said that there was a convergence of views between the deputy leader of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP), Gaston Browne, and Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and Minister Harold Lovell regarding the government’s declared intention of selling-off 49 percent of State Insurance Corporation.
Bird added, “Let me say from the outset that Gaston Browne has given a full account to me as leader of the Labour Party, of the conversation with Spencer and Lovell. He has also made his own position clear in a public statement.
“I support State Insurance going public and listing up to a maximum of 49 percent of its shares on the ECSE in order to raise capital for expansion to include market penetration into the OECS region and beyond. I am opposed to any bilateral sale in which the government and people of Antigua and Barbuda would lose majority ownership and control to a foreign entity. I am also opposed to any corrupt private acquisition for that matter that is not in keeping with the transformation of State Insurance into a strong regional and ultimately, a global player,” Browne had said in the statement referred to by Bird.
“It should be clear from Gaston’s statement that he personally does not support the scheme to sell-off State Insurance Corporation in the manner that Spencer and Lovell intend to do,” Bird said. “The State Insurance Corporation is a national asset it belongs to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”
The Opposition leader said in his broadcast that what the government is trying to do is to fix their own immediate need for money at the people’s expense.
He added, “Once they sell-off 49 percent of State Insurance Corporation, whether to foreigners or selected local businessmen, these shareholders will dictate what will happen with the Corporation…. those shareholders will also dictate what staff are fired, what new staff from outside will be brought in, and what premiums the people of Antigua and Barbuda must pay for their insurance.”
Only a fool would believe that because the government nominally retains 51 percent of the shares of the Corporation, they will continue to call the shots. For only a madman would invest millions of dollars into a Corporation only to have the government tell him what rate of return on his money he should get, the former Prime Minister claimed.