PM threatens to release names of SEAF beneficiaries

Speaking at his press conference at Government Headquarters, Prime Minister Harris opined that SEAF was a conduit for the disbursement of funds as political favours. He said, “There were cases where candidates, their families, friends were preferred to get funds purported to open businesses, and for other purposes.  A candidate, his sister, his aunt, his nephew and niece were all offered large sums.  No viable business is there to show for their largesse to any of these beneficiaries.”

SEAF was operated out of the St. Kitts Investment Promotions Agency (SKIPA) and was funded by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF).

The prime minister criticized, also, the level of collection under the program and considered exposing the names of persons who would not repay. Harris stated, “Collections have been horrible. We intend to recover the people’s money.  We are not opposed to publishing the names of those owing and are yet to make proper repayment arrangements.”

While some individuals have begun repayments, he informed, “Only 75 out of 300 persons had repaid any of their indebtedness. These repayments are a mere $171,130 from the $11m disbursements.” Harris explained that what is required is for persons who received monies to make the appropriate arrangements for repaying the loans.

According to Harris, records of the disbursements are being organized and reviewed. He said a database is being established on persons who cashed their cheques, and contact is made to arrange for repayments. A SEAF desk has been set up within SKIPA to handle administrative processes.

Harris lambasted the previous administration for using a Government entity to disburse loan funds. He said there were proper financial institutions that are to be used for such programs. According to Harris, “We believe, ideally, eleven million dollars should never be left to any department of Government to be handing out loans. If the Government wanted to do that properly, the Government could have put that with National Bank, Royal Bank, Development Bank, any other agency that has a portfolio of loans, therefore would have had the appropriate systems to be able to deal with this matter.

However, the prime minister implied that SEAF was not intended to meet such standards. He concluded, “This was intended to be a free-for-all, to curry favour with the voter in the hope that people would vote.”

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