The high cost of arrogance
HAVING listened to the professionals at GARFIN - the Grenada Authority for the Regulation of Financial Institutions - about the ongoing debate on the Insurance Amendment Bill that was defeated in the Grenada parliament last week, I think there were some important areas of clarification.
· The referred to $500,000 is not an additional sum required to be paid by insurance companies, but is a sum already paid by them under existing regulatory procedures. The real debate is over the interests accrued by such deposits. Under the proposed amendment GARFIN will now use the interests earned to help fund its operations.
· The 500,000 deposit is only for Life Underwrites. The referred to levy of 1% on premiums is for general insurance companies. Companies don’t pay both.
· Companies can decide to absorb the cost of that levy or pass it on to their policyholders. It is a business call they will have to make in a competitive arena. That levy will also be used to fund the operations of GARFIN.
Critics of the politics of the amendment will argue that the amendment does not strengthen regulations per se, just help better fund GARFIN.
I beg to differ with that line of argument though. A better funded GARFIN will in and of itself, help to strengthen regulation.
Having listened to all the arguments, the amendment as proposed by and large should be supported – and hopefully the opposition in parliament and the two government backbenchers will eventually come around to that view.
The defeat of the bill might have been really partly as a result of some political grandstanding.
But we cannot divorce the extremely toxic political environment in which that bill – and no doubt many others to come – will be debated and voted on.
And this brings me to a point that I thought Arley Gill, the Public Relations Officer of the National Democratic Congress, made well the other day.
The defeat of the bill was also partly due to government arrogance – an attitude it can’t afford given that it is a minority administration.
The nation’s business is too sacred for Prime Minister Tillman Thomas and Leader of Government Business Nazim Burke to run the affairs in parliament with the same arrogance with which they have destroyed their own party.
Gill was quoted as saying that government “must do a better job at managing the affairs of the House of Representatives.”
He complained that leader of government business Finance Minister Nazim Burke had failed to reach out to the backbenchers.
He declared: “The government cannot throw stones at the backbenchers and then expect automatic support.” (Give Glen Noel’s recent “throw one stone” analogy, Gill’s comments were appropriate – pun and all – even if maybe it was not intended).
How is it that government backbenchers are not routinely briefed on government’s legislative agenda?
In the best political climate this should happen, if only out of courtesy and respect. In a poisonous atmosphere, an even extra effort must be made.
It is all well and good for Prime Minister Thomas to bash his “rebel” MPs for their lack of support.
And while I don’t expect him to criticize publicly the management of the process by his leader of government business – I hope he would have had a quiet chat with him that says: you must do better next time.
Let the lesson be learnt. Ignoring your MPs has far worse consequences, than ignoring your party’s executive.