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The Gleaner - February 18, 2000

 

Lalor: FINSAC saved economy from collapse

THE HON. Dennis Lalor, a titan of the local insurance industry, was bombarded with searching questions last night when he appeared on The Gleaner's Talk 2000 chat session via the company's Go-Jamaica web site.

Mr. Lalor had his mind teased and tested by the many participants who seemed to hurl hard questions at him without respite. A frequently raised issue was the role of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (FINSAC). "Does Jamaica need FINSAC?", a participant asked.

"Yes," Mr. Lalor shot back. "FINSAC has been an extremely good intervention at a time when the financial service sector came under pressure...The trick will be for FINSAC to dispense of the assets in a timely fashion to put the economy back in the private sector."

Questions about the government company set up to bail out ailing financial institutions were only just beginning to flow. "Do you think FINSAC is doing a job worthwhile to the Jamaican economy?", asked another participant. There was no variation in Mr. Lalor's line. "Without FINSAC the Jamaican economy would have collapsed with dire consequences. All things considered, FINSAC has done a good job," he said.

But less than five minutes after the last ball was dispatched to the boundary, a tricky delivery came Mr. Lalor's way. A participant wanted to know why the Life of Jamaica (LOJ) chairman had received a bail out for his company soon after he set up another company in a neighbouring Caribbean island. For a moment it looked as though he would be trapped at the crease. But, it was not to be.

He said the company was acquired in Trinidad in 1995, prior to LOJ receiving a bail out from FINSAC. The acquisition, he said, was unfortunately portrayed in the press at the time as though it were recent. "At any rate, it is the ICWI Group which made the acquisition and it is LOJ that received the FINSAC assistance," he said.

During the hour-long session Mr. Lalor fielded several other questions having to do with his interest in polo; a recent publication of his speeches over the years; and his involvement in several charitable organisations. There was even a question as to whether he thought the People's National Party was competent enough to turn around the economy. "I think the Minister of Finance has done a good job in difficult circumstances," was his response. "The country has had its difficulties and what we need now is less of diversity on the issues and more of prescriptions in dealing with them."

But one participant would not let the issue drop. "Are you affiliated to any political party," he asked. Mr Lalor: "No. I have never been tempted to do so."

 

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