Trade Union Representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts is calling on the New National Party (NNP) Government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to re-think the appointment of Ron Antoine as Chairman of the Board of Directors at the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
Antoine is the current General Manager of the Grenada Breweries Limited whose majority shares are owned by Caribbean business conglomerate, the Ansa McAl Group of companies in Trinidad & Tobago.
The new NIS Chairman is also the brother of controversial Policy Advisor on Finance, Planning, Trade and Economic Development to the Mitchell-led Government, Dr. Patrick Antoine who is also involved with the Ansa McAl Group.
Dr. Antoine is a key figure in the plans by the Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration to build “a new economy” for the island and to help resolve the island’s debt woos in the face of a massive national debt of some EC$2.3 billion.
During an address on the adjournment of the Senate last week Friday, Sen. Roberts expressed the trade union movement’s concern with Antoine’s appointment at NIS.
“Mr. President, there is something that is of great concern to the Trade Union movement, the choice of Chairman at the National Insurance Scheme”, he told Senator Lawrence Joseph, the man sitting in the Chair.
“We have absolutely no doubt about the young man’s ability, we have no doubt about his talent, what we are concerned about is the ethics of this whole process”, he said.
Roberts pointed specifically at a company involving a close relative of the new NIS Chairman, which was able to secure a multi-million dollar loan from the state-run insurance company for a project in St. David’s.
Questions have been raised in the past about whether the company was meeting its obligations to NIS by servicing its loan payments on time.
Roberts told the Senate President: “The gentleman (Ron Antoine) has a relative whose company indigenous business is in business with the NIS and what we are saying here is that it creates and it gives a smell that does not augers well for the image of the institution.”
The former Director of the Government Information Service (GIS) believes that there are more suitable candidates in the country who can fill the position and that government should remove Antoine from the NIS Board.
“We strongly believe that there are other people in this society that the Minister (responsible for Social Security) can find to lead the NIS, but most important the NIS must not be put through a process where people may perceive things.
“Mr. President, people around the world are concerned about their investments.
Mr. President, hundreds of Grenadians have certainly been hurt by the CLICO/BICO, Capbank and SGL.
“We strongly believe that if there ought to be a Chairman of the NIS, it must be somebody that the Grenadian people and the workers and everybody see with stature. They can’t have that kind of … person whose family member has business with NIS where millions of dollars involved”.
Roberts called on the Mitchell-led administration to reconsider its decision on the Ron Antoine appointment.
Antoine was put in charge of the NIS Board as a replacement for Philbert Lewis in the aftermath of the February 19 general elections in which the NNP won all fifteen seats.