FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert yesterday said he will lead a roadshow to encourage people to invest in the National Investment Fund (NIF). Speaking at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Imbert said this is necessary to counter Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s allegation that the NIF is a Ponzi scheme.
“This attack on the NIF is the height of unpatriotism,” he said.
A Ponzi scheme is a type of investment fraud where older investors are paid returns using funds from new investors.
Imbert reiterated that Government needs $4 billion in revenue to meet its expenditure targets for fiscal 2018. “Without that $4 billion, it is going to be extremely difficult, in fact impossible to meet our expenditure requirements for 2018.” This includes the payment of salaries and pensions. Imbert said Persad-Bissessar was trying to “undermine the national budget.” He explained the NIF roadshow will be similar to the one he led in North America in 2016 to promote a US$1 billion bond.
Recalling that bond was oversubscribed, Imbert said Persad-Bissessar’s claims could lead some people to lose out on a fantastic investment opportunity. The only way for her claims to be true, Imbert said $4 billion would have to disappear from Republic Bank’s balance sheet. Communications Minister Stuart Young said the NIF’s prospectus should be approved on Monday. From Wednesday, Young said a very “forward-moving campaign” will be launched through several media channels.
At a $1000 start price, Young said the campaign will help “everyone to understand this a good investment.” Imbert said the public education programme will last for one month. Young said Persad-Bissessar’s claims were “sour grapes” because her government was “unable to do anything positive to recover any money to the taxpayers of TT” from the Clico/ CL Financial debacle. Imbert said since assuming office in September 2015, the People’s National Movement has been able to distribute the assets of Clico and CL Financial to individual and government creditors from the Clico Investment Bank. He reiterated the companies in the NIF are “blue chip,” whose value and earnings are unlikely to decrease over time. The primary assets of the NIF are $4.315 billion worth of Republic Financial Holdings Ltd shares (55 per cent) and $2.025 billion worth of Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) shares (26 per cent). The total asset base of the fund is just under $8 billion.