‘I can help’
Blythe settles Finsac debt
BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor -- publications firstname.lastname@example.org
PUT it down to his Christian upbringing, or the fact that he negotiated a settlement of his multimillion dollar Finsac debt on his own. Whichever you choose, Dr Enoch Karl Blythe says he wants to help other Jamaicans who are still indebted to Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation (JRF) after their lives were shattered by the financial sector meltdown of the 1990s.
“If I had to play a role now, it would be to help others to be able to come to the table, first thing, where you have both the debtor and the owner of the debt agreeable and want to settle. I would want to be that person in the middle,” Blythe said in an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer last Thursday.
Blythe — who after the interview revealed that his father named him Enoch to ensure that, like the biblical character, he would ‘walk with God’ — was still savouring the relief he felt on May 9 when he made the final $14.6-million payment on a $35-million debt to JRF.
Explaining that he was tired of spending years in court and millions of dollars in legal fees, Blythe said he took the initiative to speak directly to JRF boss Jason Rudd.
The upshot was that the seven-year tug of war between the former Government minister and JRF ended in an amicable solution in about “10 to 15 minutes”, Blythe said.
Now, with that experience under his belt, Blythe is convinced that JRF is willing to talk with the holders of distressed loans.
“I found that if you enter the round table with an open mind and no animosity, you would be surprised to find out what you can accomplish,” he told the Observer.
That offer of mediation is also extended to the Government, he said, because they played a role in the debacle.
“…Whether we want to admit it or not, the fallout that we had in the 1990s damaged the entrepreneur spirit in Jamaica, there is no if or but,” Blythe said as he insisted that the then Government maintained its “cruel high interest rate policy for too long”.
“You cannot go into a bank with a development plan, you take a loan at 18 per cent and overnight you’re paying 65 per cent interest,” he said.
“Tell me how an entrepreneur doing good business, maintaining it at 18 per cent, must take a shock moving to 60-something and sometimes above,” Blythe argued.
“There is no country that I know of that can talk about growth if your productive sector is timid to go into production… You have to give them that confidence again, which they had [though it] got some of us in trouble. But you have put us back in a position to say, the little I now have I’m willing to expose it, but with more experience and monitor it more because I learnt from my mistakes in the 90s,” said Blythe.
“So I would love to see us build back that entrepreneur spirit, and I would play a role in saying, ‘listen man, you got hurt, but you’re wiser now, so here is you break’, because afterall we did give a break to the banks, and they are now making a lot of profits,” he said, then asked: “I wonder what would have happened if everybody was given a break?”