I am pleased to see some new names surfacing in the discussion of topical issues. It suggests that there may yet be persons out there prepared to engage seriously in these issues even if sometimes without a sufficient knowledge or understanding of the facts. I therefore consider it useful to address some of the more salient matters raised by Mr Salim Khan in his letter in the Stabroek News of October 6, 2009 ‘Assessments from critics of NBS are counterproductive.’
1. Mr Khan claims I have a peeve about the NBS, having served as a director of the Society. I grant him an unchallenged right to psychoanalyse my writings and personality.
2. Mr Khan recommended that the facts be checked, although there is no evidence that he himself did so. Not only do I always use the audited financial statements and annual reports of the Society for my periodic analysis but before the most recent Business Page, I wrote the Society’s Director Secretary for a copy of the half-year 2009 financials. He is yet to acknowledge my request. Would Mr Khan please help?
3. With NBS being the only Building Society in the country, Mr Khan may wish to tell readers which industry in which country he is referring to in claiming that “NBS’s financial position is as sound as any in the industry.”
4. Can Mr Khan explain what he means in his letter by a “simplistic portfolio of loans” and whether he thinks that the board was wrong to support the members’ motion at the 69th AGM for a Board Loans Sub-Committee?
5. Is Mr Khan aware that commercial banks are subject to two rules on provisioning against doubtful loans – IAS 39 and Bank of Guyana Supervision Guideline 5, the latter of which does not apply to NBS?
6. If Mr Khan would care to read my reviews of the commercial banks’ annual reports posted at chrisram.net, he would immediately realise that their interest spread is a criticism that I invariably make. Having said that, I wonder if Mr Khan knows the following:
a. That unlike the regulated financial and banking businesses, the NBS does not maintain a non-interest bearing statutory deposit with the Bank of Guyana. If they did, it would easily mean on the basis of NBS’s 2008 financial statements setting aside more than $3 billion dollars as non-income earning assets. By not doing so, NBS can earn, at the average rate of interest it earned on mortgages in 2008, income of $275 million not available to the commercial banks.
b. That the NBS is exempt from corporation taxes and consequently for every $100 net income earned by the Society, the commercial banks paying corporation tax at the rate of 45% would have to earn $180.
c. For those commercial banks approved for lending for low income housing, the ceiling is $3 million per loan while in the case of the NBS it is $12 million.
d. That the NBS pays no property tax which on its 2008 net asset position would amount to approximately $40 million annually.
e. That legislatively, NBS with its emphasis on mortgages and prescribed limits, is precluded from the risks of commercial lending faced by the commercial banks.
7. When stacked up against those realities, it is surprising that the NBS does not report higher surpluses than it currently does.
The reason in my view is the result of the inefficiencies of the monopolistic privileges enjoyed by the NBS under statute, politicised, ineffective and self-serving governance and a board and management that lack the range of skills that a modern financial institution needs in a competitive environment.
8. Mr Khan is the only person I know who speaks as a keen observer but who considers directing business to the competition a virtue. As far as I am aware, the only business the NBS ever directed to competing lending institutions was for temporary, bridge financing during the period when the security for loans was being perfected.
Thereafter, the NBS would grant the loan including such amount as to liquidate the bridge-financing.
I trust that I have clarified and addressed Mr Khan’s issues and look forward to his extending me reciprocal courtesies. I trust too that others, including the directors of the NBS, who make similarly uninformed comments and claims, would be guided accordingly.