Avoid gossip

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has urged Jamaicans not to fall prey to rumours amid the multi-billion-dollar fraud at investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), pointing out that a country’s financial market depends on credible information.

Holness shared the advice on Tuesday at the launch of a US$37-million ship repair and maintenance facility to be constructed on the Sir Florizel Glasspole Boulevard strip of Kingston Harbour to create economic opportunities for Jamaica and the region.

The prime minister framed his comments against the background that the ship repair project is a sign of victory in Jamaica’s quest for economic independence.

“Don’t follow rumours. Over the weekend I was bombarded by people who I thought should know better, who have read all kinds of nonsense on social media, which tells me you really have a problem with not just financial literacy but information literacy. Verify against sources that are credible before you allow it to form your opinion,” said Holness.

“I am not going into any details or specifics. I urge our Jamaican people, particularly when it comes on to financial content, seek verified information before you use that to form your opinion,” he said.

Holness said, despite whatever unverified information is circulating, Jamaica’s financial sector is still very strong.

“There is always room for improvement, and you would have heard the finance minister yesterday [Monday] go through in excruciating details the reforms that we will undertake to close any gaps that may exist or others that may come. But the sky has not fallen, as some would have projected it would have,” he said.

On Monday, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke said he would be reaching out to Jamaica’s overseas partners, including forensic auditors, in the investigation of what is being described as the largest fraud in the island’s history. Clarke was making a special policy address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, downtown Kingston, on regulation of the financial sector in light of the SSL fraud which has gained international attention chiefly because Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt is among the near 40 victims.

Holness urged investors to make better decisions when seeking creditable information in an effort to grow the country’s financial sector.

“Don’t fall prey to wrong information. There are always people out there whose interests are not yours. They want to influence investor decision, propaganda, or they just want to create mischief. You, as the investor, you listen to this and you go and make a wrong decision. Now, multiply wrong decisions by savers and investors right across the country and you see what [can] happen to the banking and finance sector,” said Holness.

“I wanted to wish that in 21st century Jamaica that wouldn’t be the case, but unfortunately it is the case regarding not just our financial literacy but our information literacy,” he said, adding that the German Ship Repair Jamaica project “will earn foreign exchange, it will provide high-quality jobs, and it will contribute greatly to the prosperity of the country”.

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