CDB funds workshop to improve service delivery in the tourism industry

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- For many countries in the Caribbean, a successful tourism industry is critical to social and economic growth and development. However, an increasingly competitive global tourism market has meant that Caribbean countries must find ways to differentiate themselves, in order to continue to attract visitors.

One way to do this is to improve the level of service delivery that is provided by tourism-related micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs). The international Hospitality Assured Certification (HAC), which was developed specifically for tourism and tourism-related businesses, promotes a culture of service and business excellence. Businesses that have attained the HAC have signaled their commitment to service delivery, business excellence and continuous improvement.

The HAC process is supported by trained business advisors, who provide technical assistance to MSMEs seeking to become certified. As such, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has partnered with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) to host a workshop for business advisors from the region. The workshop seeks to equip 16 participants with the necessary skills to advise on HAC processes for Caribbean MSMEs.

The workshop is taking place from September 5-9, at the CTO offices in Barbados. Speaking at the opening ceremony on September 5, Bonita Morgan, director, resource mobilization and development at the CTO, reminded participants that they are a critical part of the HAC process.

“You are the ones who help us to promote the programme, but also, you provide the technical assistance to the businesses to help them to meet the criteria to be able to strengthen their businesses and their processes and structures, to engage their employees and do the things that are really geared towards making the business experience a wonderful one, and so, you are a critical component of this process,” Morgan said.

CDB has provided funding in the amount of US$61,000 towards the workshop, through the bank’s Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS) network.

“The CTCS network is the bank’s principal technical assistance programme, which seeks to enhance the managerial and operational capacities of micro, small and medium sized enterprises in the Bank’s borrowing member countries. This workshop is in keeping with interventions in that regard, where training is conducted to build the capacity of resource persons who are then required to provide technical assistance to MSMEs in their countries,” said Michel Thomas, operations officer (CTCS), CDB.

Workshop participants are from ten Caribbean countries: Anguilla, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Guyana, Jamaica, Monserrat, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Karl Samuda appeals to banks to drop interest rates for sake of small businesses

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday September 2, 2016 – Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda has called on commercial banks to lower interest rates on loans to single digit, to boost production and growth within the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector.

He cited agriculture as one sector which cannot grow with an interest rate that currently exceeds four per cent.

Minister Samuda noted that 97 per cent of registered taxpayers are found within the MSME sector, “but the sector cannot hope to thrive at the pace necessary to get this economy rolling, unless we get to low single-digit interest charges”.

He made the comments at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Scotiabank Vision Achiever Programme on Wednesday.

Minister Samuda said the greatest challenge for the small-business sector is the inability to provide the level of collateral needed to access loans.

“If you don’t have it (collateral), your negotiating skills are diminished. With big collateral you can bargain and get the best rates. I think for Jamaica to really go forward, the philosophy of banking has to be altered somewhat, whereby the focus is more on the viability of the project than on the level of collateral that is offered,” he contended.

Meanwhile, Samuda commended Scotiabank on its Vision Achiever Programme. Under that initiative, 25 small and medium enterprise operators benefited from an intensive three-month coaching programme designed to achieve core competencies for running a successful business.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

Commonwealth takes notice of region's de-risking worries

Caribbean countries are not alone in worrying about how de-risking is threatening their financial stability. The Commonwealth is not only noticing it but trying to come up with solutions.

Passions ran high as money transfer businesses and smaller financial institutions met this week at the Commonwealth Secretariat to address a “detrimental” decline in international banking for many businesses and individuals.

The public meeting was convened to discuss the report, Disconnecting from Global Finance, which proposes solutions to the trend of financial institutions terminating or restricting so-called correspondent banking relationships (CBRs) with legitimate clients as a way of mitigating legal risks. This practice, which is a response in part to increased regulation, is known as de-risking.

“Major banks are now avoiding banking customers, or categories of customers, they deem low profit or high risk. The drivers are complex and varied but global regulations that are designed to stop money laundering and the financing of terrorism have contributed to this worrying phenomenon,” said Commonwealth Economic Policy expert Samantha Attridge, Head of Finance and Development Policy.

“Our report shows a worrying rise in CBR closures, doubling year-on-year since 2013. The issue is particularly affecting regions such as the Caribbean, where for example in Belize seven of Belize’s nine banks lost their CBRs, as well as the Central Bank losing one of its CBRs.”

De-risking is curtailing countries’ access to essential cross-border financial services such as trade finance and international money transfers, which are essential to many economies. The issue is particularly detrimental to vulnerable economies and small states in the Commonwealth, Attridge said.

Participants at the meeting on Wednesday included the Executive Secretary of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international anti-money laundering and counter financing terrorism standard setter, as well as senior representatives from the British Bankers’ Association, HSBC Holdings, Santander and the Wolfsberg Group.

Delegates applauded the Commonwealth for proposing measures including setting best practice standards for money service businesses to boost their legitimacy and reputation, and improving guidance and risk-tolerance standards for banks, that balance the need to prevent illegal activity with ensuring smaller institutions in developing countries are not excluded from the global financial system.

The Disconnecting from Global Finance report also proposes building capacity for financial regulators in developing countries and ensuring they are part of global conversations on the setting of standards and policies.

Paulette Simpson, National’s Executive Corporate Affairs and Public Policy of Jamaica National, one of Jamaica’s largest financial institutions, appealed for an acknowledgement by banks that people’s lives are hanging in the balance.

Stressing the urgency of the situation for institutions like Jamaica National, which was given three months to terminate one 25-year correspondent banking relationship, she called for continued dialogue and immediate solutions.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

In search of markets - not just medals in Rio

It’s more than just medals Jamaica is going after at the Olympic Games in Rio. So even with a Jamaican being the world’s fastest man aiming to create history for perhaps the final time, it won’t be all fun and games for a special tourism team in Brazil’s capital.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says marketing destination Jamaica will be their number one priority at Jamaica House, a facility established by the Jamaica Tourist Board to market the island during the summer games.

In an interview with the Jamaica Information Service, he said several meetings with tour operators and airline partners are on the agenda.

“We are also meeting with the Minister [of Tourism] and the head of the tourism authorities in Brazil. The whole intention is to build a relationship and to establish the kind of links that will enable connectivity from that area into Jamaica,” Bartlett explained.

But he acknowledged that the performance of Jamaican athletes, including track star Usain Bolt, will also help in the marketing effort. He said they are expected to do well and the country’s image as a destination should be boosted as a result of that.

“The power of the performance of our athletes will be a strong pull to bring people to Jamaica House and once we have them there in a captive audience, we can work with them,” he said.

Jamaica House is a concept that was first developed around the London 2012 Olympic Games. It will provide visitors with the opportunity to experience Jamaican culture in an interactive way. Daily operations include a host of activities: destination presentations to the travel trade, culinary exposés, consumer promotions, VIP client hosting, and live viewing of the races.

About US$767,000 is being spent on the initiative, with most of the money coming through sponsorship.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

CARIBBEAN opportunities arising from a rejection of ‘Globalisation’ in the USA

With the US Presidential Election on the horizon, the CAIC has turned its sights this week to US relations. Consultant Rodger Varley shares his thoughts on globalisation and the USA.

As is often the case, many of our financial gurus/economic pundits, reflect the ‘establishment elites’ status quo view of the Western World that the USA must forever be satisfied with years of ‘marginal GDP Growth’ (avg. 1.4% since 2009 –v- 3.4% 1950-2008), and workforce participation (rate down to 62.6% in May 2016 from 66% in 2008), while curiously admiring the Far East and in particular, China’s consistent GDP growth at 7% + as though it is some God Given ‘order’ of world affairs -- it isn’t!

While such a view, may indeed have satisfied a few of such ‘elites’, it appears to not have satisfied the mass of working peoples prospects in USA, who progressively have become relatively ‘poor’ compared with their historical position, with real incomes ‘flat lined’ for the past 18 years, while the middle classes continue to shrink at an alarming rate.

Ironically, it is the ‘purchasing power’ of the US ‘consumer’, the majority of which is indeed the very same working people whose wage prospects have been ‘flat lined’ for decades and whose jobs have disappeared, that have funded this global phenomenon described by the financial elites, as being ‘good for them’!

How has this state of affairs arisen? The financial gurus, will tell us no doubt, it’s the ‘productivity’ of say Chinese workers vs US workers, who ‘folk law’ has it either work harder, or more plausibly, work for less money. This assumption however, fails to recognise the reality that the direct wage component of manufacturing has diminished over time and that it is largely driven by investment in advanced technology/equipment which drives labour costs down, facilitated in large part via the ‘economies of scale’ i.e. Western purchasing power ‘given away’ through either ignorance, neglect, or a combination of both.

Nor do these same ‘globalists’ recognise that WTO rules and regulations, have consistently been abused /not followed by China and others, who have consistently manipulated their currency/devalued, to the extent for example that it is estimated 4.0% of USA GDP has been ‘given away by not implementing already existing WTO rules. By the USA simply invoking existing WTO rules, this position can/should be reversed.

How does all this affect Caribbean economies? - Well the first thing to recognise is that an ‘impoverished’ America does nothing to help the Caribbean; in fact, the corollary is obviously true.

If the American economy can be restored to the level of growth it historically enjoyed i.e. in excess of 3.4% i.e. pre-2008 level regularly, then the opportunities for CARICOM products/exports to share in that restored prosperity will be or should be ’doubled’ from present levels.

The Caribbean therefore has more of a vested interest in the outcome of the US Election than they might think. The most important benefit of a change in US government, would be a President who actually understands these things, and is prepared to actually correct the unfair and restrictive trade practices that others have for decades taken full advantage of, and provide the Caribbean with a rich source of ‘pickings’ in the process.

It's up to investment to put Caribbean back on growth path

Recovery of growth in Latin America and the Caribbean depends on invigorating public and private investment, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The UN organization gave that assessment today as it presented its Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, in which it forecasts that the region will contract -0.8 per cent this year. This marks a steeper decline than in 2015 (-0.5 per cent).

It stressed the urgent need to mobilize investment—both public and private—to promote the region’s economic recovery and meet the challenges imposed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The capacity of countries to accelerate economic growth depends on the spaces for adopting policies that support investment. These policies should be accompanied by efforts to change the conversation between the public sector and private companies. Increasing productivity is also a key challenge for moving forward along a path of dynamic and stable growth,” Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said during the press conference in Santiago, Chile where the report was presented.

The survey indicates that in the external arena, the global economy will maintain low levels of growth, which will be accompanied by a slow expansion in trade, which has not managed to recover the levels seen before the international financial crisis.

On top of that, the report points to deteriorated prices for the region’s commodities exports and greater international financial uncertainty and volatility, which have increased since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (Brexit). This decision has also produced greater risks to the world’s future growth.

In the regional sphere, the report forecasts a -2.1 per cent contraction for South America in 2016, mainly due to a deterioration in its terms of trade, weaker external demand and a significant deceleration in domestic demand, which reflects a sizeable fall in domestic investment.

Declines All Around

The Caribbean will suffer a -0.3 per cent contraction in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), ECLAC said.

According to the report, six countries are expected to show an economic contraction in 2016: Venezuela (-8.0 per cent), Suriname (-4.0 per cent), Brazil (-3.5 per cent), Trinidad and Tobago (-2.5 per cent), Ecuador (-2.5 per cent) and Argentina (-1.5 per cent).

On the other hand, regional growth will be led by the Dominican Republic (6.0 per cent), Panama (5.9 per cent), Nicaragua and Bolivia (4.5 per cent), and Costa Rica (4.3 per cent).

“Faced with an economic contraction, the region needs progressive structural change with a big environmental push that promotes development based on equality and sustainability, as we have proposed in our institutional document Horizons 2030: Equality at the Centre of Sustainable Development, which we presented in Mexico last May,” Bárcena said.

In its Economic Survey 2016 ECLAC calls for resuming the path of growth and mobilizing financial flows for development financing.

To achieve that, it said, countries must change their fiscal structures to improve tax collection and progressivity, strengthen income taxes (both for individuals and companies), and fight tax evasion and avoidance, which reached the equivalent of 6.7 points of the regional GDP in 2015 at an estimated US$340 billion.

It added that it is necessary to promote renewed public-private coalitions and policies that create appropriate incentives to channel financing towards development goals.

Courtesy: Caribbean 360

What will Brexit Mean for Britain’s Foreign Trade Relations?

by Andrea M. Ewart of DevelopLaw, LLC

As I write this, we are probably just now beginning to absorb the reality that Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Along with this realization come a number of questions.

There are no answers in this piece – only questions. Here are two issues uppermost in my mind:

Brexit Impact on Trade Relations with the US

For the past 40 years, transatlantic trade relations have been viewed and developed through the prism of two powerful trading blocs on either side of the ocean. US-EU trade has occupied about 30% of global trade.

What place has US-UK (British) trade occupied? In 2016, Germany was the top US trade partner in Europe (4.6% of overall US trade). Britain was second among EU countries (2.1%). Also in the top 15 US trade partners were France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium. How will these figures affect US calculations going forward?

The United States and the European Union are currently negotiating the TransAtlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (T-TIP) Agreement. T-TIP negotiations are aimed at further cementing US-EU trade ties. Already low tariffs will be eliminated. Divergent rules and standards on the two sides of the ocean will be harmonized and standardized.

  • Will Britain choose to participate in the ongoing T-TIP negotiations?
  • If so, on what terms will Britain want to participate?
  • Will Britain be allowed to set the terms for its participation?
  • How will the EU and the US react?
  • Will the US be willing to negotiate separately with Britain?
  • Will T-TIP negotiations have to be suspended while they figure this out?

Brexit Impact on Trade Relations with Britain’s Former Colonies

Britain’s trade relations with its former colonies have also been shaped through the prism of its membership in the EU. Supporters of the “leave” Brexit vote may be waxing nostalgic for the days when the “sun never set on the British Empire”. (The Spanish Empire first held this title until most of its colonies in the Americas fought for and won their independence in the early 19th century.)

By the early 20th century, the British Empire comprised one-fifth of the world’s population and a quarter of the Earth’s total land area. Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands were the other major European colonial powers.

After attaining political independence over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, the former colonies established the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The Cotonou Agreements, otherwise known as the “ACP-EC Partnership Agreement” set the framework for trade relations between the EU and the 79 ACP members. And the ACP-EU framework is the prism through which Britain has shaped its trade relations with its former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific.

Currently, these relations have focused around negotiation and implementation of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with seven (7) regions. EPAs are replacing the unilateral access for a limited range of goods by ACP countries to EU markets with reciprocal access in goods and services. EPAs also include provisions for development cooperation and assistance to help countries make these transitions.

The seven (7) regions negotiating EPAs with the EU are:

  1. West Africa (16 countries)
  2. Central Africa (8 countries)
  3. Eastern & Southern Africa
  4. East African Community – EAC (5 countries)
  5. South African Development Community – SADC (6 countries, including South Africa)
  6. The Caribbean (14 countries)
  7. The Pacific Islands (14 countries)

The EAC, SADC, and the Caribbean have concluded EPA negotiations. The other regions have ongoing negotiations. Furthermore, the EPA provisions on development cooperation and assistance require ongoing engagement and discussion by the parties.

For a number of ACP countries their former metropolis remains a major export market. The size of the former British Empire makes Britain a key market for many ACP countries.

  • Will Britain decide it wants to renegotiate the terms of the EPAs already concluded?
  • Will Britain continue to participate in the ongoing negotiations with the other regions?
  • Will Britain want to change the terms of its participation in the program for development assistance and cooperation?
  • What will the EU position be toward any attempts by Britain to change EPA terms?
  • How will ACP countries respond?
  • What is the future of the EPA negotiations and implementation process?

As we promised, just questions – it’s too early for answers. But these are just a few of the ones that will need to be addressed over the next months and years as Britain absorbs the impact of its Brexit vote.

CDB unveils new programme to assess poverty in the Caribbean

CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Across the Caribbean, policymakers rely heavily on the availability of timely, accurate and reliable poverty data to support national and regional development initiatives.

Despite making considerable progress on how they measure poverty, many countries in the region do not frequently update or report on key poverty indicators, and are not able to assess the non-income dimensions of poverty and human development.

On Tuesday, in Saint Lucia, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) launched a programme designed to address these challenges, and improve the way its 19 borrowing member countries (BMCs) assess poverty and gain access to data from these assessments.

“The enhanced country poverty assessment programme launched today responds to the pressing need for high-quality data on poverty. Understanding the causes of poverty, who it affects and how it affects them is at the core of making informed, evidence-based policy decisions and helping Caribbean countries make meaningful, measurable progress in reducing and ending poverty,” said Deidre Clarendon, division chief, social sector division, CDB.

CDB is supporting the programme through a total investment of US$4.1 million. It will be conducted over a five-year period.

The programme will enhance the capacity of CDB’s BMCs to conduct multidimensional poverty assessments. Multidimensional poverty measurement considers how poor people experience poverty that goes beyond income considerations, and takes into account other deprivations -- of education, health, housing, empowerment, personal security, and more. Through the programme, some countries will either adopt multidimensional poverty measurement as stand-alone studies or integrate it into existing national surveys.

Specifically, the Bank’s BMCs in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will receive support for the implementation of a sustainable household data programme (SDP), which the OECS Commission will oversee. This SDP will deliver harmonised poverty data for OECS countries, and help them conduct regular and timely monetary and multidimensional poverty assessments.

An OECS geographic information system platform will also be developed through the programme. It will enable countries to better analyse, map, monitor and report on different dimensions of social and economic well-being.

CDB will provide programme management support for all BMCs, including training for stakeholders delivered in collaboration with the OECS Commission, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund, International Labour Organisation and World Bank. The requisite data entry and processing equipment will be provided.

The new enhanced country poverty assessment programme will support: Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia; Suriname; St Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; and Turks and Caicos Islands.

Courtesy: Caribbean News Now

Caribbean GIS Community to gather in Barbados

Des Plaines, IL USA (July 26, 2016) -  The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA)  is pleased to present the Eighth Caribbean GIS Conference in Barbados this September 4-8, 2016. The conference is organized by a committee of Caribbean GIS experts, who dedicate considerable time and energy to developing an important educational program. The conference features more than 60 speakers, an exhibition and a number of valuable professional development and networking opportunities. We are particularly pleased to host the UN-GGIM International Forum on Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters during the conference this year.

An abundance of education will be featured during the conference, including a one-day (Tuesday) focused program track, developed in partnership with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) that will explore best practices for utilizing GIS and other tools to prepare, respond, and manage disasters:

Improving Caribbean Disaster Preparedness and Response through Geospatial Services : Bringing disaster management specialists and geospatial professionals together under one roof, this is a fantastic opportunity to match mapping and analysis practice against the challenges faced to be more resilient before and after disasters. Through presentations, discussions and hands on experience, this offers practical IM solutions in a one day focused program track and complements strategic issues discussed at the UNGGIM special meeting, all to help the region to use GIS effectively to be better prepared against natural disasters.

A program outline follows, but take time to review the entire conference program, including speaker profiles and session details, online:  

Optional pre-conference courses and meetings begin on Sunday, September 4 and Monday, September 5.

  • From Sensor to Internet: Processing, Analysis, Compression and Distribution in the Geospatial Information Life Cycle - Sponsored by Hexagon Geospatial
  • Modernizing Land Administration Systems - Sponsored by Esri
  • Mobile, Web and Server GIS: Field to Finish (Two-day workshop) - Sponsored by Spatial Innovision
  • Introduction to Smart M.App - Sponsored by Hexagon Geospatial
  • Half-Day Workshop: Intro to Python
  • Half-Day Workshop: Mastering the Spatial Analyst Extension
  • Cartography and Geo-Visualization
  • Mobile, Web and Server GIS: Field to Finish (Day 2 of 2)

The conference is excited to host the  URISA Caribbean GIS Mapathon. This activity will support Missing Maps and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) in mapping vulnerable areas of the Caribbean.

Tuesday's agenda features a keynote address delivered by Chris Sheldrick, Co-Founder and CEO of What3Words. His talk "The World Addressed with 3 Words," will discuss how poor addressing around the world hampers the growth and development of entire nations.
In addition to the Disaster Preparedness and Response all-day track, the conference will showcase these sessions:

  • UAV: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…
  • Marine Mapping and Navigation Technologies
  • Participatory GIS for Better Decision-Making and Communication
  • It All Starts with the Data
  • Trending GIS in 3Ds – Data Capture, Data Storage and Data Visualization
  • Using GIS to More Effectively Manage Today’s Utility Companies
  • Geospatial Technologies – Protecting Our Heritage, Shaping Our World
  • Why is Engaging the Public So Important?
  • Young Professionals: How to Move Forward in a GIS Career (Special note: YPs in the Caribbean are making a distinct impact on the profession. We are pleased to support their discussions in Barbados!)

Wednesday begins with a keynote address from Tyler Radford, Executive Director of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap, on the topic of Crowdsourced Mapping for Disaster Response.
Then, take advantage of breakout sessions including:

  • Current Trends in GIS and GIS for Land Administration
  • Implementation of Enterprise GIS for National Security from Start to Finish
  • Utilizing Geospatial Strategies to Benefit Coastal Resources Management in the Caribbean
  • Enhancing Social and Economic Development Strategies with GIS Technology
  • Geospatial Mapping Tools for Habitat Mapping, Analysis and Decision Support
  • Mapping the Future with a Look from the Past

The day will end with an engaging panel to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that Funding Agencies face working with local governments and consultants throughout the Caribbean before the always memorable Evening Social Event.

The conference continues on Thursday morning with the Caribbean GIS High Level Forum and more breakout sessions:

  • Addressing the Social Needs: GIS—A Powerful Enabler
  • Applications of Geospatial Technologies in Disaster Management

URISA's 2016 Caribbean GIS Conference will close with a discussion to address strengthening regional collaboration and the always-energetic URISA Caribbean Ignite!

Exhibitors and sponsors are an important part of the conference with enthusiastic conversations about technology solutions. In particular, we appreciate the generous sponsorship of Esri, Spatial Innovision, GeoOrbis, Hexagon Geospatial and GeoTechVision.

The conference is taking place at the Hilton Barbados and discounted sleeping rooms are available until August 15 or until the block sells out, whichever occurs first. Register for the conference and make your travel plans right away!

Click here for complete conference information.

OECS Ministers concerned about impact of de-risking

Finance ministers from the Eastern Caribbean have undertaken a commitment to tackling the “existential threat” of de-risking. The disclosure came on the heels of the just-concluded Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s Monetary Council meeting here on Friday.

The finance ministers expressed concern about the negative impact that de-risking would have on their respective economies.

De-risking refers to the process of financial institutions closing accounts of clients that are believed to be high risk for money laundering or terrorist financing. A June 2016 International Monetary Fund publication—“The Withdrawal of Correspondent Banking Relationships: A Case for Policy Action”—said at least 16 banks in the region across five countries have lost all or some of their correspondent banking relationships (CBRs) as of May 2016.

According to the IMF, several institutions in Barbados, The Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have had corresponding banking relationships terminated. The document notes that many of these jurisdictions have reportedly been able to find replacement CBRs or have been able to rely on their remaining ones.

“The full extent of the impact has yet to be quantified, but the unmeasured effect has been a loss in business confidence and in the ease of some basic transactions. The main CBR providers in the Caribbean are located in the United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent Europe and the Caribbean,” the document stated.

Antigua & Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who assumed chairmanship of the Council, spoke extensively on the subject during the one-day meeting. He said while several regional banks would have been de-linked from the international payment system, he is not aware that any country has been totally de-linked.

“We’re saying that we cannot sit on our laurels and allow it go get that far,” Browne said. “It is a serious threat to the region and we have to fight it and to make sure that there is no further such de-risking.”

The Antiguan leader told reporters that the ECCB Governor, Timothy Antoine, has written several of the corresponding banks requesting a hold on any further de-risking as the Monetary Council seeks to convene a stakeholder conference later this year. After calling it a “worrying development” during the opening ceremony, he later told reporters that even though member states have not yet seen serious effects of de-risking, the governments are keen on implementing preventative measures to eliminate this “existential threat.”

“It is really an existential threat, but if it continues unabated, then the implications are very clear,” Browne said, adding that there could be implications for remittances and other areas. He noted that there are other serious human consequences including difficulties paying for education, medicines and healthcare in general and even in terms of importing food.

“In Antigua and Barbuda’s case, 90 per cent of what we consume is actually imported and 80 per cent of that comes from the United States. So if we’re unable to settle our bills in US currency, then it has implications even for imports. Again, what we’re doing, we’re fighting the issue before it gets to that stage,” he said at a press conference.

According to a communiqué issued upon the conclusion of the sub-regional meeting, the Council was updated on recent of de-risking by global banks and noted that correspondent banking relationships are critical for enabling key financial and economic transactions like remittances, foreign direct investments and international trade in goods and services. According to the document, such services contribute significantly to the region’s growth and development.

“Council therefore agreed that urgent and ongoing discussions on correspondent banking relations geared towards promoting financial inclusion, trade facilitation in the global market and monetary policy in general is required,” Browne said as he read from the communiqué.

He told reporters the finance ministers approved the ECCB’s assumption of full responsibility for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulation of all institutions under the Banking Act.

They also agreed, where applicable, to recommend to governments within the jurisdiction that necessary regulations be issued to confer authority on the ECCB for AML/CFT regulation. Earlier, during the opening ceremony, outgoing Chairman, Anguillian Chief Minister Victor Banks said —the Council, being aware of de-risking’s potentially negative impact, agreed to a joint approach in addressing the matter.

Such an approach would include advocacy through political and diplomatic channels, use of SWIFT registry by indigenous banks, consolidation of the banking sector and, possibly, the establishment of a Caribbean Bank in United States.


As published in Trinidad Guardian

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