NASSAU, The Bahamas – 28th February 2015……….Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Gaston Browne has warned that the Caribbean’s banking sector “is facing a new and potentially devastating threat” because the Region is being labelled as “a high-risk area for financial services”.
The Prime Minister was speaking as the out-going Chair of CARICOM at its Inter-Sessional Conference in the Bahamas.
He informed the Conference that “correspondent banks in the United States and major banking centres in Europe are being made to evaluate risks versus rewards for doing business with Caribbean indigenous banks, and offshore banks established our regional financial centres.” He explained that “Because in many cases indigenous banks cannot provide a high level of reward, correspondent banks are closing their relationships with them – all because an arbitrary and unsubstantiated claim is being made that the Caribbean is a high risk area for financial services.”
Prime Minister Browne cautioned that unless this situation is addressed with urgency, the financial services in every Caribbean country will be forced to close their banking doors, not because of any inherent difficulties in the banks themselves, but because they are constrained from transacting business abroad.
“I need hardly say that the impact of such a development on our economies would be calamitous, I venture to suggest that our Community should waste no time in jointly addressing this problem,” Browne said.
He called on the Heads of Government to establish a Committee of Finance Ministers to work with the Caribbean Association of Banks to develop a plan to deal with this matter, including “by making strong representations at the World Bank, the IMF, within the Commonwealth and La Francophonie and, if it necessary, at the United Nations”.
Developing his argument further, the Antigua and Barbuda leader emphasised that Caribbean Community countries are not only marginalised in the international community with no voice or vote in International Financial Institutions of the world, but are also coerced into adopting policies that harm Caribbean economies while serving the interests of others.
He said “Extra-territorial laws and policies made in other countries and regions are imposed upon us without consultation – indeed without the slightest interest in such consultations”.
The Prime Minister drew his colleague Heads’ attention to the fact that Caribbean jurisdictions are being made to implement the agenda of others, even to the point of spending the region’s own scarce resources to act as their tax collectors, or suffer the consequences of not surrendering to their will.
He concluded “It is time that we raise our voices and not meekly accept the continuing emasculation of our financial services, particularly after we have spent millions of dollars on making our jurisdictions compliant with every demand that has been made of us.