BASSETERRE, St Kitts (SKNIS) — Media practitioners from across the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) were given an opportunity on Monday to interact with the new governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy Antoine, as he outlined his new vision for banking within the ECCU during a press conference at the bank’s headquarters in Basseterre, St Kitts.
Antoine’s vision for the next five years and beyond for the ECCU includes the maintenance of a strong Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar, delivering comprehensive oversight of the financial system that encourages the development of strong and resilient financial institutions including indigenous banks, monitoring credible and effective fiscal rules, providing thought leadership and influential policy advice to member countries to elevate growth, development and employment, enhancing the bank’s effectiveness through higher levels of transparency and accountability and continuous learning, business improvement and sharing with key stakeholders.
Reginald Anderson of Saint Lucia posed a question with regard to employment, development, growth and entrepreneurship and queried the helpfulness of the bank in this regard. “I think we have to look at the regime we have for small business support,” said Antoine. “If you look at employment across the region, in many countries small businesses account for 40 percent to 50 percent of all employment in our countries. Therefore, as an important policy, we have to ensure that we give the requisite support to small business development. That means special financing which you would not necessarily get from some of our commercial banks.”
He also spoke to the matter of export credit guarantees to support and encourage export industries and firms. “There are things we did as a bank years ago and we no longer do,” he said. “There may be good reasons why we need to revisit those.” St Kitts and Nevis’ media practitioner, Glen Bart, questioned the priority areas that the governor would advise governments to get into, to support or promote the strengthening of the economy and the private sector. “I don’t want to be too prescriptive because I did promise you we have to listen and we have to advise but there are clearly some areas of competitive advantage,” said Antoine. “Whether it is geothermal in Dominica or medical education and medical tourism in Grenada, do those things well and grow those areas because those are opportunities, and then look for the linkages within the region.”
The governor noted that everyone has a contribution to make; however, the competitiveness is important. “There are different things for different countries, a number of countries have national strategic plans or are working on them. I think we have to support them; we have to see what infrastructure we need because in some cases the infrastructure is lacking.”
Prior to engaging the media, Anguilla Chief Minister Victor Banks, chairman of the Monetary Council, took the opportunity to welcome all present and described the event as momentous. He explained that his task was to introduce the governor of the central bank and noted that he is well known in the media. Banks also took the opportunity to thank the committee that was involved in the process of selecting Antoine.
“We arrived to the conclusion that in this period Governor Antoine is well-suited to lead the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the ECCU at this period,” he said. Antoine replaces Sir K. Dwight Venner who retired as governor of ECCB on November 30, 2015 after being in that position for over 25 years. Antoine met with St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris, on Monday at his office in Basseterre.
–(Caribbean News Now)