Expanding credit to businesses a major focus of PM Harris’ administration, as well as the ECCU

(PRESS SEC) – At the recent 88th Meeting of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), the Council affirmed its strong commitment to implementing the ECCU Growth Action Plan and “agreed to urge commercial banks to increase lending to the private sector in an attempt to spur growth,” according to a communiqué.

The action plan was developed following the inaugural ECCU Growth Dialogue with Social Partners forum, which the ECCB hosted in Basseterre, St. Kitts on March 1st, 2017. The forum, whose theme was Working Together to Achieve Higher and More Inclusive Growth in the ECCU, sought to forge consensus on a plan of action for tackling challenges to competitiveness, employment and growth facing the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

The Monetary Council is the highest decision-making authority of the ECCB. It comprises eight Ministers of Finance, one from each member government in the ECCU, namely Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, “the strongest growth and fiscal performance in the ECCU region” has been seen “in recent years,” according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Robust lending by the commercial banks in St. Kitts and Nevis is a boon to growth here. For instance, private sector credit grew by 3.17% in St. Kitts and Nevis in 2015, but registered a 6.1% decline throughout the ECCU that year.

“This probably explains partly why you are the fastest growing country in the OECS [the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States],” ECCB Governor Mr. Timothy Antoine told Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris and his Cabinet of Ministers on April 18th last year when he made a presentation to them at Government Headquarters. The ECCB Governor’s presentation focused on the fiscal health of St. Kitts and Nevis in relation to the ECCU.

Fueling St. Kitts and Nevis’ strong fiscal health is the nurturing environment that the Team Unity Government has created to enable local businesses to thrive. This was encapsulated in Prime Minister Harris’ tweet (@pmharriskn) last Thursday, July 27th: “Our #TeamUnity administration is focused on the people’s agenda: #Jobs, expanding credit to businesses, security for all, good governance.”

Notably, at the start of April 2017, the Government’s Fresh Start program, administered through the Development Bank, had already approved 507 loans valued at approximately $40 million, and $34 million of that amount had been disbursed. Fresh Start provides concessionary loans and technical assistance to entrepreneurs so that they can either start or expand their micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

Moreover, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank Limited announced this year that it had contracted with Development Bank to be involved in the Fresh Start program, “for which demand has substantially exceeded initial expectations.”

National Bank, which reported $28.4 million in profit after taxation for the financial year ended June 30th, 2016, also stated in its 2016 Annual Report that, “Liquidity remains strong and available for new opportunities.”

The Bank further reported that, “Total loans and advances to customers increased by $57.4 million or 8.9% to $703.9 million in 2016 over 2015…The Group will continue to work on improving the quality of the loans and advances portfolio whilst aggressively pursuing additional private sector loans and advances.”

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