ECCU meeting focuses on factors affecting money and credit conditions

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, AUGUST 13TH 2013 (CUOPM) – The St. Kitts-based Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) has received the Governor’s Report on Monetary and Credit Conditions which was based on developments over the first quarter of 2013 and evaluated within the context of developments over the corresponding period of 2012.

The Report, at the 76th Meeting, under the chairmanship of St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas focused on benchmarks for money and credit in the ECCU; the current state of, and factors affecting money and credit conditions.

“Council was apprised of the following, money and credit conditions remained generally stable during the first quarter of 2013, the banking sector remained sufficiently liquid. There was a steady growth in deposits and an adequate level of net liquid assets; in the tourism sector, stay-over visitor arrivals increased by 0.8 of a percentage point during the first quarter of 2013, relative to a 5.5 per cent increase in the corresponding period of 2012 and cruise passengers and cruise calls fell by 12.1 percent and 4.3 percent respectively,” said a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting.

With respect to the outlook, it noted that the external sector is expected to strengthen in 2013 with the gradual recovery of the global economy and the proportionate improvement in the growth prospects of the ECCU economy.

The export of goods and services is also expected to increase moderately over the medium term, conditional on developments in the global economy.

Council was further apprised that, in order to improve the current trajectory of credit growth and improve the domestic economic conditions, the establishment of a public credit bureau and the stability of the financial sector must be given priority.

Credit bureaus provide essential information for loan officers on consumer debt levels and repayment histories.

Council further agreed that a harmonised regulatory and supervisory system, for effecting a Single Financial Space to safeguard the role of commercial banks would require the prompt implementation of the Resolution Trust Corporation and the Eastern Caribbean Stabilisation Fund.

The Monetary Council agreed to maintain the minimum savings deposit rate at 3.0 percent; and the Central Bank’s discount rate at 6.5 percent.

It further noted that as at 30 April 2013, there were elements of stability within the ECCU financial system, evidenced by the strength of the EC dollar, the efficiency of the payments and settlement system, increasing deposits, improvement in liquidity and the level of public confidence.

“In addition, efforts made towards the rationalisation of the non-bank sector have contributed to the strengthening of that sector. Notwithstanding, Council agreed that the resilience of the financial sector be strengthened, with priority given to strengthening the regulation and supervision of the commercial banking sector; establishing the single financial space to facilitate the consolidation of regulation and supervision, as well as the consolidation of institutions such as the indigenous banks, insurance companies and credit unions; harmonising the law on the realisation of mortgage collateral through consultation with member countries to approve the specific areas which require improvement in the legislation,” said the statement.

Finance Ministers from the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union also discussed developing a financial and investment architecture geared towards growth, comprising institutions and markets, including the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE), the Eastern Caribbean Unit Trust (ECUT), the Eastern Caribbean Home Mortgage Bank (ECHMB), the Eastern Caribbean Enterprise Fund (ECEF), a credit bureau, a foreign exchange market, the Interbank Market (IBM), the Regional Government Securities Market (RGSM), the Eastern Caribbean Securities Market (ECSM), secondary markets in Treasury bills, bonds, equities and mortgages; and the establishment of agencies to carry out the functions of factoring and leasing, export credit and insurance and the development of financial products.

In keeping with its thrust to stimulate positive economic growth and the overall macroeconomic development of the ECCU member countries, Council agreed to recommend that member governments implement policies and foster effective institutions to deliver annual growth targets in the range of least 3.0 to 5.0 percent in the short term and 5.0 to 7.0 percent over the medium to long term.

Council agreed to adopt and implement the three-pronged growth strategy which involves a stimulus package with attendant safety-nets, an industrial policy centered on the tourism industry as the lead transformational sector and the seven integrated and modernising sectors. Encourage economic diversification through the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises geared towards the export sector, facilitate real sector growth, competitiveness and sustainable development through the representation and development of the domestic private sector, the establishment of a comprehensive policy towards foreign direct investment (FDI), the establishment of tripartite committees in countries they are not already established, and encourage them to be involved in discussions on wages, prices, employment and productivity, the strengthening of the operations of Investment Promotion Agencies and the development of statistical capabilities to improve policy-making and planning and set targets to measure results.

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