St. Kitts and Nevis Parliament takes up critical bills

Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS) — The first sitting of The Federal Parliament since the ceremonial opening on May 14 convenes tomorrow June 30 in Basseterre, where members of the house and the gallery will hear a number of bills read for the first time.

Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Minister of Finance et al, will seek leave to introduce and have read a first time, The Banking Bill, 2015 and The Saint Christopher and Nevis Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2015. It is expected that The Banking Bill, 2015, will have its second reading during the sitting.

Attorney General, Honourable Vincent Byron stated that both are very important.

“In terms of the Banking Bill, this is one that has been drafted over the last two to three years,” the Attorney General said. He pointed out that “the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) has been very concerned; stating that some of the local banks, the indigenous banks, are not as strong as they should be,” while making reference to a crisis in Anguilla and Antigua that had been questionable.

The remit of this bill is to ensure that the banks are stronger and that they do not in any way, threaten financial sectors, not just in St. Kitts and Nevis but of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

The Citizenship Act, he stressed, is vital and said that over the last two to three years, the Citizenship by Investment programme (CBI) has become very critical to St. Kitts and Nevis’ economy.

“Last year, we had 30 plus percent of revenues collected by government for the use in public and social programmes,” Honourable Vincent Byron said. “The advisory by the US FinCen and the withdrawal of visa free entry to Canada has seriously affected the programme. The amendment to the Citizenship Act will help to strengthen the vetting process, in order to ensure that the international partners understand that measures are being put into place to make the application process more secure.”

The Banking Bill is a bill to provide for the regulation of banking business, the establishment of a single banking space in the Currency Union and for incidental and related matter, whereas the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is a bill to amend the Saint Christopher and Nevis Citizenship Act, Cap. 1.05. The Citizenship Act is an act to provide the acquisition, deprivation and renunciation of citizenship of Saint Christopher and Nevis; and to provide for related or incidental matters.

The Banking Bill has been passed in several Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries. St. Kitts and Nevis will be the latest to join, in a way to have similar legislature that will allow ECCB to have more control over the financial sector.

Given the importance of public confidence in banks and the need for a strong financial sector, it is expected that all members of parliament will strongly support the Bill.

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