St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): As commercial banks explore new revenue initiatives including an increase in some bank fees, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union is announcing new measures to inform the public about the current rates.

Chairman of the ECCU the Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerritt, addressed the issue at a press conference in Dominica Friday afternoon at the conclusion of the 88th meeting of the ECCB Monetary Council.

“In keeping with its goal for maintaining financial stability, the ECCB will commence publication of a financial stability report annually. The report is aimed at identifying risks and vulnerabilities in the ECCU financial system, assess the resilience of the financial system to domestic and external shocks and provide information on the soundness of the financial system and various initiatives that regulators and governments are pursuing to mitigate risk to the ECCU financial system.

"Of course as you know the citizens of the monetary union have been raising concerns about bank fees and high bank fees and the varied types of bank fees and what we have decided to do under the recommendation of the Central Bank is to publish the fees and charges for commercial banks by territory. So this will be placed on the bank’s website so in the case of say St Vincent, all of the banks in St Vincent, the fees, all of the charges will be posted side by side, so the discerning clients of the banks can study them and make informed decisions.”

Mr. Skerrit also reported on the fiscal position of member countries of the ECCU.

“The combined overall surplus in the fiscal operations of the ECCU member governments rose to $321.4 million dollars at the end of 2016 that is from $107.8 million dollars in 2015. The regional debt to domestic gross product which was 79.3 percent in 2014 declined to 73.3 percent in 2015 and 72.5 percent in 2016. The fiscal position of member governments is expected to continue to strengthen, gains are expected in tax and non tax revenue as economic activity increases and the Citizenship by Investment Programmes once investment improve the pace, then we will see continued positive results.”

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne addressed issues of growth and competitiveness and entrepreneurship in the region.

“The Monetary Council endorsed the collaboration between the OECS Commission and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank on the implementation of an ECCU Growth Action Plan. Also agreed to recommend that member governments appoint a focal point to coordinate the implementation of the Growth Action Plan and agreed also to support in country consultations in conjunction with the OECS Commission and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank on the Growth Action Plan. Council also agreed to urge commercial banks to increase lending to the private sector in an attempt to spur growth.

"We have seen a consistent decline quarter after quarter, year after year for several years in the amount of credit and as we seek to achieve that minimum threshold of five percent growth in our respective countries, Council is encouraging the commercial banks to increase their lending. We are not suggesting now that they should take on unnecessary risk, but that they take on prudent risk and to manage the risk and to ensure that they grow their portfolio because at the end of the day there is no such thing as a shrinking successful institution."


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