Regional Bank Must Adopt De-risking as Central Issue

Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) general manager, Earl Jarrett, has told the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) that the time has come for the regional financial institution to play a leading role in crafting the region’s response to the growing crisis, which has led to the loss of correspondent banking relationships for regional financial institutions.

The Caribbean has been the worst affected by the issue, as the World Bank and regional researchers, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), have pointed out in recent studies of the issue, which threatens to cut off the Caribbean’s access to the global financial system.

In a November 2015 survey, the World Bank reports that about 75 per cent of international banks have experienced a reduction in correspondent banking services with the Caribbean being the worst affected. 

Speaking Tuesday (May 17) at a luncheon at the Hyatt Ziva in St James, sponsored by the Society for the CDB’s Board of Governors, as the institution convened its 46th Annual General Meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Mr Jarrett underscored that the CDB must adopt the issue and see it as being central to its responsibility to the development of its member states. 

“As the CDB considers its mandate and growth at this annual meeting, it must also deeply reflect in the economic progress of its member states,” Mr Jarrett urged the 19-member development bank.  

“It must determine if there is need to adjust its sails in this world of uncertain winds, to ensure its member states that benefit from its primary services are growing, at least, at relatively the same rate as the organisation,” the JNBS general manager said.

He noted that the CDB’s assets had grown since establishment in 1969 from $50 million to $US 900 million, while the economies of member countries, such as Jamaica, had barely grown two per cent since its independence from Britain in 1962.

Extolling the CDB for its valuable economic research, Mr Jarrett suggested that the organisation do more through its work to dispel the reasons for Caribbean states’ debt problem, in an effort to counter the perception of the region as corrupt and risky by international banks, which, in the final analysis, drives de-risking and sever relationships with institutions in the Caribbean.

The JNBS general manager contends that non-state actors, especially contingent liabilities by the private sector which are later absorbed by governments, have played a critical role in exacerbating the debt burden for Caribbean countries. And, although he mentioned the impact of Climate Change, he carefully noted that the Caribbean’s debt issues are limited to those problems.

“It is interesting to note that minimal reference is made to the [CDB’s] study in discussions about the debt issue in the region. In fact, it seems the rest of the world would prefer to blame the debt problem on malfeasance and incompetence on the part of Caribbean leaders and politicians,” Mr Jarrett argued.

The de-risking of regional financial institutions is a final move by the developed world to make developing nations truly “independent,” he contended, pointing to the loss of preferential trading and the imposition of rigid visa requirements on Caribbean, as being attempts which preceded the correspondent banking issue.

“It is now up to us to begin to craft a new response to this ‘independence’,” a firm Mr Jarrett posited.

 “It is now up to us, to reflect on; and to accept the original intent of the CDB and CARICOM, so that the region can begin to understand that we need to recognise that now that Europe has finally ended the special relationship we enjoyed, we must now look to each other,” he said.

“Our future will require us fully to embrace this spirit of mutuality.”   

He said the Caribbean must embark on a single goal to achieve sustained economic growth, beyond remittances, which he dubbed Project Caribbean. And, in order to do that he said the Caribbean must understand what it will offer.

In that context, Mr Jarrett outlined several initiatives that the Caribbean must begin to implement now in order to achieve growth, including moving to urgently negotiate as a single trading bloc and create the space for the region’s private sector to meet and exchange ideas and programmes to drive the Caribbean’s progress.

He said the region should also reflect on the benefits of having a single university within the space and make greater commitments to support it.    

“We must commit to regional transportation and regional telecommunication from the point of views of shipping and air links between the [countries in the] region,” he added.

 “And, we must work at identifying a medium by which goods can be traded in the region, and by this I mean some semblance of economic integration or the development of a regional payments system,” he said, pointing to the establishment of Barbadian Gabriel Abed’s bitcoin technology to move funds as an example. 

Mr Jarrett said it was also time for the region to accept that the Caribbean would never again become major agricultural players in the world and look at other industries.

He also suggested that the region develop a secure “Schengen visa”- type immigration system to facilitate easy movement between countries, similar to what obtains in Europe; as well as, give consideration to establishing a regional financial institution in major trading markets to support Caribbean people in the trade of their goods and services.

In closing, the JNBS head reiterated that the regional states must work assiduously to counter the perceptions of risk and corruption in the Caribbean and commit to implementing the anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing within the legal framework in the region, as well as begin to share information with banking and trading partners.

“We must create a free flow of information so that, in the final analysis, we don’t create a wall that will separate the developed world from the developing world,” he concluded.

Read full remarks here.

 

Earl Jarrett, General Manager, Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), greets President of the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr Warren Smith as he arrives for a luncheon sponsored by JNBS for the Board of Governors and delegates attending the 46th Annual General Meeting being held in Montego Bay, St James, Jamaica.