Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 9, 2023 (SKNIS): The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) wants greater oversight of the process of who is being appointed to Banking Boards and Boards of other financial institutions. Governor of the ECCB, Dr. Timothy Antoine, has commended the Dr. Terrance Drew-led administration for its tabling of two banking bills, namely, the Banking (Amendment) Bill, 2023 and the Bill to Amend the ECCB Agreement in the National Assembly on March 7, 2023, which will help to protect the financial system.
While addressing media practitioners in St. Kitts and Nevis as part of the Bank’s 2023 Country Outreach Mission on March 8, 2023, Dr. Antoine said “slow passage of legislation poses the single biggest strategic risk to ECCB’s transformation agenda” while outlining several pieces of legislation that are yet to be put into place to protect the financial system.
On March 7, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew tabled two of the banking bills (aforementioned) for their first reading as a step to strengthen and protect the financial system.
Dr. Antoine said that one of the things that the Banking (Amendment) Bill does is to ensure that people who serve on Boards of financial institutions are people of integrity so that they will not pose a risk to the financial system.
“One of the things that the Bill does is to clarify the fit and proper criteria for members who sit on Boards of our banks or licensed financial institutions…It is important that the people who sit on these Boards are fit and proper; they have the requisite skills; they have the requisite integrity; they have the requisite commitment to serve as Board members and senior management, and one of the things that the Amendment does is to require that people who are nominated to serve in these entities are referred to the Central Bank to ascertain that they are fit and proper. And it is important for that process to happen before they are formally appointed because we want to avoid a situation where somebody gets nominated and then we have to remove them,” Dr. Antoine said.
He added, “But, the law also provides for natural justice or due process, so if the Central Bank having reviewed and assessed a nominee to sit on a Board forms the view that that person is not fit and not proper, that person has an opportunity to ask the Bank to revisit its decision and of course to revisit the decision by furnishing the Bank with evidence which may demonstrate that the Bank, perhaps, does not have all of the information at its disposal.”
Governor Antoine said that another of the Amendments addresses the issue of people who have been discharged from bankruptcy.
“Right now under the Banking Act, if you would have had a business, and the business has failed and you’ve been declared bankrupt, you are essentially banned for life from serving on a board of a financial institution. That life sentence is a bit harsh,” he said.
He said that the Amendment would modernize the law to give persons who have been declared bankrupt a chance to be considered again. He cited as an example the COVID-19 pandemic saying that some people became bankrupt through no fault of their own other than the negative fallout from the pandemic.
He said that the caliber of persons being appointed to financial Boards “touch and concern real people.”
Several other Bills and Regulations have been proposed by the ECCB to be tabled in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly or to be put in place to protect the financial system including Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Agreement (Amendment) Order; Banking Licenses) Regulation; Banking (Abandoned Property) Regulations; Payment System (ECACHS) Rules; Amendments to AML/CFT Legislation; Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission Agreement Bill; and Investments Fund Bill.
St. Kitts and Nevis is the fourth largest economy in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of just under three (3) billion dollars. The St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank is the largest single bank in the ECCU with 3.6 billion.
Saint Lucia is the leading economy in the ECCU.
The press conference was also attended by other senior officials of the ECCB including Dr. Valda Henry, Deputy Governor, Emefa Sewordor, Head of the Advisory Services Unit and Teresa Smith, Director of Research, Statistics and Data Analytics.