Government Tables Banking Bill Without Debate LK Hewlett Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Hon Dr. Timothy Harris introduced the controversial Banking Bill, 2015 during Tuesday’s sitting of parliament but the legislation was not debated. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank proposed legislative action calls for stricter regulations for financial institutions, including credit unions. It also requires banks to up their deposit insurance and increase the level of reserved capital. Under the proposed bill the ECCB would have a say in who owns controlling shares in these institutions. Additionally, the legislation seeks to establish a single banking space where once a financial institution is granted a license in one of the ECCU countries, it can operate in all the others without having to apply for licenses from those governments. After the bill was passed in Antigua in April, banks employees expressed their strong objection by going on strike, saying the Act wrested power from the institutions and was unconstitutional. Other ECCU member states have passed the bill without conflict. While there has been no public expression of concern from the local banking sector, a source indicated that not all financial institutions in the Federation are happy with the impending legislation as it would give the ECCB ‘too much control” over banks. The Bill speaks to the requirements, granting and revocation of licenses for financial institutions, permissible activities, ownership structures, supervision, corporate governance, receivership and compulsory liquidation, among other components. The Banking Bill 2015 was expected to get three readings and passed on Tuesday however Opposition MP Hon. Marcella Liburd said the government had been pressured to backtrack as it had not properly consulted the institutions that would be affected. She claimed the SKN Bar Association had received a copy of the Bill the day before parliament and the Banking Association a few days prior. “I believe that the Bill that was to be debated today did not get the public involved enough and I know that it is because of pressure why what took place today took place. The Bar Association was not happy that they got one day in order to look at this critical Banking Bill. I know that the Banking Association was also very unhappy that only last minute, like two days before now, that they were consulted,” she charged. In a July 2 interview with The Observer addressing if the banking sector had raised any issues with the proposed Bill, Deputy Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Trevor Brathwaite said he would not speak to that at this time. He said the ECCB had engaged the financial institutions and others in the public on the bill and are now “analyzing their comments”. “It’s an issue for us to get back to persons who have raised them to have a discussion,” he said. The Banking Act will be subject to review on a regular basis, Brathwaite informed. “And if there are any amendments warranted, we will go back to the Monetary Council to seek their agreement for amendments. It’s a continuous process.” With the exception of the British Overseas territories, Anguilla and Montserrat, St. Kitts-Nevis is the only full ECCU member state that has not yet passed the Banking Act. Brathwaite told this media house that there is always a need for ‘these things to be done as quickly as possible”. He said it is understood that the Bill, having gotten its first reading this week, will be brought back to the next sitting of the National Assembly for its second and third reading. Representatives from all member governments were in attendance at a workshop in November when the Banking Act and other related pieces of legislation were “discussed and voted on”, Brathwaite noted, so the Bill had been well ventilated among the governments since that time.
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