Prime Minister Harris with Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, with Mr. Timothy Antoine at the handing-over ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Monetary Council.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- Three areas, monetary stability, financial stability, and growth and competitiveness, were outlined by Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, who, during a brief handing-over ceremony this morning after he assumed Chairmanship of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB). He spoke of the Monetary Council’s main areas of focus for the next year.

Prime Minister Harris assumed the Chairmanship of the ECCB Monetary Council from Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell.

In his remarks, Prime Minister Harris referenced the projections of the Central Bank, which state that the ECCU economies are projected to decline between 10 and 20 per cent in 2020. The decline is a result of the necessary lockdowns and the closure of the vital tourism sector. A gradual recovery for the ECCU is anticipated in 2021.

The new Chair of the Monetary Council said that during his tenure, the Council will exercise responsible, prudent, and unified leadership that will chart the path towards the region’s economic recovery and resilience.

With respect to attaining monetary stability in the sub-region, Prime Minister Harris said, “With the reduced inflows of foreign currency to support our reserves, the Monetary Council and the ECCB will continue to be meticulous in the management of our foreign reserves,” said the Monetary Council chairman. “This will ensure that the EC dollar remains strong and continues to serve our people and economies by delivering low inflation, convertibility and consumer and investor confidence. The EC dollar remains strong and far superior to the regulatory backing ratio.”

Dr. Harris further stated that financial stability for the rapid recovery of the region is critical, particularly as the loss of jobs, as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, has adversely impacted the financial sector.

“The Monetary Council will consider recommendations designed to ensure an optimal regulatory framework for the financial system in the ECCU,” said Dr. Harris. “This will include a careful review and more efficacious division of responsibilities among the ECCB, the Eastern Caribbean Securities Regulatory Commission and national financial regulators.

“The aim is to protect customers and consumers while enhancing financial stability, an essential for sustained growth and prosperity. The Monetary Council will continue to address threats such as the loss of correspondent banking relationships, money laundering, and terrorist financing.”

The St. Kitts and Nevis prime minister highlighted that the present COVID-19 pandemic has also uncovered many inefficiencies and presented many opportunities for the region.

In an effort to take advantage of these opportunities to promote growth and competitiveness, Prime Minister Harris stated that over the next twelve months, the Monetary Council will redouble its efforts to support the region’s digital transformation.

“In this vein, I look forward to the launch of the ECCB’s Digital EC Cash pilot,” said Dr. Harris. “The Monetary Council will also consider a modern Payment System and Services legislation as we press forward with the modernisation of our payment system.

“We look forward to fast track implementation of the Caribbean Digital Transformation Programme funded by the World Bank,” said Prime Minister Harris, who is the Minister of Finance in St. Kitts and Nevis.