by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Mr. Timothy N. J. Antoine has proudly outlined the successes of the St. Kitts based financial institution. The work of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank for the financial year was guided by the Strategic Plan of 2017 to 2021.
ECCB is a recipient of several awards for their outstanding innovative projects within the financial year ended March 31, 2022. The Governor said the innovation was geared toward creating a better life for the people of the Eastern Caribbean.
“We did not set out to receive awards, we set out to innovate and try to improve the life and quality of life for our people; but it is always gratifying if you will, that our efforts have been recognised globally, people have taken notice, and we have so been recognised. What this says is, we are doing something right, that people are taking notice and I want to extend kudos to our team for the hard work we’ve put in for these results,” said Antoine.
During Season 19-Episode 11 of ECCB Connects, Governor Antoine addressed the major achievements of the bank under the Strategic Plan. These include the strength of the EC dollar, financial stability and several successful innovations which the bank pursued over the past year.
Though the Eastern Caribbean has faced tremendous difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Governor declared that the EC currency remains strong.
Antoine stated, ” We advocated in our strategic plan a strong and stable EC dollar. Many people take that for granted, because we’ve had a stable dollar for so long, but it does require us to work every day to ensure the stability of our dollar. Throughout the strategic plan period, we did in fact maintain a very strong and stable EC dollar. In fact, the reserves of the bank have grown significantly from just under five billion to just under six billion EC dollars.”
Another major achievement outlined by the ECCB Governor is financial stability. He explained that the commercial banks across the Eastern Caribbean Central Union (ECCU) went into the pandemic with strong capital and liquidity buffers.
Antione said, “If you look at our banks, we were able to see stability over this period in our banking system. Our banking system remains sound and we must not forget the difficulties of the previous period when we had some bank failures and the need for resolution. The reality is that our banks have remained very stable. In fact, the capital adequacy across our banks have improved and so has liquidity and I think a testimony to that is in fact the reality that throughout the pandemic no commercial bank in the ECCU (Eastern Caribbean Central Union) came to our Central Bank for liquidity support.”
Another recognition of financial stability is the exit of Canadian banks’ from the region. The indigenous banks took over the Canadian banking services in April 2021. The transitions occurred in St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia and Montserrat. Antoine said the people of the ECCU can be pleased with the transitions.
Thirdly, Governor Antoine expressed that the Central Bank took several innovative approaches which were proven to be successful. These include the launch of Polymer notes, the launch of the EC digital currency and the greening of the ECCB campus.
The launch of the Polymer currency in July 2019 allows for more durability, safety and security. Specifically, the notes were made in a way to ensure empowerment for the blind or visually impaired. There is a unique tactile feature on each note that makes it easy for them to identify their money. The features are made up of raised bumps at the top left hand corner at the front of the note which forms familiar shapes. The EC $5.00 note has a circular shape, the EC$10.00 has an X shape, EC $20.00 has a rectangular shape, EC $50.00 has a triangular shape and the EC $100.00 has a square shape. According to Antoine, the ECCB has been recognised with an international award for Polymer Notes. He added that several other central banks in the region are now pursuing polymer notes as well.
In addition, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in March 2021 launched its digital currency called D Cash, which too is a success story for the ECCB and its member countries.
“Today, we have now launched [D Cash] in all eight member countries and the reality is that- that innovation, that pilot has received significant attention around the world and also as a result of that, we received an award.”
Another success story for the bank is its receipt of the Central Banking 2022 Green Initiative Award for its Solar Canopy Project. The Strategic Plan outlined the bank’s thrust in becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2021- 2022. At current 60 to 70 percent of ECCB’s energy needs are met from Solar Energy. Antoine said the goal is to get to their 100 percent target by the end of 2022. It is expected that the ECCB renewable energy project would be one that ECCU member countries can emulate as they continue to engage in the expansion of infrastructure that can provide green energy throughout their communities.