Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Barbados PM calls for ‘greater diversity and competition’ in regional banking

Published:Friday | June 14, 2024 | 1:13 PM
Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley. - CMC photo

NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC — Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, is calling for the Caribbean banking sector to be infused with greater diversity and competition and to ensure that constraints to economic growth are confronted directly.

Speaking on Friday, the closing day of the 31st Afreximbank Annual Meeting and the Third AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum in the Bahamas she said competition is necessary to respond to de-risking banks in the region.

“We have been less than dynamic in the banking sector to our citizens in this region,” she said, adding that in Canada someone can open a bank account in 10 minutes.

“… because of the pressure put on Caribbean countries with the loss and threat of the loss of correspondent banking, it takes two to three months even if you are an individual heading up organisations, and for which the risk is seemingly much less,” Mottley said, calling the situation “unacceptable”.

“Our people cannot be financial lepers,” the 58-year-old prime minister said and told the meeting that when she was 16 years old, she walked into Royal Bank of Canada and opened an account.

“Nobody asked me anything about a utility bill. Nobody asked me a whole host of questions. And while I understand the need for due diligence, I do know that it can be done far better with competition and that we can treat ourselves far better.”

The banking issue was one of three that Mottley raised during her brief intervention on the closing day of the annual meetings, which are being held in the Caribbean for the first time, one year after the continental bank opened a regional office in Barbados.

Mottley said Afreximbank has become the bridge across the Atlantic and it has made itself very well known not only to governments but to ordinary people because it has chosen to have a presence in the Caribbean.

“We keep looking north for investment but we need to look within and across,” Mottley said, speaking one day after Barbadian businessman Mark Maloney signed a deal to borrow US$100 million from Afreximbank for the construction of a hotel in Barbados and expansion of his cement business.

Mottley said she believes that Africa and the Caribbean can find the appropriate instruments to mobilise capital, and the savings of their people.

“… and if we can find a way that makes it easy to understand what the possibilities for those investments can be, I believe that we can do far more to help ourselves, even before we look to ask others to help us.”

She said that against this background, reform of the global financial architecture is still critical.

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