CARICOM Chair and Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceño, has described the Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable with the US Congressional Delegation as “a very good meeting”.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday evening, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre after the talks, Mr. Briceño said Caribbean countries had been doing everything asked of them with regard to the issue of correspondent banking, including passing and amending legislation.
“As we do it, you continue to change [the goal posts] …and it is frustrating for us as a region…. If you’re in United States, you can go and open a bank account in 30 minutes and walk out with a credit card. In the Caribbean, it takes you weeks and sometimes months to be able to open a bank account and it’s ridiculous, just because of the regulations that have been imposed on us.
“And, I also believe that there is a moral responsibility of these large American banks that have severed relationship with all banks in the region. We had relationships for decades, and just because we’re not big enough and they will not make enough money from us, they decided that they’re going to cut us off, not thinking about the people that live in the region,” he stated.
The CARICOM Chair reminded that people in America remitted money to citizens of the region, and he noted that this issue was critical.
“I can assure you that we as CARICOM are going to do everything possible to ensure that we can resolve this matter, to be able to have some form of financial stability in the region,” he pledged.
Premier of Bermuda, E. David Burt, said the corresponding banking issue was a critical one which affected many countries. He added that as the countries in this region tried to respond to the issue, the goal posts were being moved continuously.
Mr. Burt continued: “This is a critically important issue and from the perspective of Bermuda, a country that has incredibly high anti-money laundering ratings, no matter what it is that we do, they’re always asking for more. And there’s no question what this is, it is a red line around the Caribbean.
“They take what is the worst aspect of various islands, apply it to all islands and … say, we don’t want to deal with you, you’re too much risk. We’re small, but what is important … is that we are willing to work together.”
During the press conference, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley announced that the officials had agreed to conduct afeasibility study as to whether a consortium bank should be established in the United States of America. This institution, she explained, could provide the correspondent banking relationships for banks in the region.
In commenting on the statement, Premier Burt said: “We, in the Caribbean are innovative by nature. You don’t get to survive on islands without being innovative. And we have the power to fix these problems, but we cannot do it alone and we need to make sure that we do it on a cooperative basis….”
President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi, who is a former Commissioner of Police, underscored the importance of banks, saying they had crucial functions, including an investment role, in the development of nations.
Mr. Santokhi stressed that Governments in this region supported the fight against drug trafficking and money laundering.