Sat | Oct 21, 2017

Holness warns region over banking threat

Published:Saturday | August 20, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Caribbean countries with weak regulatory systems that could facilitate financial crimes need to act fast to strengthen their safeguards, said Prime Minster Andrew Holness. Failure to do so, he noted, could worsen the issue of international banks ending relationships with regional institutions.

International banks have been shedding their Latin American and Caribbean banking relationships as a de-risking strategy, which largely turns on concerns about money laundering and the need to adhere to global regulations.

"Countries of the Caribbean region and other countries that face those threats have to move quickly to ensure that their legislative framework, their regulatory framework align as much as possible with the international banking requirements," Holness told this week's quarterly press briefing of the Economic Growth Council (EGC).

LEVEL OF COMPLIANCE

While not naming the countries with weak regulatory systems, Holness asserted that Jamaica was among the most compliant countries and reiterated that this should be rewarded.

"The Government of Jamaica is working very, very hard along with the banks to ensure that we do comply [with international standards]" he said.

Barbados' central bank has been leading a study of compliance throughout the region.

At July's CARICOM meeting, leaders argued that the actions of the big banks represented an assault on Caribbean economies largely dependent on remittances and foreign direct investments.

The leaders argued that the international banks were not properly informed that regional countries had taken steps to comply and are taking action with little concern for their survival.

"There is an asymmetry of information. What we are doing is not always known by the overseas regulators," Holness remarked at the EGC meeting.

CARICOM has been lobbying the US government to help while making attempts to engage a lobby from the North American country to help push its cause.

It is also planning a conference with stakeholders.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com