by STAFF WRITER
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Mar 16, CMC – The Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy Antoine, says the financial institution is poised to make a modest profit at the end of this fiscal year, after three years of losses.
“As of now, the bank is making a profit. We expect that we would make a small profit at the end of this fiscal year, after three years of losses, and we have every expectations and plans to increase the profitability of the bank going forward,” said Antoine, who took over from the late Sir Dwight Venner in February last year.
Speaking on a current affairs programme hosted by the St. Kitts-based ECCB that serves as a Central Bank for Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis and Montserrat, Antoine said he felt “very encouraged by the progress we’ve made in my first year.
“Much of what we’ve set out to do was accomplished” said the Grenadian-born economist, adding that he is satisfied with the maintenance of a strong Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar.
“We have maintained the strength of our EC Dollar which is exchange rate stability. Throughout the last year, the currency was backed an average 97 per cent in some cases 98 but on average 97 per cent. So on that score we continue to maintain a strong dollar.”
Antoine had outlined a four four–pillar vision for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and the ECCB on upon assuming office. They were financial stability, fiscal and debt sustainability, growth competitiveness and Employment and organizational effectiveness.
Antoine said he is pleased that the ECCB was able to maintain a strong EC dollar to improve financial stability in the sub–region.
“We were able to resolve two trouble banks in Anguilla and as a result we now have the National Commercial Bank of Anguilla and that is making steady progress.”
“We’ve also seen across the currency Union, improvement in the performance of our national banks and our international banks; whether you look at capital adequacy or you look at profitability, we saw improvement.”
Antoine said there was also improvement in asset quality measured by non-performing loans “which fell from a high of 17 per cent at the end of 2015 to around 12 and a half per cent at the end of 2016.”
There have also been improvements in the fiscal accounts, Antoine said.
“I am pleased to note that we have seen improvement in the fiscal accounts. Many of our governments were able to earn primary surpluses this last year and overall there was an improvement in the fiscal accounts.
“We have also seen a reduction in the debt to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio for several of our countries…we’re down from 76 per cent to 75 there about…it is slight but it’s moving in the right direction.”
“That’s an important target for us…we’re trying to get to a debt to GDP ratio of 60 percent by 2030.”
However the ECCB Governor said the period was not without its challenges and the major challenge was with it pillar for growth, competitiveness and employment.
“I think at the moment we recorded 2 to 2.5 per cent growth in 2016. That is not bad but not good enough,” the governor said, adding that “we want to be at 5 per cent per annum or more.”
“So that remains a challenge but what we did in the first year was to build a foundation for how we are going to…attempt to raise the trajectory of growth.”
Antoine said there are a number of initiatives that the bank will be taking in the coming year to address the issue of growth and competitiveness.
He said he is looking forward to the establishment of the partial credit guarantee scheme, the ECCU Credit Bureau and more opportunities for access to finance for youth. During his second year on the job.