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Monetary Council supports decision to regulate transfers of US dollars to T&T

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The decision by St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to regulate transfers of United States dollars to Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) will be supported by the other members of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT that the issue of the currency transfer was raised during the 90th meeting of the Monetary Council of the ECCB at the ECCB’s Headquarters, Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis, on February 16.

The Finance Minister said that the Monetary Council was presented with a brief on the issue and most of the OECS countries represented at the meeting have committed to doing the same thing.

Over the years, strict banking regulations in Trinidad and Tobago have made it difficult for Vincentian traffickers to obtain foreign exchange for the Trinidad dollars they receive when they sell produce in Trinidad.

In protest, Gonsalves, delivering his first budget address as Minister of Finance last month, announced that from March 1, 2018, all USD payments to be made to T&T by local business people will require the approval of the Director General Finance and Planning.

“More countries than St Vincent and the Grenadines will be taking this course of action with Trinidad and Tobago and we hope that it gets their attention. This is not some trade war that we want to engage in for a lengthy period of time. What we are saying is that we are being treated unfairly,” said Gonsalves last week Thursday.

He said that SVG is buying hundreds of millions of dollars from T&T, using hard US currency, “and when our traders are going down, for comparatively a pittance, 20 million out of 200 million dollars, they are being given the run-around.”

He said this country pays the University of the West Indies (UWI) in USD, while we also pay for our food, drink, petroleum and other products in USD.

“Pay attention to how much hard currency we give you,” is the advice to T&T from Gonsalves, who also said, “we just want a little bit of it back and the OECS is taking the same path.”

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in a lecture last week Thursday, promised to bring up the issue in Haiti this week at the 29th Inter-sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Port-au-Prince. 

“…It is wrong and unconscionable that the relevant authorities in Trinidad and Tobago have failed and/or refused to address satisfactorily or at all this burning issue which affects our small farmers adversely.”

He said he has raised the matter at the last two CARICOM Heads of Government conferences and has made direct representations on the issue with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, all to no avail.

“…How can the single market function properly in such an unfair environment,” questioned the Prime Minister during his lecture to senior civil servants.

He said it is evident that this foreign exchange problem has affected adversely the volume and value of exports from SVG to T&T.

In 2015, SVG exported to T&T 13.24 million kg (net weight) of goods valued at EC$21 million; in 2016, these numbers fell to 11.08 million kg of goods with a value of EC$17.19 million; in 2017, the numbers further fell to 6.8 million kg of goods with a value of EC$11 million. 

 “This is an urgent matter of huge importance to be solved permanently! I shall continue to push aggressively for a solution,”the Prime Minister said.(LC)

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