Amendment to Banking Act Clears Lower House, P.M Issues Invitation for Negotiations

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Tuesday 11th December, 2018-There was bi-partisan support for the Banking Amendment Bill 2018 when it was tabled in the House of Representatives this morning.

The bill, which now heads to the Senate, provides for a minor change to the Banking Act, 2015. A small amendment resulting in a major shift in who gets the final say in the divestment of Scotiabanks’s assets.

Currently, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank according to the Banking Act, section 175 upon completion of their investigation following an application for divestment may, if it thinks fit, make a recommendation to the Minister (Finance) to make a Banking Business Vesting Order.

The amendment will remove ‘may’ and replace it with ‘shall’, giving the government the power to issue or deny a vesting order.

In the House of Representatives this morning, Prime Minister Gaston Browne described the move as simple, but emphasized it is to protect the interest of Antiguans and Barbudans. He has issued an invitation for Scotiabank to hold discussions with his government; otherwise there will be no deal.

Republic Financial Holdings Ltd. has purchased the assets of Scotibank in Anguilla and eight other countries, including Antigua and Barbuda for US$123 million. The decision has sparked outrage, with Prime Minister Browne disapproving the manner in which it was carried out. His administration reportedly learnt of the sale via press release.

Mr. Browne who also holds the portfolios of finance, corporate governance and public and private partnership says his government is seeking to build resilience within the domestic banking space, to avert any future bank failure and also to provide for economic growth and development.

The head of government expressed that an exploitative model exists among multi-national companies in the country, a model that must be curbed.

Barbudan Member of Parliament Trevor Walker has supported the government’s move, labeling Scotiabnk’s exclusion of the government as “disrespect.”

He noted that if the ECCU and CARICOM are to remain relevant; there must be a common vision.

MP Walker told the House of Representatives he fears this may be the beginning of what is to come.