PM Rowley promises to solve foreign exchange issue, says PM Gonsalves

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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and his counter-part, Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago had a productive interaction regarding foreign exchange and the issues being faced by farmers and local businesses that sell their produce to Port of Spain, as they have not been able to purchase Eastern Caribbean Dollars.

According to Prime Minister Gonsalves, Prime Minister Rowley has promised to pay close attention to the problem and address it in a prompt and definitive manner.

The recent CARICOM Summit which was held in Guyana gave the two leaders the opportunity to discuss the ins and outs of this issue as they conversed with each other on the side-lines.

After returning from the summit, Prime Minister Gonsalves stated the following on NBC radio, “I raised the matter again with the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and gave him again a copy of the letter which I had sent to him.”

He added, “And he said that before he left Guyana, he was going to inform the Minister of Finance (Colm Imbert) to sort out this matter with the central bank.”

Prime Minster Gonsalves also stated that he carried copies of a letter he had sent to Prime Minister Rowley in December 2023 regarding this very issue, so as to be prepared in case the matter had to be brought up in a formal manner during the CARICOM Summit.

The situation was addressed in a more candid setting, as explained by PM Gonsalves, “But I had a one on one with … Keith Rowley, my brethren, and he said, ‘I’ll sort this out, Ralph.’

So, I got that assurance. I’m relying on his assurance. I can’t take that assurance to the bank. But I’m relying on it because I think he will do what he says.”

The issue is of great significance as agricultural traders in the region have had to face the challenging task of converting the currency of Trinidad and Tobago into the Eastern Caribbean Dollars following a transaction and have been referred to as “traffickers” in the process.

There have been attempts in the past to introduce policies to improve the situation but the systems that are introduced have been known to fail more often than not.

Israel Bruce, who acts as the opposition’s legislator, brought the issue up in the parliament last month, highlighting the fact that during the budget address in January, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves had said that collaborative efforts between the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) and the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines (BoSVG) had been “peremptorily terminated by the Central Bank of Trinidad & Tobago.”

Israel Bruce also brought up the fact that the finance minister had clearly stated that Prime Minister Gonsalves would ensure that the issue is resolved.

In response to this, Prime Minister Gonsalves clarified that he had written to Prime Minister Rowley regarding the termination of the arrangement that had been made with the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago on the 8th of December, 2023.

He also went on to add that upon the request of the CBTT and the ECCB, the BoSVG came up with a solution to the issue in November 2018, which would look to provide Vincentian traffickers up to TT$ 1.5 million (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) per month to alleviate their concerns.

He also said, “On November the 22nd, 2023, the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago informed the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank that the arrangements to assist small traders from our country will cease on December 31, 2023, and will not be renewed.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves also brought up specific sections of the letter he wrote to Prime Minister Rowley in which he expressed his shock at the state of affairs and highlighted the fact that St Vincent and the Grenadines is experiencing a significant trade imbalance with Trinidad and Tobago.

In the letter, Prime Minister Gonsalves also wrote the following, “St Vincent and Grenadines pays exporters from Trinidad and Tobago in hard currency for its imports. Imports from Trinidad and Tobago to St Vincent and Grenadines run in excess of US$70 million annually.”

“I feel sure that you’re not aware of this recent injustice to the small traders of St Vincent and the Grenadines. In fact, the export from St Vincent and Grenadines to Trinidad and Tobago prior to the hassles by the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago in 2018 amounted to US$10 million.”

PM Gonsalves told PM Rowley that the unnecessary inconvenience of conducting foreign exchange transactions out of Trinidad and Tobago has forced small traders to exit the marketplace as they have exhausted their patience with the obstacles in their way and find the entire ordeal to be ridiculous and quite tedious.

He also stated, “Now, the lifeline of a paltry 1.5 million Trinidad and Tobago dollars per month is being caused by an unconscionable Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves told the parliament that his letter to PM Rowley was stern one, in which he wrote, “as you are undoubtedly aware, I have long held the view that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy cannot prevail, if its member countries remain or become unequally yoked.”

“I’m appealing to you to right this egregious wrong done to the small traders of St Vincent and Grenadines.”

Ana Allen
Ana Allenhttp://writeups24.com
Anna Allen, news writer at Writeups24, is a Harvard graduate with a passion for journalism. With her keen eye for detail and insatiable curiosity, she captures the essence of global stories. Anna's writing informs and delves into cultural nuances. To reach Anna, you can email contact@writeups24.com

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