PHILIPSBURG: --- Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr. told reporters on Wednesday at the Council of Ministers press briefing that he recently returned from the United States as he was part of a delegation put together by the Central Bank to address the vexing issues of de-risking which has raised problems throughout the Caribbean and the world at large, which are based on money laundering, financing of terrorist organizations, and the regulations that countries have to abide by which have huge consequences that no one had forseen.
Gibson said the EML and CFT regulations and requirements have caused banks worldwide to take severe precautions because of the heavy fines they are faced with if the requirements are not met. The Minister of Finance said the unintended consequences have caused certain banks from pulling out simply because they do not want to take the risk of being exposed to the astronomical fines. He said some countries, such as Belize has been left without correspondence banking services making it virtually impossible for that country to make cross border payments for their imports.
Gibson said that is death by virtue especially for countries that depend on imports, such as St. Maarten then then businesses would not be able to purchase goods, and other items to keep the economy running.
He said Bank of America pulled out of Belize and that country is only surviving now because all their payments have to go through the Central Bank which is quite unusual. He made clear that what happened with Belize is also threatening St. Maarten and the other Caribbean islands, while some banks already indicated to certain customers that they have to close their accounts. Gibson said if the situation that now exists in Belize comes to St. Maarten then the economy will suffer greatly since everything on St. Maarten is imported. He said this issue has the attention of the entire Caribbean as such the delegation went to Washington to plead their cases and for the USA to find a solution to the problems. The delegation he said comprised of the Ministers of Finance of Curacao, St. Maarten and the President of the Central Bank and his support staff who met with officials of the Department of Justice in USA, the treasury, the State Department, The CATO institute, and representatives of the White House where they plead their case on the unintended consequences that will grossly affect the Dutch Caribbean and may led them to the same situation as Belize.
Gibson said that the de-risking issue is very serious and even Mexico had to deal with the same issues but the USA managed to find a solution for Mexico by making some exceptions for that country.
St. Maarten Minister of Finance said that while in the USA their intention was to get the USA to find solutions for the Dutch Caribbean islands just like they did for Mexico. Gibson said St. Maarten is substantially compliant with all of the EML and CFT requirements. He said based on that they requested from the various US departments to find a solution for the Dutch Caribbean Islands like they did for Mexico and to avoid the country being placed in the same situation as Belize.
He said that so far they did not get a negative reaction but steps are being taken to see if a similar arrangement would apply for the Dutch Caribbean Islands.
He said the Caribbean Islands combined through the CCF, CDCC, and ECLAC has the same issue high on its agenda.