Saint Lucia
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This Year’s CDB AGM – A Boost for Local Banking Sector

THE Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, quietly launched its 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in a non-traditional manner befitting the hosting of the august regional body in the land of birth of its Founding President, Nobel Prize-winning economist Sir W. Arthur Lewis.

With a wider theme of ‘Marshalling Finance for Development’ and ‘Access to Adequate and Affordable Financing’, the event will also feature the 23rd William G. Demas Memorial Lecture on June 20, in honour of another top regional luminary in the economics field, with a Keynote speaker in Mr. Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCCC), who will spotlight “The progress made on loss and damage in climate negotiations.”

Also significant by their coincidences are the fact that the meeting is being hosted by Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Economic Development and The Youth Economy, the Hon. Philip J. Pierre, in his dual capacity as Chairman of the CDB’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Instead of the usual grand opening ceremony that has attended most CDB AGMs, this year’s AGM started on Tuesday (June 13) with a Youth for Innovation and Resilience (Youth FIRE) Programme aimed at “supporting inclusive and equitable development in the Region through youth empowerment and engagement.”

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The launch of the Youth Fire program at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College was another commendable and commemorative event that connects the AGM to the CDB’s Founding President’s land of birth.

The Youth FIRE Forum targeted young persons, aged 15-35 and included the inaugural meeting of the Bank’s Future Leaders Network (FLN), where 17 Network members and two advisers participated in two days of personal and professional development and capacity building, and showcased the work of young innovators and entrepreneurs across Saint Lucia at the Constitution Park, in Castries yesterday (Friday, June 16).

The youth engagement programme was rebranded ‘Youth for Innovation and Resilience (Youth FIRE)’ in 2022, with a greater focus on “inclusion of participation by, perspectives of, and support to capacity building to ensure meaningful participation of, youth with disabilities, youth from underserved communities, migrant youth and indigenous youth and reflect the Bank’s commitment to respond to recommendations from young people regarding branding, content, and methodology.”

CDB President Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon, an international economist who also attended the SALCC (when it was the ‘A Level College’), advised both gatherings of regional youth in Saint Lucia that not even the sky should be a limit for their innovative ideas.

The local banking community should welcome this opportunity to exchange with the region’s best banking and finance brains, for the benefit of the local banking and finance institution, one of which has already started expanding investments into neighbouring islands and others also facing similar challenges as the rest of the international finance and banking community in the post-COVID and Ukraine era.

Local banks are growing in asset strength and readjusting to meet their common global challenges in different ways, but they must be commended for daring to take tough decisions to expand while international banks fail in the face of the worsening global inflation and recession realities that result in phenomenal rises in interest rates that regional banks also have to contend with.

It is therefore opportune for the local banking community to welcome their regional and international counterparts here for the fortnight of related deliberations as they also continue to grow while facing and addressing immediate, medium and long-term challenges.

Bank of Saint Lucia continues to be the island’s most liquid bank and the also-indigenous 1st National Bank has purchased local assets of two foreign banks and opened a new branch in Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.

The island is also home to non-bank entities like FICS and has too an ever-expanding cooperative credit union sector that also has its base preceding 1938 when the island’s first local bank, St. Lucia Cooperative Bank, was launched.

With 85 years of local banking history and an even-older yet also very active credit union sector, Saint Lucia is well-placed to welcome the new regional and international financial and banking service entities knocking on the island’s door and it can only be expected that the current administration will continue to embrace investors new and old by continuing to make the required changes in the legal climate in the island’s parliament.

Better banking is better because, like with national insurance and other related healthy objectives, it’s also for the benefit of all. And as a government that professes to continue ‘Putting People First’ it is also to be expected that after the CDB meetings are over, the follow-up actions will also start with today’s youth, who are tomorrow’s people.

Meanwhile, we welcome the bankers and finance officials to Saint Lucia and wish them all the successes the region expects from them and the CDB in 2023 and beyond.