Two matters were set on the table for discussion when Hon. Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit met with the private sector on Wednesday April 29th.
Hon. Skerrit noted that it is customary for Government to seek the views of nationals on matters of national development.
First up for discussion was the 2015 National Budget.
“The presentation will be very much in the same context as in recent years. The global challenges continue and the impact continues to be felt in countries around the world and more so small states like Dominica,” the Prime Minister explained.
“We estimate that in 2014, Dominica’s GDP grew by 1.1% led by non-banana agriculture and tourism. It is expected that growth in 2015 will be 2.4% led by construction, tourism and agriculture,” he said.
“Since the 2014 General Elections, Government has made it clear that for the economy to grow faster, there must be greater diligence in the implementation of public sector projects and productivity must increase in both the public and private sectors.”
Hon. Skerrit reiterated Government’s efforts to create an enabling environment in which the private sector can invest.
“In the 2014 Budget, a number of measures were announced; all of which have been implemented. This includes, among others, a reduction in personal and corporate income tax, increase in exemptions in mortgage interest and special tax deduction for firms which created new jobs. Since then, we have made approaches to our partners for low-cost financing and very soon the AID Bank should be in a position to offer- yet again-new loans at concessional interest rates.
“We have continued to pursue foreign investment and Government has received at least five submissions for financing under the Citizenship by Investment Programme. From the preliminary assessments of these proposals, at least three of them seem promising.
He said to private sector representatives on Wednesday, “I expect that in the discussion, you will inform us of the interventions that you have made towards Dominica’s economic and social development.”
The second matter concerns a new banking act which Government will soon propose to Parliament.
This new Act will replace the Banking Act of 2005.
“Given the wide publicity given the collapse of CLICO and the resultant demise of British American Insurance as well as the intervention of one bank in Antigua and two banks in Anguilla, the new banking act presents some major changes to the current act.”
He highlighted that, “The Central Bank will be the licensing agent for issuance of banking licenses instead of the current arrangement where the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Central Bank issues the license. As such the application is to be made to the Central Bank.
A provision to set conditions for receiving a license has also been introduced and the allowable activities of a licensed financial institution are now stated by the Central Bank.
A register of licensed financial institutions has also been introduced.
Several other new provisions and amendments will be launched.
These changes will give the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank the authority to make decisions on matters of the regulation of financial institutions across the Economic Union.
Prime Minister Skerrit continued, “In the 2015 legislation as compared to the 2005 legislation, the Ministers of Finance divested his/her authority to the Central Bank because we wanted to ensure that the regulation, supervision and licensing of the banks are in one central location…”
PM Skerrit says it is necessary to introduce corrective and proactive legislation.
“All these measures are being taken to preserve the banking sector and protect the deposits of depositors. People engaged at the board or management levels of a bank will therefore be held more accountable for the performance of these institutions.”