Antigua Observer:- If there is a lesson to be learnt from Brexit, it’s to pay special attention to the people. That is the advice that the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCB) Governor Timothy N J Antoine is giving to Caribbean leaders.
Speaking on this week’s ECCB Connects programme, Antoine said, “Take special care not to leave people behind. I think that’s the area where sometimes we lapse”, adding “We mean well, but we’re pushing ahead and we’re not staying connected to the people, we’re not listening to what they have to say.”
In a surprising turnout, 52 per cent of Britons voted to leave the EU, while 48 per cent voted to stay. More than 30 million people voted in the referendum – the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general elections, according to the BBC.
The newly appointed ECCB governor, who described Britain’s exit from the EU as “a major political shock and a seismic shift” called on Caribbean leaders to “hasten the benefits of regional integration,” but not without the people.
“We, as a region, must ensure that people are fully engaged, that they understand the direction and that we take cognizance and counsel from the wisdom of our people” Governor Antoine said.
With the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, the governor hopes that there will be a renewed focus by the UK inside the Commonwealth, and that the Commonwealth will improve as an organisation.
Antoine believes this is a great moment for the Caribbean to focus on how far we’ve come, how much further we must go, and do so a lot faster as a region.
With the uncertainty that looms around Brexit, the ECCB, Antoine said, has been assessing likely impacts and trying to mitigate and manage risks associated with the fallout.
What we do know, he said, is the implications that could arise from a failing UK, like its adverse effects on the economic prospects of our region.
He noted that trade, foreign investment, tourism, remittances and even pension could all be impacted by the unstable value of the pound sterling.
Currently, one-pound sterling is EC $3.60
According to Antoine, data shows that about 25 per cent of regional tourists come from the UK, stay longer and spend at least seven times more than other visitors.
Remittances alone account for about 4 per cent of the region’s GDP, and with a possible downturn in the UK that could obviously mean a reduction in transmittals.
“Even if remittances remain the same, the fact that the pound has depreciated would mean that the dollar does not go as far,” the ECCB governor pointed out.
The governor insisted, however, that there are possible opportunities that could arise from Brexit, especially now that the ECCB is focused on scenario planning to craft appropriate responses from any bilateral arrangements that could witness unfavourable change.
According to Antoine, “We clearly will have to review the EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement), and it will also mean us negotiating new bilateral arrangements with the UK.”
He said a lot of the advice is already available and it is only for the region to move faster in its implementation.
“A lot of the advice that we have been giving, on the issue of financial stability, fiscal sustainability, growth competitiveness and employment – we need to move faster on those, because I believe those will position us better as a region to withstand this shock or any other shock,” he declared.
The ECCB governor believes that once Caribbean countries strengthen their resilience framework – climatic, political and economic -they stand a good chance at making the best of Brexit.
“The most important thing is to have a mindset that you’re looking for opportunities. We actually may find benefits if we’re diligent,” he assured.