In his newspaper column recently, Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, came out strongly in support of Antigua’s position AGAINST ScotiaBank selling its interests in St John’s to our Republic Bank.
In fact, Sir Ron who is Guyanese by birth and instinct, seemed also to be supportive of Guyana’s somewhat negative response to the Scotia sale of its Georgetown assets.
The Antigua government in essence feels that its local banks should have been given an opportunity to bid for Scotia’s operations there, and the government should have been consulted. It also feels that by Republic’s purchase of the Canadian bank, there’ll be foreign ownership of much of the island nation’s financial equity. Antigua would prefer to keep profits at home for use in its own economic growth and social development.
All that sounds reasonable enough, except that as Caribbean people, those at Republic Bank may cringe at being regarded as “foreign” in the same context as ScotiaBank.
The Guyana position is that with the sale, Republic would control 53% of total assets in the banking sector and more than fifty percent of deposits. This would allow the bank to influence interest rates and lending policies
Our view is that both positions are the basis for good discussion and strong argument. Republic Bank should be able to handle its own ‘stories’ as the saying goes. In fact, the CEO of Republic has already said that the Bank is confident that when it has explained itself, all should be well.
We here aren’t about to fight anyone’s fight, but we’ll side with Scotia purely as a business operation, when it says Guyana and the smaller islands of the Caribbean collectively offer little in future for its changed business model. Surely it must be the right of any business operation to determine its future.
Sir Ron’s article started on the right footing for discussion, but went off track when he concluded that ScotiaBank owes the people of Antigua a moral obligation because for fifty years it made its profits from locals, and transferred those profits to Canada. For at least two years, Scotia has been signalling that it wanted to sell, yet none of the “locals” came forward.
The conclusion seems to be, give us the damn thing free and Sir Ron knows better!