By Emmanuel Joseph
As he marks his first full month in office on Friday, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr Kevin Greenidge says part of his vision is for the bank to be more proactive in anticipating pending economic crises and to advise the government accordingly.
“We have to give the government our best advice on the monetary side and also in terms of anything that would impact that, he noted.
“So we have to now build our research capability. We have to build our systems to be able to be proactive in understanding the new challenges that would come. We have so many crises hitting us. This is the new norm. All indications are that the world will continue to face these increasing levels of crises as we move forward. What advice can we give to government as we continue to shore up our financial system, shore up our economy and strengthen it?” he declared.
In addition to outlining his vision for the institution, Dr Greenidge has defended the role he now holds against questions of transparency.
In an exclusive interview with Barbados TODAY, he confronted challenges to his appointment specifically from Democratic Labour Party (DLP) President Dr Ronnie Yearwood who said that as one of the key architects of the BERT (Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation) programme, Governor Greenidge would now be responsible for monitoring that same programme and advising the government on it.
But Dr Greenidge was adamant that integrity has always been a hallmark of his professional life.
“The Central Bank Act clearly defines the role of the bank and by extension the role of the governor. The primary role of the bank is the protection of the exchange rate and to maintain the stability of the financial system. That’s my role as defined by the Act. So that defines what I need to do, and that is very transparent. It’s like looking through glass,” the governor asserted.
“Secondly, I am a man of integrity. Every governor who has gone before me has aimed to come down the centre in terms of advice. I am not a one-man show. I have a team that was here before I arrived and they all advise me, and so my approach will always be independent, credible as best as I can advise,” he contended.
“But unless you give me a lash in the top of my head and delete everything I know about the Barbados economy, I must also bring everything to bear. In fact, that’s good because it means I am not operating in a vacuum. I understand intimately the ways of the economy. I understand intimately the BERT programme as one of the architects and I would also be able to help shape even better our understanding and projections of what is needed in informing the public to bring an even more unbiased, credible and transparent message at all times,” Dr Greenidge argued.
“I have absolutely no concern about that. When I first took up my position as advisor to the government in August 2018, I maintained one thing. I have always said, I am a straight shooter, I am independent. That hasn’t changed. Independent means I am a professional economist. I will give you my best professional advice at all times.”
In addition to his role as an advisor to Government, Dr Greenidge highlighted two other pillars on which his vision for the bank and his role are anchored. He pointed to the critical areas as internalising excellence within the bank and being proactive in dealing with the bank’s financial partners.
The new Governor said prioritising staff, their work-life balance and remuneration and establishing the bank as “the happiest institution” in Barbados would be high on his list.
“That means doing right by our staff in a number of areas and looking out personally for their development. It means work-life balance. It means revisiting remuneration packages for example, taking care of those who have already gone, retirees et cetera,” the governor added.
Dr Greenidge said it also means being efficient with the deployment of the bank’s IT systems and getting the Central Bank’s house in order.
“It also means our surroundings…the building, the environment, the people around us, our neighbours. That’s a vast space we need to take care of. That is one priority coming out of this vision to internalise excellence,” he pointed out.
Dr Greenidge said facilitating the institution’s mandate of ensuring the stability of the financial system, protecting the exchange rate and the dollar value were also critical considerations.
“That means we have to be proactive in dealing with our financial partners, our financial houses, our banks. We have to be proactive in terms of our regulatory work that we do. Anticipating before it happens, the various stresses that may come. Being able to put structures in place to [ensure] that our financial system is as resilient as it can be in the face of whatever pressures may come,” the former senior economic advisor to the Barbados Government declared.
“We have to do things like liquidity management. We have to think about the new dimension that we may be pushed towards, like digital payment systems. I am sure we have as an institution in terms of excellence, to work hand-in-hand with our commercial banks and their leaders to ensure that we have the healthiest but yet the most productive financial system that we can have in Barbados, in the region and be a model for the rest of the world,” the chief central banker suggested.
Dr Greenidge acknowledged that he was building on top of an already “very fine, strong financial system” which was evident from the global financial crisis of 2008 when local banks were “quite resilient.”