T&T Central Bank says public has right to know about foreign exchange

(Trinidad Express) The Central Bank has responded to the scathing criticism over Governor Jwala’s Rambarran’s decision to publicly disclose the names of big business and the amount of foreign exchange they consume. The Bank said it was well within its rights to make the information public. The following is a statement issued by the Bank overnight.

Following the biannual Monetary Policy Forum on the 4th December 2015, the Governor of the Central Bank has been subject to widespread criticism for the dissemination of certain information to the public at large as it pertains to the usage of foreign exchange by the business community. Such dissemination has been inaccurately deemed a “breach of confidentiality” by certain groups within the private and financial sector.

 Jwala Rambarran
Jwala Rambarran

Highly prejudicial and misconceived statements have also been made that the Governor has acted contrary to and in breach of his statutory mandate. In fact, in arriving at the decision to release this information and acting in accordance with its statutory mandate, the Central Bank weighed a variety of competing interests. This balancing exercise involved the weighing of the public’s right to be duly informed of the use of a limited national financial resource against private sector interests, desirous of privacy in such matters.

For the sake of clarity, the Central Bank places on record that its decision to disclose the said information to the public was necessary for the due performance of its objects and determined that such disclosure was in the best interest of the financial system of Trinidad and Tobago as well as the depositors, other customers, creditors and shareholders of the appropriate financial institutions.

It is in this regard that the Central Bank seeks to sternly address and correct such criticism and further reject the baseless allegations arising therefrom. These allegations erroneously suggest that the recent release by the Central Bank of data which detail and demystify the principal consumers of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, have had the consequent effect of breaching duties of confidentiality. Those who have articulated this view have curiously failed and/or neglected to properly reference, consider and evaluate the Central Bank’s full statutory mandate which guides and governs its independent functions.

The Central Bank hastens to record and remind of the relevant and applicable statutory provisions which empower it in the due performance of its objects to make such information available to the public as it considers appropriate:

 

The Central Bank Act Chap. 79:02

“56. (1) Except in so far as may be necessary for the due performance of its objects, and subject to section 8 of the Financial Institutions Act, every director, officer and employee of the Bank shall preserve and aid in preserving secrecy with regard to all matters relating to the affairs of the Bank, any financial institution or person registered under the Insurance Act or of any customers thereof that may come to his knowledge in the course of his duties.”

The Financial Institutions Act Chap. 79:09

Confidentiality. Sect 8(6): “Where the Central Bank determines that the disclosure of further information concerning a licensee in addition to that referred to in subsection (5) would be in the best interests of— (a) the financial system of Trinidad and Tobago; or (b) the depositors, other customers, creditors or shareholders of such licensee, the Central Bank or any person acting under the direction of the Central Bank may disclose such information by publication in the Gazette and in at least two daily newspapers published and circulated in Trinidad and Tobago or by any other means that the Central Bank considers appropriate.”

The Central Bank is of the considered view that the use of the country’s precious foreign exchange reserves, which come from finite and non-renewable oil and gas resources, is an issue of public concern and justifies the dissemination of the identity of the main recipients to whom such reserves are distributed. The actions of the Central Bank are well in keeping with its position to maintain transparency and accountability to the citizenry of this country within its statutory obligations.

The Central Bank notes the disclosure did not take place in isolation or in prevailing circumstances of societal disinterest toward this issue. Instead, it served as a clear response to the sustained and intense public outcry for information on the major recipients of foreign exchange and which accordingly called for a justified, reasoned and proportionate response.

The Central Bank fully considers and appreciates the views and opinions of all sectors of society, inclusive of special interest lobby groups, however, it cannot abdicate its legislative duties and responsibilities to the public at large in favour of institutions seeking to champion their own interests above the national interest.

Noted also are the concerns of certain quarters that the said disclosure has set a dangerous precedent. The Central Bank wishes to specifically denounce this assertion and maintains that the lawful and necessary disclosure of such crucial information to the wider public should never be classified as such.

The Central Bank remains an independent national institution integral to the financial architecture of Trinidad and Tobago and stands as the guardian of the country’s economic and financial stability. It is in this light that the Central Bank has effected the strategic decisions which it has thus far and will continue to do so in the public interest and in the furtherance of its legislative mandate.

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