ISSUE 22 – Article 3

March 11, 2020

Financial Markets Development: Central Bank Meets Blockchain 2019 Conference

The Manager, Financial Markets Development attended the 3rd annual ‘Central Bank Meets Blockchain’ Conference, on the 10th September 2019, which was hosted by Bitt Inc. at the Barbados Hilton. The Conference aimed to educate   the public, regional governments and central banks on the transformational impact and benefits of employing Blockchain Technology to enhance the financial system.

This year’s conference focused on the Caribbean Settlement Network (CSN), a proposed regional public good, which intends to resolve the decades-long challenge of cross-border trade and remittance settlement among Caribbean nations. Mr. Rawdon Adams, CEO, Bitt Inc. and one of the featured speakers, highlighted the difficulties that Caribbean residents face to conduct financial transactions, since we operate in economies that are largely cash-based with fragmented electronic payment systems that are not interoperable. We are also faced with trading with countries that do not readily accept the currencies of their trading partners, thus preferring to trade in USD.

Mr. Adams also provided an overview of the developments achieved by Bitt Inc. since the 2018 Conference, which included the launch of mMoney; the signing of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL) and IBIS Management Associates and the formation of other strategic partnerships.

The feature address at this years’ conference was delivered by Mr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, who highlighted some profound changes that are occurring in the world, such as: rising geopolitical tensions, mass migration, the spread of nationalism in various countries and the rising prominence of China in Africa and the Caribbean. It was noted that along with these changes the world is also dealing with the rise of FinTech, and the exploration of digital currencies in Montserrat, the Eastern Caribbean, Haiti, Curaçao, Saint Maarten, the Bahamas, and others who are actively pursuing various FinTech and digital currency projects. Focusing on settlement of intra-regional trade, Mr. Ram lamented the absence of a facility to settle regional trade “using regional currencies” with current arrangements requiring payments for trade be routed through extra regional correspondent banks before reaching the recipient country in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean Settlement Network is a solution to this challenge that can be developed as a real time integrated system providing financial and trade data to stakeholders such as: commercial banks, governments, central banks, tax authorities, statistical agencies.

The following benefits of the CSN were outlined:

  • Increased ease of movement of capital
  • Cheaper and faster settlement of intra-regional trade
  • Improved financial inclusion of unbanked and underbanked citizens
  • Improved regional integration and policy coordination
  • Reduced demand for foreign exchange and reduced time needed to access foreign exchange

Optimism for CSN and its benefits was a common theme for this years’ conference with speakers expressing hope that regional governments, central banks and other stakeholders will lend their support to ensure the successful establishment of the CSN.

Image 3 – ­Financial Markets Development: Central Bank Meets Blockchain 2019 Conference