Declaration Speech for Financial Information Month Delivered by  Hon Shawn K. Richards Acting Prime Minister/ Deputy Prime Minister 1 October, 2018

Fellow Citizens, …

It is my pleasure to invite you to become involved and participate in Financial Information Month (FIM) 2018.   A wide range of activities have been planned for this 18th year of celebration.  These activities would be taking place in St. Kitts and Nevis, and throughout the other countries of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, ECCU Governments, other Public and Private Sector partners and Civil Society organisations continue to serve as champions for the celebration of Financial Information Month across the Union. This year, they have again partnered in putting together a number of activities aimed to further strengthen the financial underpinnings of our region. The main goal of celebrating this month of activities is to successfully attain “a financially developed and vibrant ECCU region that fosters strong and sustainable economic growth and the improved well-being of the citizenry”. We believe that our people would benefit tremendously from the planned activities as we seek to promote people empowerment and foster strong and sustainable economic growth.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Financial Empowerment Through Education” with an emphasis on Conducting and Protecting Your Business in a Digital Environment.  The theme seeks to highlight the importance of becoming more proactive in acquiring the necessary tools, knowledge and training so that our citizens could be well equipped to rise to the challenges of the emerging trends in this fast-paced digital environment.

As a Government, we are committed to sharing information with our people.  The Government uses this opportunity to encourage all citizens and residents to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to assist you in developing a keen understanding of money, business and the economy in the context of a modern digital global financial architecture.  As a people, we must not only understand the basics of how to make money but also how to make money sustainably over the long term.   We must understand how to manage and grow our money, at the individual and business levels.   Individuals usually invest a great deal of time learning how to make money, but during that process, another important factor that is often overlooked, is the management and sustainability of their money-making activity.  This would be a good opportunity for our young people to become engaged and exposed to relevant information that could help them to develop a basic understanding of money management and build a solid foundation in financial management from an early age.  The Government therefore urges you to take maximum advantage of all the activities that have been organized.  This has been done with you in mind, so that you, your children, and your children’s children can enjoy the growth-enhancing opportunities that increased knowledge can bring.

During Financial Information Month, there would be much emphasis on conducting and protecting your business in a digital environment.  The activities planned will focus on the sub-themes that are centered around the transformation of services in the new digital environment. The sub-themes include Cyber Security, Cryptocurrency, Bitcoins, Digital Wallets, Electronic Funds Transfer, Online Banking, Government E-services and Investing on the Eastern Caribbean Stock Exchange.  These are all very important subjects that the general public must engage in discussion to help shape the policies that would be developed and adopted by the Government as the digital transformation of our society and economy takes root.

The Radio Programmes, Quizzes and events at the public library would provide an opportunity for interaction with the general public.  A special feature this year would involve FIM partners appearing as guests on established children’s radio programmes where they would share information and engage the children in discussion on digital services.  During these radio programmes, FIM partners would also have the opportunity to share information on the various products and services that they provide to the general public.  Increasingly, the financial institutions operating here in the Federation are offering more services online. All of these services are beneficial to customers.  For example, consumers can choose to skip the long lines at the banks and conduct business online 24 hours per day, seven days per week.  In many cases, online services help to reduce the cost of doing business and avoid some of the fees and charges that apply when conducting business physically at the branch.    The Government is also increasing the opportunity for residents to conduct business online.  Already, tax payers can pay all of the major taxes online without a visit to the Inland Revenue Department. Similarly, importers can submit the necessary Customs documents online and reduce the time taken to clear imported goods at the air and sea ports.

FIM would feature a special media event every Wednesday during the month of October.  This would be in the format of video interviews with experts whowill explore aspects of the sub-themes mentioned earlier.  This initiative would present another opportunity for residents of St. Kitts and Nevis to participate, express their views, make suggestions as well ask questions about the specific subject presented for each session.  Certainly, many of you would not want to miss the information that would be provided regarding the online services offered by financial institutions.  The ease and convenience of online shopping has become very popular and by all indications would continue to grow over the next several years. It is important therefore for all users and prospective users of these services to develop an understanding of the processes, the protocols to be observed and the risks involved in this type of activity.

Today, we are living in an age of digital transformation and the importance of cyber security is becoming more evident each day. The issue of cyber security would be a major focus of the video interviews.  The experts will provide valuable information on how to protect oneself from identity theft, online fraud, and hacking and account takeovers.  They would also impart guidelines for the use of ATM machines, credit cards and other online payment platforms.  Many of us are utilizing these services and are not aware or understand how to protect ourselves from the dangers that could result from everyday use of these services.  The opportunity would be provided for you to receive valuable information.

The other activities of the Month include:

  1. i)Community Outreach events with a focus on showing charity towards vulnerable individuals and families across the Federation;
  2. ii)A Financial Fair which would be held on October 26th at Independence Square featuring activities to engage persons of all ages.  FIM partners would also use the opportunity again to showcase their goods and services to the public and would be available to engage in discussions with persons attending the Fair.

iii)              A Business Symposium is also scheduled for October 31st.  Participants in this event would discuss interesting and topical issues related to Innovations in the payment system, including cryptocurrency, bitcoins, mobile wallets, and digital currency.  The Symposium would be tailored mainly to attract large and small entrepreneurs, business executives, managers, and supervisors from across the business community in St. Kitts and Nevis.

  1. iv)Presentations on financial issues at schools, business houses, community groups, and churches will also take place.

Another area of focus during the week of activities would be restructuring and transforming your business to take advantage of the opportunities that are emerging from innovations in the digital environment.  In order to take advantage of digital innovations, businesses may be required to rethink and reshape their approaches to business development. This is an opportunity for you to acquire information that could stimulate innovation in business.  It is my hope that our people would not only continue to be users of the digital services but rather their creativity would be ignited and lead to the development of new products and services that can contribute to the digital advancement of the Federation.

Let us make this 2018 Financial Information Month a national undertaking.  The Government, financial institutions and other organizations such as the media, academic institutions, community groups and private sector institutions will be involved.  Financial Information Month is designed for you, to serve you the public, and we encourage everyone, the young and the old, from all walks of life to participate in this important and informative month of activities.

On behalf of the Government, I commend the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the public and private sector entities for their continued contribution to financial literacy and for keeping the torch burning over the past 18 years.  The 2018 FIM activities would no doubt provide a wealth of information and knowledge on finance, economics, and the digital environment. I encourage your full participation in this month’s activities as we endeavor to contribute fully to the continued growth and development of St Kitts and Nevis, our beloved Federation.

With this undertaking, it gives me great pleasure to declare the official start of the 2018 Financial Information Month.

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