Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, says he will hold discussions in the near future with the Central Bank, the Commercial Banks, and the Business Community to discuss the causes and effects of increased demand for foreign exchange. This after the country’s largest bank, Republic Bank Limited (RBL), announced this weekend it, was cutting in half the maximum US dollar spending limit per billing cycle on their Republic Bank credit cards. The announcement caused the bank’s customers to take to social media to voice their discontent with the unexpected move. Republic Bank Ltd (RBL) has posted the company’s assets totalling $114.4 billion as at June 30, 2023.
Minister Imbert says the meeting will also focus on strategies to deal with the current challenges: “and the most appropriate policy for the allocation, management, and distribution of foreign currency, as well as strategies to increase the repatriation of forex earned overseas by local businesses and foreign business operating in T&T.”
Imbert says the issue is not the availability of foreign exchange this year compared to previous years, but that it is also in demand. He pointed to statistics that show in 2023, the sales of foreign exchange to the public for the first eight months of the year is 26.8% higher than the same period in 2021 and 4.3% higher than the same period in 2019.
Imbert said there are several reasons for the increased demand including, an “explosion” in online shopping over the last several years, which is driving up the consumption of US dollar-denominated credit cards, as consumers take advantage of the availability of cheaper goods overseas. He also identified growth in the economy, which he says is driving this increased demand as businesses seek to expand their operations, and import equipment, raw materials, and finished products.