Guyana opens Credit Info Bureau

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GUYANA’S first Credit Info Bureau (CIB) was launched Friday evening at the Georgetown Club. It was described as a significant and important milestone in development of the financial sector in Guyana.

Delivering the feature address at the launch of the Iceland-based credit facility, acting President and Prime Minister, Mr. Samuel Hinds, said: “The Credit Bureau is just one of the many initiatives supported by the Government of Guyana which plays a vital role in economic development.

“Our banking sector is stable and profitable, and we are engaged in efforts to modernise the other sub-sectors in the financial market, such as insurance and pension plans.”

Greater access to financing is a key component of the Government’s aim to enhance financial inclusion, and it can be pivotal to reducing poverty in Guyana, Prime Minister Hinds said.

“There is strong evidence to suggest that the extension of appropriate financial services to the underserved and disadvantaged can help improve household welfare and spur small business activity, thus aiding in alleviating poverty and hunger,” he declared.

The Prime Minister said that no citizen should be excluded from economic opportunity, and financial inclusion is an effective instrument to bridge that gap.

Delivering his address, Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Anil Nandlall, iterated that Government is committed to realising development of the financial sector.

He pointed out that one such area that is being improved is the Deeds Registry, where records are being digitised for enhanced accessibility.

He also urged stakeholders to push for ratification of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill, which has been stalled by the action of Parliamentary opposition parties, underscoring the importance of the legislation, and the pitfalls of not having it in place.

Government would be meeting with international regulatory bodies in The Bahamas to present its report on what measures have been implemented, but stakeholders can play a major role in convincing the Opposition to support the critical Bill, lest Guyana be blacklisted on the financial markets — a move which Minister Nandlall said would pose immense problems for the local business and financial sectors.

Explaining the role of credit bureaus, Canadian High Commissioner Dr. Nicole Giles noted that they are critical to the expansion of credit in any economy, as they overcome some of the information asymmetries that prevent lenders from assessing risk profiles. “A credit bureau collects details on a borrower’s obligations from various sources, to produce a comprehensive credit report which can be used by potential creditors,” she disclosed.

These reports, she noted, could then be used by financial institutions to support their lending and risk management functions, thus resulting in faster processing, more responsible lending, and easier access to financing.

Dr. Nicole Giles described the launch as a “momentous occasion” for Guyana, and said that her country, which also played a key role in helping to craft regulations and shared guidance for culmination of the bureau’s operations, was very committed to assisting Guyana and other countries in strengthening their financial sectors by ensuring accountability and best practices.

Establishment of the Credit Info Bureau heralds a new chapter in the credit appraisal process, Ambassador Giles noted, “one that is responsive to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector.”

“SMEs consistently cite access to credit as one of the greatest operational barriers to flourishing businesses. SMEs are a significant contributor to the global economy, often employing more than 60% of the workforce; yet this sector is considered high risk and (is) largely underserved by the financial community,” the ambassador noted.

Access to credit is an important priority for Canada’s development cooperation in the Caribbean, as Ambassador Dr Giles said it is a key building block to establishing more receptive frameworks for entrepreneurship and private sector investments; which in turn are crucial for sustainable economic growth.

Chairman of Credit Info Bureau (CIB) Guyana, Mr. Reynar Gretarson, said he was pleased that his company, which is working in over 60 countries, was able to become operational in Guyana.

He said the process leading up to the company being granted a licence involved being vetted by World Bank and Bank of Guyana officials. He added that it was a long-term investment and it would yield the desired results in about 10 years. “It will stimulate economic growth and improve the lives of Guyanese,” he said.

He said that Government should continue to seek ways to reduce impediments to foreign investors who are keen to invest locally, as this would contribute to development of Guyana.

Deputy Governor Dr. Gobind Ganga underscored the role of the Bank of Guyana in realizing the coming on stream of the Credit Info Bureau. He noted that the process began in August 2011 and ended on July 15, 2013, the date on which the company was granted its operating licence.

The process was tedious, he said, with the task of ensuring that regulations and compliances were adhered to.

International Finance Corp Representative Ms. Shalini Sankaranarayanan spoke of the process to ensure that the entity was compliant with European Union and local regulations.

Guyana, she said, is the sixteenth country to benefit from establishment of the Credit Info Bureau, and follows the path taken by Jamaica.

The occasion was also used to recognise several entities which have already signed on to support the country’s first Credit Bureau. These include Citizens Bank, the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry, Republic Bank, Scotia Bank, Guyana Water Inc, IPED, and Hand in Hand Trust Company.