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Commonwealth finance ministers address Brexit, climate and banking

3 October 2016

Finance ministers, central bank governors and the Secretary-General will be in the American capital this week to respond to the biggest financial challenges facing Commonwealth countries.

Among the topics being considered are the effect of Brexit on member states, how they can manage climatic shocks and the impact of banks pulling out of some of the most vulnerable nations in the Commonwealth. The meetings will be held at the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC.

“This year’s meeting comes at a time when the Commonwealth faces some serious challenges,” said the conference secretary, Dr Reginald Darius. “The UK has pulled out of the European Union, Hurricane Matthew over the weekend is another example of the effects of climate events. Countries and institutions are having to use innovative and direct measures to transfer funds across borders including via boats and helicopters owing to the closing of banking relations by major international banks. Our job is to not only acknowledge these challenges but see how we, as a Commonwealth family, can help one another to manage and overcome them.”

Central Bank governors will focus on how Brexit will affect monetary policy among Commonwealth states. They will also discuss the impact of so-called derisking, where banks are having to comply with a series of global anti-fraud and corruption measures.

“We know that Brexit and derisking are complex issues,” said Dr Darius “but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to arrive at a point where we can help and support our member states. In fact it’s more important than ever that we try to find solutions and see whether there aren’t positives to take away with us. Can we increase trade among ourselves? What opportunities exist for furthering trade with the UK and EU countries? Don’t forget we still have two member nations who’ll still be part of the European Union after the implementation of Brexit. This week is a fantastic opportunity to discuss these modern dilemmas.”

India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, will chair the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Meeting (CFMM) and will be joined by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland.

Dr Darius said, “Lord Stern, who wrote the definitive report on climate change for the UK government exactly ten years ago, will provide ministers with his thoughts on a central issue of our times. How can small and vulnerable Commonwealth countries cope with significant climate events and how can the resources to mitigate such effects be more forthcoming? And which areas of climate change would member states value greater Commonwealth action?”

But it is not just about the challenges facing the Commonwealth. Ministers and governors will hear there are opportunities as well. For example, diaspora communities make up 26 million people spread across the Commonwealth. Together they send back $140 US billion per year to their countries of origin. Experts suggest that figure could be boosted by a further $180 US billion per year in savings and investments. Delegates to the conferences will also discuss how governments can make best use of this under-used asset.