East Caribbean Central Bank: Improving Payment Systems

Robust payment systems are a key requirement in maintaining and promoting financial stability. Over the past few years, a broad international consensus has developed on the need to strengthen payment systems by promoting internationally accepted standards and practices for their design and operations. In emerging markets, core principles for systemically important payment systems (CPSIPS) are likely to be of particular relevance, because of the efforts made by these countries to improve systems or to build new ones in order to handle better the growing payment flows from national and international financial markets.

Before an FSAP, due to start later in 2003, the East Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) needed assistance with the assessment of its payment, clearing and settlement systems. The primary system to be assessed was the payment system for large transactions, where a real time gross settlements (RTGS) system was proposed. In addition, the retail payment system, mainly for smaller transactions, and the securities settlement systems for government securities and equities needed to be assessed. There was also a need to clearly define ECCB’s role in payment system oversight and to improve its internal governance structure in line with the best practice.

The IMF, on behalf of ECCB, approached FIRST for TA in April 2003 to enable all of the above.

The purpose of the project was to support the implementation of the legal, regulatory and governance reform of systemically important payment systems. Three project outputs were fully achieved, namely:

  • The CPSIPS assessment prepared
  • System operational and institutional arrangements objectives established
  • Real time gross settlement system implementation evaluated while two were largely achieved, namely: payment systems legal & regulatory framework improved, and retail payment system improved

The Uniform Payment Systems Act developed as part of this project, filled gaps where the previous legal framework was deficient or ambiguous.  The new Act:

  • Mandated that transactions were final and irrevocable;
  • Defined the finality of payments;
  • Provided that general banking rules and agreements be made pursuant to the principal Act were binding and subject to periodic revision by the ECCB;
  • Provided for the legal foundation of netting;
  • Addressed secured interest in pledged securities;
  • Provided the legal foundation for repurchase agreements and reverse repurchase agreements;
  • Addressed cheque truncation;
  • Ensured the legal validity of electronic records or signatures;
  • Ensured that users of the system were aware of their rights and responsibilities;
  • Addressed issues related to errors and fraud;
  • Empowered the ECCB to intervene, if necessary, to settle disputes; and,
  • Provided that abusers of the system were prosecuted.

Reports:

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