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The Caribbean Non-Bank Financial Systems

After a history of recurrent instability and crises, the financial systems of the Caribbean region are at a crucial juncture. They are well poised for rapid expansion. The size of the banking systems has increased. In a report, “Caribbean Small States: Challenges of High Debt and Low Growth”, published this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that the financial sector in the Caribbean is large relative to economic size and is dominated by banks. Total assets of the financial systems in the region averaged 320 percent of GDP, with 149 percent of GDP held by banks.

Local currency bond markets have greatly developed both in volumes and in reach over the yield curve; stock markets have expanded; and derivative markets – particularly currency derivatives, have grown and multiplied. Institutional investors have become more important relative to banks, making the financial system more complex and diversified. More important, much progress has been made in financial inclusion, particularly through the expansion of

payments, savings, and credit services to lower income households and micro enterprises. As evidence of their new soundness and resiliency, financial systems in the region, except in some Caribbean countries, weathered the recent global financial crisis remarkably well.

Remittance flows continue to represent an important source of foreign inflows in many of the countries of the Caribbean, and constitute a significant percent of the gross domestic product in several countries. These flows also represent an important source of income for many families in the region that receive the transfers to cover basic needs and invest in education, health, housing, and small businesses.

A World Bank study “Migration and Remittances During the Global Financial Crisis and Beyond”, attributes the resilience of remittance flows to, inter alia, the persistence of migrant stocks in receiving

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