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(iWitness News) There is still no resolution to the currency exchange issue that has seen Vincentian traders having grave difficulty in buying Eastern Caribbean dollars after selling agricultural goods in Barbados and Trinidad.

“It is a very important issue which goes to the heart of the trading regime under the Caribbean Single Market,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told the last meeting of Parliament.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said his government has raised the matter on several occasions and he has written to the government of Trinidad and Tobago more than once about it.

He said he also raised it at February’s meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and had also raised it at the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.

The prime minister said the issue is that Vincentian itinerant traders — referred to locally as “traffickers” — sell their goods in Trinidad and Barbados and are paid in Trinidad and Tobago dollars or Barbados dollars.

But when they are leaving those countries, they are supposed to get the Eastern Caribbean dollar equivalent of what they sold and have to make the various applications in the central bank in Bridgetown or Port of Spain.

“And over the last two or so years, these central banks have come up with the mantra that they have a shortage of foreign exchange and they have to wait.

“The problem with this is that apart from the traffickers themselves, these are persons who would have purchased commodities in whole or in part from farmers on credit and they expect when they come back to pay the farmers,” Gonsalves told lawmakers.

He said if the traders can’t get their foreign exchange, they can’t pay farmers.

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