Wednesday, 29 June 2016

National Bank of Tuvalu

The National Bank of Tuvalu (NBT) is the sole provider of banking services in Tuvalu related to taking deposits, making loans and engaging in foreign exchange transactions.

There is no central monetary institution or central bank in Tuvalu. The NBT performs some monetary functions for the government of Tuvalu including the holding of government accounts and foreign assets..

The NBT is the only institution in Tuvalu that provides foreign exchange transactions. The NBT buys and sells foreign exchange at rates determined by the board of the NBT who take account of the rates quoted in the international markets.

The NBT cashes travellers cheques. There are no credit-card facilities or ATMs available in Tuvalu. The Tuvaluan dollar is not an independent currency, but a variation of the Australian dollar. Tuvalu began issuing its own coins for circulation, although these circulate alongside Australian coins and Tuvalu continues to use Australian banknotes.

The NBT was established as a corporate body under the National Bank of Tuvalu 1980. When the NBT was first established it was a subsidiary of Barclays Bank. In 1985 it changed to become a joint venture between the government of Tuvalu, which held 60% of the shares and Westpac, which held the remaining 40%. In 1995 the government of Tuvalu acquired 100% of the shares.The headquarters of the NBT are at Vaiaku in Funafuti, and agencies are operated on all eight outer islands.

The National Bank of Tuvalu 1980 states that “the Bank shall act in accordance with any policy directions in the national interest given to it from time to time in writing by the Minister of Finance”. NBT has a board of directors consisting of the secretary for finance and four others (excluding members of Parliament) appointed by the minister for periods determined by the minister. The board is required “to ensure that Bank policy is directed towards the national interest and has due regard to the stability and balanced development of the economy of Tuvalu.”

The board appoints a general manager for a term of up to 5 years. The general manager must attend board meetings but has no voting rights.

In 2001 the NBT employed two managers (finance and administration, and lending and operations) and 38 officers, clerks, and tellers.In 2009 staff levels of the NBT were 45 employees.

The TNB’s deposit rates are low by regional standards, and lending rates are the same or above the rates charged in more competitive banking systems.

Between 1990 and 2000 the NBT operated profitably, returning an average 58.3% on net assets before tax and contributing an annual average of $507,000 in company tax and dividends to the government. Earnings on foreign exchange transactions are a major source of income. In 2001 loans and advances were around 28% of total deposits, reflecting the limited opportunities for domestic lending and conservative reserves management. The level of operations in the first quarter of 2001 resulted in A$1.2 million in new lending: 58% of personal loans were for family commitments, including funeral, wedding, and birthday expenses; 29% for travelling; and 11% for education; with the remaining 2% being advances to seamen.

The NBT has maintained its profitable as of 2008. A review by the Asian Development Bank, related to an ADB facility for the government of Tuvalu recommended that the NBT implementation prudent fiscal discipline to improve liquidity. The changes including the repayment by the government of Tuvalu of an overdraft of around A$5 million in respect of which the bank has a foregone interest of approximately A$500,000 per year. The IMF 2014 Country Report noted the NBT had restricted its exposure to public enterprises and made substantial provisions in relation to debtors.

Loans are available from the Tuvalu National Provident Fund (TNPF), which is owned by its members and has the legal form as a mutual fund rather than a body corporate owned by shareholders.The TNPF invests social contributions from slightly more than half the country’s population, with payments from the TNPF made on retirement.

The Development Bank of Tuvalu (DBT), which began in 1993, is also owned by the government of Tuvalu. The DBT provides development loans. The IMF 2014 Country Report also noted the DBT had made substantial provisions in relation to debtors.

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