By Robert A. Emmanuel
Could Queen Elizabeth II be the last British monarch to feature on the currency of the Eastern Caribbean?
Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Governor Timothy NJ Antoine alluded to that possibility, saying his evaluation was that there is “no appetite” in the region for its continuation.
Speaking at a media briefing as the ECCB sought to highlight its 40th anniversary calendar of events, Governor Antoine said that the decision would be left up to the Monetary Council, which is made up of the member states’ Finance Ministers.
“With the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, it is a fair question: what comes next? That is a decision that our Monetary Council, most of whom are Prime Ministers, will make in due course,” he said.
King Charles III automatically became the British monarch following the passing of his mother in September.
The death of Queen Elizabeth last year has reopened the debate on the type of relationship that former British colonies in the Commonwealth, including many of the Eastern Caribbean states, will have with the United Kingdom.
The Reserve Bank of Australia—its central bank—has already announced its intention to not include King Charles’ portrait on its $5 banknote (although Royal Australian Mint noted that King Charles will replace his mother on the country’s coins).
Governor Antoine said, regardless of the decision made by the Monetary Council, it would be years before any change is made about a new banknote design.
“I have said before that there is no imminent change to our existing currency; we have in stock three to four years of mint condition [bank]notes. We are not going to burn them up or throw them away, we invested heavily in them,” he explained.
The ECCB Governor continued that, in his discussions around the region, there was more interest in replacing the monarch with another Caribbean icon.
“What I heard was people enquiring when we will have more of our own…at the moment we have Sir Arthur Lewis, a Nobel Laureate, and Sir K Dwight Venner, the longest serving [ECCB Governor],” he said.
However, Governor Antoine noted that any decision on a new face on the banknotes would require a consensus by eight separate member countries—a challenge within the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union.
“The challenge with eight member countries is how are you going to make those decisions…if it was one country, it could be easily determined. That is not so easy with eight member countries and so one of the things we also heard is that we should feature more prominence of existing landmarks,” he explained.
The status of the British monarchy remains a fiercely debated topic in the region, as the spectre of British slavery of Africans in many Caribbean countries looms large.
Visits by British royals to countries in the region have been met with protests, calls for reparations for the damage caused by slavery and the end of the monarchy as the head of state, with an eye on becoming a republic.
In September 2022, Prime Minister Gaston Browne hinted that a referendum could be called to decide whether Antigua and Barbuda would move to become a republic, shortly after Charles III was announced King.
The Prime Minister’s comments also followed Barbados’ transition to a republic last year, officially removing the monarch as its head of state with Sandra Mason, Barbados’ last Governor General, becoming its first president under the new political system.