What is the Currency of Saint Lucia?

By Joseph Kiprop on August 1 2017 in Economics

East Caribbean coins and banknotes.

What is the Currency of Saint Lucia?

The Island of Saint Lucia is a nation situated in the Caribbean Sea. The first European visitors were a few Frenchmen who visited the island nation in the 16th century. Shortly after, Britons visited the island and established settlements. Britons and Frenchmen fiercely contested for Saint Lucia due to the island’s fertile soil and readily available labor. The contest ended in 1814 after Britons signed an agreement with the French which gave Great Britain control over Saint Lucia. The first formal currency to circulate in Saint Lucia was the Saint Lucia Livre which was introduced by French authorities. Subsequently, the island adopted the Mexican and Spanish dollars which were the currencies in circulation in most Caribbean nations during the 17th and 18th centuries.

British Sterling Coinage

After Great Britain had gained control of Saint Lucia, the authorities introduced British Sterling coins as the official currency on the island in 1851. Despite the introduction of British Sterling coinage, Saint Lucia continued to trade using Mexican and Spanish dollars alongside the Sterling. The Mexican and Spanish dollar coins stopped circulating after the international crisis in the production of silver coins occurred in 1873. Similarly, in 1955, the British Sterling coins stopped circulating and were subsequently substituted by the British West Indies dollar.

The British West Indies dollar

The British West Indies dollar had been circulating in most Eastern Caribbean nations before it was introduced in Saint Lucia. The new currency was issued and regulated by the British Caribbean Currency Board (BCCB). The reason for the introduction of the currency by the British authorities was to have a uniform currency for all of its colonies in the West Indies and Eastern Caribbean. In 1964, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago left the attempt to use a single currency which lead to the collapse of the British West Indies dollar. One year later, Saint Lucia abandoned the British West Indies dollar for the newly created currency, the East Caribbean dollar.

East Caribbean dollar

The East Caribbean dollar is still used as the official currency in Saint Lucia. The currency is used in six other Eastern Caribbean states namely Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Dominican Republic. Production, issuance, and regulation of the currency are done by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. When the currency was introduced, it was in the form of bank notes in the values of 1, 5, 20, and 100 dollars. All of the notes bore the image of Queen Elizabeth II. The first East Caribbean dollar coins were not issued until 1981. The lowest coin value is 1 cent and the highest coin value is one dollar. In 2012, new banknotes with enhanced features such as braille characters were issued to help visually handicapped users.

Other Currencies

Although the East Caribbean dollar is the official legal tender in Saint Lucia, traders often use other international currencies such as the US dollar, Canadian dollar, and the British pound in their businesses. The East Caribbean dollar has been a stable currency throughout the four decades it has been in circulation. The currency has a fixed exchange rate to the US dollar at 2.7 East Caribbean dollars for 1 US dollar. Electronic money is also commonly used in the country’s popular tourist resorts.

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