World's Smallest Currency Union: Caribbean Challenges

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 12/15/2013 03:16:00 PM
Yes, Virginia, these dollars bear Queen Elizabeth II's image
The Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) is the world's smallest currency union among the four existing worldwide. The European Monetary Union (EMU) is known by all, whereas the other two are in Africa. What makes the ECCU doubly interesting is that it is pegged to the US dollar. In fact, it predates the EMU by half a century, although it changed the currency it is being pegged to from GBP to USD halfway through:
The OECS members share a common currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, which has been pegged to the U.S. dollar since 1976 at EC$2.70=US$1, and was pegged to the British pound at EC$4.80=£1 from 1950 to 1976. Prior to the recent inception of the European Central Bank, the ECCB was one of only three common central banks in the world and the only one where the member countries have pooled all their foreign reserves, the convertibility of the common currency is fully self-supported, and the parity of the exchange rate has not been changed.
Now, there's thought-provoking stuff over at the IMF site concerning the challenges faced by ECCU. Overall, it makes economic sense for micro-sized economies to band together currency-wise:
In terms of the benefits, the small size of these countries means that the currency arrangement allows them to take advantage of scale economies. It also allows them to diversify risk. This means that if one country gets hit by an external shock or natural disaster, the other countries can pool resources and deal with the shock more effectively.

Again, because of their size, these islands can provide, at the regional level, more cost-effective public services. So that is a major benefit. What also matters a great deal is when the union speaks with one voice the countries can be better represented at the global level. 
That said, it is subject to the same sorts of problems the Eurozone faces:
Interestingly enough, the ECCU is actually a microcosm of the European Economic and Monetary Union, since the ECCU has also faced rising fiscal deficits, unsustainable debt levels in a number of states, a lack of fiscal integration, and challenges in parts of the financial sector that can undermine the stability of this union. As illustrated by the European experience, overcoming these challenges is particularly difficult in monetary unions. 
What can I say? God save the queen--and the East Caribbean Dollar