Barbados PM: Many unable to open local accounts because of demands made by overseas banks

The issues confronting Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean in relation to correspondent banking relationships will be getting the ear of the United States Congress.

That was one of the biggest decisions made following the conclusion of Wednesday’s Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable.

The event was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre and attended by Heads of CARICOM and other countries in the region, as well as members of the US House Committee on Financial Services led by their chairwoman  Congress woman Maxine Waters.

Speaking during a press conference last evening, Prime Minister Mia Mottley who co-chaired the high level talks, said having heard the concerns of the region, the US delegation had agreed that the matter deserved to be heard before Congress.

She said she hoped those hearings would take place later this year.

“The most important decision that we made today is that the US Congressional delegation has agreed that this issue is of such major import that it really now merits congressional hearings to allow us to bring, not only those who are here in Barbados today, but to expose this issue to a wider audience, and also to bring those other banks who may well be benefiting from our business, but who are not willing to share in the burden that may be necessary in meeting additional regulatory issues as it relates to giving us the opportunity to be beneficiaries of correspondent banking relationships.

“The truth is that the refrain that is heard the most is that we are too small and not profitable enough for them to undertake the advanced due diligence that may be required of them in different markets,” Mottley said.

The Prime Minister said the complex regulatory requirements for simple tasks such as opening a bank account had led to a large number of Barbadians being unbanked.

Mottley said dealing with these kinds of matters was imperative for the region’s survival.

“All of us know that the notion that you are going to ask an 18-year-old or a 20-year-old to bring a light bill to open a bank account when years ago we would just walk into a bank and open a bank account is today absurd and it therefore means that too many of our citizens are remaining unbanked because of the additional burdens being placed on banks in order to be able to meet the demands…”

“…The level of engagement by heads of state and heads of government is such that this matter is too critical to us being able to survive and to grow our economies and to provide opportunities for our citizens. We cannot have financial pariahs, we cannot have financial exclusion…” Mottley contended.

The Prime Minister said they had also agreed to an annual Caribbean/US banking forum, a feasibility study for the establishment of a consortium bank in the US to be used as a regional public good, as well as a proposal to establish an examiner training academy in the US to train state, local, federal and foreign examiners to ensure baseline standards were uniformed.

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