Two senators today criticized a local commercial bank for introducing new fees, which they predicted could lead to similar actions by other financial institutions.
While Senators Irene Sandiford-Garner and Alwyn Adams did not name the bank, they said the fee increase underscores the need for commercial banks to pay more in taxes to Government.
Their argument followed a Barbados TODAY report that Scotiabank had announced that effective February 1, the fee on primary savings accounts with balances below $300 would double to $5.00, while foreign currency account holders would be required to pay $2.50 if their balance falls below $300 for the month.
Senator Adams said the hike in fees is a clear indication there needs to be more reciprocity by commercial banks.
“There is absolutely no reason why they should be treated the same way as the credit unions so I am of the opinion that we ought to sit down with them,” he said.
And while Leader of Government Business in the Senate Maxine McClean did not make specific reference to the issue, she did not mince words in her advice to bank customers.
“If their [fees] get ridiculous, let your money do the talking,” she advised.
The senators were debating the Tax on Assets Bill. The debate had been delayed for just over two hours due to a power outage in St Michael.
The legislation would see institutions accepting monetary deposits, credit unions and insurance companies, joining commercial banks in paying taxes on assets $40 million and over.
Independent Senator Tony Marshall said credit unions should have been excluded from paying the tax, saying working class Barbadians would feel it the most.
“I would suspect that you would not find very high average deposits within the credit union movement by members and, therefore, what I am looking to suggest is that this tax deprives the lower end of the totem pole of a better share of profits at the end of the year,” he said.
Marshall argued that commercial banks, most of which are not locally owned, should pay the majority of the tax.
“They must pay their way in this country to enjoy the facilities, the infrastructure, the communications that we give them,” he argued.
However, Government legislators, among them Jepter Ince, sought to allay fears that the tax would have negative repercussions on credit unions.
He assured that Government would not take any action to undermine the credit union movement, but was moving to implement the measure in the best interest of the country.