Commercial banks have agreed to more relief measures to help customers get through the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced Wednesday in her national address.
Governor of the Central Bank Dr Cleviston Haynes met with the bank managers and in addition to what was agreed before the bank will adjust some user fees, she said.
Mottley said: “The governor has reported to me today (Wednesday, April 29) that the banks have agreed in the first instance to:
1. No maintenance account fees for the senior accounts;(previously agreed)
2. No over the counter charges for persons over 70;
3. No maintenance account fees for the youth accounts. I have asked them to please indicate what their criteria constitutes youth so that the public can be aware.”
Mottley said of major concern was the disproportionate reliance on fees by the commercial banking industry.
She said: “Revenue from fees at all of our banks grew from $78 million in 2008 to $126 million between 2008 and 2018 while interest income for the same period of time has declined from $637 million to $525 million for the same period. This is not a sustainable model for growth. Not does it reflect an energy in the interest of being able to make funds available to provide to oxygen to fuel our economies.”
The Prime Minister said the governor indicated that achieving more concessions required additional dialogue, but the issue is timing given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic which has obviously cost jobs.
Mottley said: “This could erode household savings as clients withdraw balances to support their purchases. Reduced bank charges on deposit accounts would, therefore, be helpful. At the same time, the banks are legitimately concerned that their non-performing loans and provisions will rise, with the risk of increased write-offs if this crisis is prolonged.”
The Central Bank is requiring that banks to ensure that all fees are easily accessible online, preferably through a clearly visible link on their home page, the Prime Minister told the nation.
She added: “Customers must be notified by the banks of any changes in fees or new charges via email and other social media platforms and I have added to that snail mail where necessary. Further, the Central Bank has agreed that it will publish every six months a comparison of fees bank by bank, to make sure customers are aware of their options.
“We expect therefore that in addition to the funds which the Government has created, businesses need to work with their banks and credit unions to take full advantage of these measures. The most important thing is to stay alive. To keep people’s heads above water. To tread water.”
Banks had previously agreed to:
· Six-months payment moratorium on existing loans and mortgages for persons and businesses directly impacted by the pandemic.
· Temporary working-capital financing options for corporates and small businesses directly affected by COVID-19.
Mottley said that the banks reported that they have already payment holidays being given to persons who need free cash flow during this difficult time. She said they also reported that their credit card interest relief of up to 50 per cent by some and payment waivers by others for three months, has been pursued with interest not capitalised but added thereafter to the balance, again allowing for cash flow relief for some of our businesses and individuals.”
The Prime Minister also said that she has asked the Director of Finance and Economic Affairs to set up a meeting with the water, light, telecoms and natural gas utilities to see how best they can work with their customers with respect to their bills for April and May given the disruption caused by the cessation of work and the imposition of the curfew. (IMC)