By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
AN advocacy group protesting against commercial bank fees yesterday took its issues to the industry regulator, calling on the Central Bank and Government to intervene and protect consumers.
The small group, Citizens Against Bank Exploitation (CABE), led a brief demonstration outside the Central Bank yesterday before taking its protest to Rawson Square following a meeting with Central Bank governor, John Rolle.
Dr Denotrah Archer-Cartwright, lead organiser of CABE, said: "We have been bringing up the issue of the way the banks have been interacting with the Bahamian people, and we thought that the Central Bank would be the right place because this is where they govern and regulate these banks.
"We haven't heard a lot from the Government and Central Bank in terms of what they are going to do with regards to policies and making changes. We met with Mr Rolle and he explained how the banks aren't making enough money, but we believe that adjustments have to be made on both sides."
Dr Cartwright-Archer added: "We can have a better financial sector, more inclusive of Bahamians and more open to different types of banking institutions. In the Bahamas we should have options outside the normal framework of the commercial banks we are seeing today.
"We want to hear what the Government has to say about what the Bahamian people are saying, and we want to see the policy changes that will reflect Bahamians being put at the centre and we want more accountability from the banks."
Dr Cartwright-Archer argued that banks should not expect to make the same level of profits they made pre-recession. "You cannot use the profit levels you were making at your peak to make-up for times when there is a recession. There has to be some balance," she said.
"They are using bank fees to make up for money lost on mortgages and loans, but who gave the loans and mortgages? It was the banks. When they gave those loans they knew the risk; they gave them at much higher interest rates than other areas where they operate. So when the bubble popped they lost money, but when they adjusted for the loss they are almost right back where they balance out.
"Is it they are not making enough money, or are they trying to make the same they made when the economy was good? That's not possible and there has to be some adjustment. It cannot be just the Bahamian people giving and giving, and being exploited because we don't know our rights. You can't expect to get the same amount of money in bad times as in good times.
"We want to see policy that reflects the needs of the Bahamian people in financial services, and that includes ownership and opening the market up to more competition."