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Bank Reformers: 'Still Much To Do'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

An anti-bank fee advocacy group yesterday argued there was "still much to do" to improve the industry, and expressed concern about insufficient education on the proposed credit bureau.

Dr Denotrah Archer-Cartwright, lead organiser for Citizens Against Banking Exploitation (CABE), said the group was pleased to hear that concern over banking fees had not fallen on deaf ears, with the sector having reduced some administrative charges.

"Our top concerns were the high interest rates, fees and lack of consumer education," she said. "To see such things now being addressed shows the power of advocacy, and what we can do when we stick to a goal.

"Our online petition is well over 5,000 signatures, and our online live meeting with the governor of Central Bank opened the eyes of thousands of Bahamians. Although it takes a few faithful to stand up, we have gathered the support of thousands of Bahamians on this issue and the numbers increase each day."

Following numerous complaints over banking fees, the six commercial banks together with the Central Bank have been engaged in talks since last October with Dion Foulkes, minister of labour, who oversees the Government's consumer affairs division.

The Clearing Banks Association's (CBA) chairman, Gowon Bowe, told Tribune Business yesterday that while there have been no across-the-board fee reductions, banks had reduced charges largely due to consumer behaviour.

"There is still much to do to have a less dysfunctional banking system, such as homeowner rights; a more Bahamian ownership; and justice for consumers," said Dr Archer-Cartwright. "We urge the government and the Central Bank to partner with our organisation to continue to deal with these issues and create a more independent committee to address such things. In the meantime, CABE is committed to continue to hold Central Bank and the Government's feet to the fire to improve banking for the average Bahamian."

She added: "We also note that with the upcoming Credit Bureau's introduction looming, we are concerned that not enough education has been provided. Neither have there been adequate opportunities to pull the many Bahamians who are already in debt, or will have 'bad credit', out of this situation. What can we do to help those persons before they are hit with this new system?The Government should recognise that they can be making things more difficult for those already in a bad position.

"Unless everyone's credit rating will not be retroactive, this may create another banking bust and harm the economy even further. That point was not made clear. Our organisation is here to assist in educating Bahamians, and we hope the Central Bank and Government will reach out to us and continue to consider the needs of the citizens of The Bahamas. We are not interested in fighting the Government but working for a better Bahamas for Bahamians."

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