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Ag: We Can Get 'Strict' On Banks

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By Youri Kemp

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

The Attorney General yesterday warned that the government could get “very strict” by forcing banks to close their branch doors as part of efforts to combat the COVID-19m pandemic.

Carl Bethel QC, speaking before the Cabinet meeting, said the availability of online and electronic banking channels, such as automated teller machines (ARMs) and debit/credit cards, meant Bahamian businesses and consumers were able to conduct transactions electronically rather than having to visit branches electronically.

“We can get very strict,” he warned. “Right now, for example, we could shut down all of the banks forthwith on the basis and understanding that most persons have some form or method of withdrawing cash from banks.

“There are deposit machines. ATM machines are both for the purposes of deposit and withdrawal, and the majority of workers in this country receive their payment via electronic means in any event. So these are all things to be considered if we are so advised by the medical practitioners.

“This is not something that the government is relishing doing. This is not something that we want to do,” Mr Bethel added. “This is something that we are advised that we must do, and I can only emphasise to the general Bahamian public and all residents in this country the critical urgency of fully obeying all of the requirements of the national, nationwide curfew.

“It is critically important. We cannot have a policeman outside of every house. People must self-protect. The strongest human instinct is the survival instinct. Let us fall back to our gut instincts in this matter. This is not a matter to take lightly.” 

Banks remain on the list of businesses that are considered an “essential” service, and thus are exempted - at least for the moment - from the nationwide lockdown that the entire Bahamas has been placed under as efforts to combat the coronavirus ramp up.

However, individual banks have been seeking to limit their exposure even though they have been allowed to open from 9am to 5pm. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), for example, yesterday revealed that its main Bay Street and Mackey Street branches will close as of today, while Bank of The Bahamas is restricting its opening hours to between 9.30am and 1pm. 

Dr Duane Sands, minister for health, declined to comment on the likelihood that the Government will ask the banks to close their branches, saying: “I think you are asking me something that is not in the purview of health.

“Health will make health suggestions. They will be considered by the Cabinet, and they will be considered by the Task Force and, ultimately, by the Prime Minister, and a determination will be made. Obviously nothing that we do is going to not have consequences.” 

The House of Assembly is scheduled to meet this coming Monday to debate the need to extend the existing the emergency orders beyond March 31. Mr Bethel said: “I can let Bahamians know that we are in close consultation with the Opposition, and they agree that we should follow the medical advice of the medical professionals.

“At the meeting we held with them a few days ago the strong advice of the medical practitioners who are leading this fight was that we must extend the curfew for at least another 30 days.” 

Comments

jackbnimble 2 months, 1 week ago

Very dumb! Not everyone has access to online banking.😡

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xtreme2x 2 months, 1 week ago

ARE THE BANKS ASKING TO CLOSE? WHO ASK THE QUESTION? HALF THE TIME ESPECIALLY ON WEEK ENDS THE MACHINES NOT EXCEPTING DEPOSIT OR NOT SPITTING OUT MONEY. IF PEOPLE CAN NOT HAVE MONEY THEY CANNOT GO TO FOOD STORE, NOT BUY MEDICINE ECT SO THOSE STORES WILL HAVE TO CLOSE TOO

MR BETHEL FOR GET TO DRINK HIS HIS MEDICINE I GUESS

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SP 2 months, 1 week ago

Closing the banks would be disastrous for me and many people. How could we access funds in business checking accounts when needed, get extended overdraft facilities, or send wires to pay for foreign purchases? Perhaps the banks can have staff work from home using phones and internet to deal with these types transactions but moving funds from some accounts to others would still be an issue. Sounds like a REAL problem!

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bogart 2 months, 1 week ago

The Governor of the Central Bank as Regulator of the Banks needs to step in with Comments relating to Banks. To allow the politicians to step all over him is dispicable. Governor needs to instill stability and Confidence in the smooth continuous flowing to ccritical financial services to all. No utter statements is welcomed and likely in situations create unwanted effects to all. No politician should be more knowledgable than any Governor of any Central Bank who has hourly, daily, future capabilities monetary system nation, of Banking Financial system. Comforting properly issuance of Banking situation is required to nation and other nations Bahamas deals among.

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Giordano 2 months, 1 week ago

Whatever the government implement should be carry on with much more credibility through tangible example in the job side by being more serious and cracking down,by good example all those violators of the government measurements, for example those drunkers,homeless psychiatric people,in many cases exhibiting two or more symptoms publicly in the open,they should be tested or taken immediately out of the streets. Also the government should provide more details about those who had passed away already as a results of this lethal COVID-19,so the people become aware of what is happening regarding current circumstances that affect everyone rather than mentioning banks and many others things away from the real problem. We need to know "The Real McCCOY" regarding the real amound of infected people in The Bahamas and if possible ,who they are.

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