By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell criticised bank services in the country, while calling for Parliament’s intervention.
“The services delivered by the banking system in this country are simply atrocious and the fees they’re charging now… and then they’ve not changed the interest rates which they’ve put on the loans that they’re lending out so again, something has to be wrong with this and I think it’s time now for Parliament to intervene in some way,” he said in the House of Assembly.
He noted that Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley had recently chided banks in her country over high fees.
Yesterday Mr Mitchell also said he plans to issue another appeal to American authorities to make travel to the United States visa free for Bahamians, noting that it’s time for Bahamians to be afforded the same rights as Americans when travelling to the country.
Mr Mitchell said trying to get the US policy waived has been a longtime goal of his and added that since being elected to office, he has received numerous complaints from Bahamians who have been denied American visas. His comments came during yesterday’s debate in the House of Assembly on a resolution thanking the Governor General for reading the Speech from the Throne.
“As foreign minister, as soon as I got the job back, the telephone calls were ringing about people wanting to get (visas) who had been turned down for visas trying to get to the United States and I tried to deal with this with many ambassadors,” he said.
“The difficulty is that ambassadors can’t instruct consular officers what to do. The consular officer has the absolute right to make the decision and as I’ve said, the decision is subjective. Notwithstanding that though, I am concerned about the continuing stories that people come and tell me which do not seem to be based on any objective criteria for why a particular Bahamian cannot get access to... in the United States.
“And so, it’s a thing which I want to raise publicly because it needs to be sensitised that we are two countries close together. Americans have the right to come to this country without any visa or process and I think there should be an equivalency of the right of access for the same.
“So, I want to make that public that my view is there should be no visa to go to the States and I told them, and I told their authorities that if the entire population of The Bahamas moved to the States, it wouldn’t even be a blip on the screen. It wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever,” Mr Mitchell added.
Currently, Bahamians are permitted some forms of visa-free travel to America with a police record. However, this is only possible when travelling from The Bahamas through US Pre-Clearance locations at Bahamian airports in Freeport and Nassau.