Cheque end ‘solving non-existent problem’

The Central Bank of the Bahamas.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas.



Tribune Business Reporters

A Bahamian businessman says the Central Bank and its licensees are seeking to “solve a problem that does not exist” with their drive to eliminate the use of cheques by year-end 2024.

Ethric Bowe, an engineer with multiple business interests including Advanced Technical Enterprises, an insurance agency/brokerage and a family farm, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas should simply follow established practice in the US and other developed countries by digitising this payment mechanism.

“If you go to America and give someone a cheque, they will sit right in front of you, take out their phone, take a photo of that cheque, e-mail it to their bank who will process that cheque and you will have a credit for that cheque instantly,” he said. “You digitise the cheque. I’ve seen people do it.”

eChecks have been a feature of the US financial system for several years, and Mr Bowe added: “Instead of moving away from cheques, they’re getting deeper into them. I think it’s [their elimination in The Bahamas] a bad plan. I don’t have much regard for the Central Bank anyhow. I will tell you will happen. A system will be introduced that costs a lot of money and we solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

“We need to make what we have work. This is the same Central Bank that thinks clearing a cheque in two days is  a good standard. It can be done instantly. The same way you can clear a transaction using a debit card, you can do it with a cheque. Scan the cheque, send it to the bank and clear it instantly. It’s the same process as clearing a transaction with a debit card or credit card. Some process. Nothing different.”

Mr Bowe gave a harsher response to the cheque elimination plan on social media, saying: “The idea of cheque elimination is just stupid. Who comes up with these things? They can digitise cheques tomorrow and problem solved... To the customer, very little has to change. The customer becomes empowered, not controlled.

“Personally, I prefer cheques. What we do need in the financial sector is deregulation and increased competition. Government should get involved to the extent of preventing exploitation of the public and unfair competition. Currently, government agencies try to direct the operations of businesses to the extent of determining success or failure.”

Mr Bowe subsequently told Tribune Business: “The banks are harvesting money without providing a service.... I have a big problem with money changing hands and there being no commensurate service.”

John Rolle, the Central Bank’s governor, on Monday conceded that plans to eliminate the use of cheques by end-2024 are “not as simple as flipping a switch” given the resistance encountered thus far to the move.

Addressing the regulator’s 2022 full-year and fourth quarter economic briefing, he admitted that not all feedback and consultation received by the Central Bank was “receptive to change”. Mr Rolle added that it was in talks with the Government “around how that process looks” as it continues to push for modernisation of The Bahamas’ payments system through the increased use of digital transactions.

Meanwhile, other corporate executives joined Mr Bowe in voicing concerns. Dwayne Higgs, WHIM Automotive’s general manager, told Tribune Business that instead of setting a deadline for cheques to be eliminated by the end of 2024, the Central Bank should allow this to occur naturally over time.

He said: “I look at this like how I look at electric cars. Leave it there and give people the option. If they want to pay by cash, by cheque, by transfer or by card. I say leave it as an option, the same way if you want to buy an electric or hybrid, or a regular gasoline engine. 

“But, for some reason, the powers that be want us to go totally hybrid and totally cashless and digital. I think we should just leave it as an option, because some people prefer to write a cheque for a large amount, rather than doing transfers. So that’s my feeling on the matter. It should just be an option rather than limiting everything and forcing people to only go one way.”

Mr Higgs added: “I know a lot of people that still use banker’s cheques when they go to buy a car or get a car loan. The bank will give you a cheque to take to the car dealer, so what do you do then? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but I don’t know what the great push is. I say give people a choice and see what they gravitate towards.” 

Chico Wong, owner/operator of Wong’s Building Supplies, said while it is “OK” to eliminate cheques and move totally digital he understands the importance of keeping all payment options. “Because you want to go digital, but at the same time there’s a lot of people who are still old school, who still like to use paper and hard copies, especially the older people over 50 and 60 years old,” he added.

“They are so used to having a printed piece of paper that they write on and feel comfortable with. Then you have to understand, in The Bahamas, cheques are not regulated. Someone can forge a cheque and sometimes you sell people a good and you get hold of a bad cheque, so in that sense cheques are bad.” 

Wongs has transferred many vendors and customers to digital payments and currently does a lot of “wire transfers”, eliminating cheques to some extent. “The good thing about wires is that if you have a person from the Family Islands and they want lumber, you can send them the wire instructions and they can send the money, and someone can come and pick up their things from us within the day,” Mr Wong said. 

James Wallace, owner/ operator of Janaees Uniform Centre, said he has been transitioning away from cheques since the announcement of the Central Bank’s intention to eliminate them. “I think they’ve given reasonable notice for people to get rid of cheques. I don’t see it as an issue because most things are being done by direct deposit,” he said. 

“I very rarely write cheques in my business from last year. I do direct deposit, because in December 2024 they will stop honouring cheques. I don’t see this problem. The whole world is going electronic banking, and we are just a little late. The only thing is they skipped the process of allowing you to process cheques electronically, because you could have scanned a cheque from your phone and deposit it like that.” 


moncurcool 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Our Central bank is stupid. This is the same bank years back that had a Governor who said reducing he interest rate would not help alleviate things for Bahamian families.

Same Bank with a governor who says eliminating the penny won't make a difference to people's pockets. Now have this round up round down stupidity where people getting the short end of the stick.

Same Bank that in bed with the clearing banks and could care less how people are getting ripped off in fees for services that are subpar.

Same Bank that if you want to send money out of the country takes you through the ringer to do it. (So you have to do it undercover without their authorization)

Same Bank that won't allow average Bahamians to invest their money outside this country without carrying you through the ringer (So you have to do it undercover without their authorization)

Same Bank now with the stupid idea to eliminate checks. Really? Why not like suggested just digitize checks. Want to push to a digital system and takes an eternity to do any banking transactions in this country

The Central Bank and the people who run it and just plain clueless.


bcitizen 7 months, 3 weeks ago

This is just a bad idea. I rarely use cheques still in my business but, there are times it is necessary. I have one vendor who no matter I have tried seems not be able to send receive a transfer payment from my company. There are instances where cheques are still very useful tools and to eliminate them for what reason I do not know. Do not even get me started on the penny, by my estimates the penny thing costs my business about 1,200 dollars per year in productivity. Times that by how many thousands of business in this country and were talking millions of dollars in GDP productivity damage. These people live in lala land and come up with these stupid ideas to make themselves seem important and modern.


ThisIsOurs 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Every few years we go through some business buzz period. first we had "entrepreneurship" and all the sharks and bottom feeders started offering services to make everyone an entrepreneur. Then we had block chain and the dumb, "we gonna put it ON THE block chain" phrase, thats like saying "we gonna put the shopping list on an IF statement". Then we had FX trading and the bottom feeders shifted to daytrading classes. And now we have digitization and wave after wave of people who dont understand technology talking about how theyre cashless... in the Bahamas.. where 90% of the people have less than 5000 dollars, if they have a bank account, a good percentage cant read and opt to pay 3 dollars for a days worth of data when they need to make a call. Youd think by now they'd get a clue, they created a solution for the wrong market... who knows... maybe in 20 years we'll be talking about how they were ahead of their time


hrysippus 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The non existant problem does actually exist; not for the cititizens but for the State, The State wants to get 12& tax on each and every transaction and that is not happening at the moment. When all transaction are digital the State can better monitor them and collect more tax from the people and the business owners. Selling your car to your cousin? The State will want 12% of that price.


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