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Info sessions on bank fees coming
A week after seven business chambers threatened to boycott the use of credit card payments, they have retracted the call, saying they achieved what they wanted by meeting with the Bankers Association of T&T (BATT.)
President of the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce, Liaquat Ali made the announcement on Monday after a meeting of the heads of the five of those seven chambers, including the Penal/Debe Chamber, the Chaguanas Chamber, the Greater Tunapuna Chamber, the Siparia Chamber and the San Fernando Business Association.
The closed-door meeting lasted over two hours and took place at the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber headquarters, Camden Road, Couva yesterday.
At a press conference last week, the chamber heads threatened the boycott unless they got answers from commercial banks regarding foreign exchange.
Yesterday, Ali said the chambers and BATT have instead agreed upon public education sessions on bank fees and charges.
“When we issued the statement one week ago, it was really to get the Bankers Association to listen to us and I think we achieved that. We set out to achieve something and we did achieve that by saying that we were looking at the possibility of not accepting credit cards as a point-of-sale entry,” Ali told the media following the meeting.
“The key decision we would have made is that we need to have a public education programme in respect to banks and bank fees and charges and the way how banks operate. We felt that is sadly lacking for the population of T&T, so we can better understand some of the issues affecting the business community and the bank can relate to the public.”
Asked to respond to Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s directive to the Central Bank of T&T (CBTT) to give priority access to foreign exchange to the trade and manufacturing sectors, Ali said the chambers have no issue with this.
Imbert made the statement during his delivery of the Mid-Year Review on May 10.
However, Ali said the Central Bank has to be careful with the distribution of the already-limited forex as some manufacturers are users of forex but not earners.
“They have to be careful in distributing forex to the manufacturing sector. We are not against the manufacturing sector getting a priority in terms of forex but the distribution must be fair and spread across the board,” he said.
He said with the issue of the limited supply of forex, the chambers have asked BATT for a fair and even distribution of forex among its members.
“We are not of the opinion that there is an abundance of foreign exchange and we are going to request all our demands to be fulfilled. What we are saying is because there is a limited amount of foreign exchange, we ask the Bankers Association to look at the possibility of a fair and even distribution among our members,” he added.
Addressing the media, BATT president and Scotiabank managing director, Anya Schnoor said the banks will meet with the small and medium-sized companies to talk about the different issues affecting their businesses.
Commenting on the decision by Imbert to give priority for forex to manufacturers, Schnoor said BATT will have to seek clarification on the new policies implemented by the minister and the Central Bank.
She issued a call to citizens to abide by the laws and only sell foreign exchange to registered dealers.
“We are also very concerned about the growing elements of a market outside of the official sector. We would recently have seen the Central Bank issuing notices reminding customers that it is against the law to sell and trade foreign exchange outside of the registered dealers and we want to encourage customers to abide by the regulations,” she said.
In addition to the sessions for business owners, Schnoor said in about a fortnight’s time, all banks will start having education sessions in their branches open to the public to speak one-on-one with customers about the various services and charges of the banks.
“All banks will be opening their branches at a specific times to be able to offer customers the opportunity to come in. If they have questions about fees, they want to know about the products in the bank- that is starting in about two weeks and then we would then continue on with the small sessions directed to the members of the chambers,” Schnoor said.
She added that BATT would be seeking a meeting with the CBTT to enhance its education programme in the coming weeks as well.