Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Trinidad legislator joins call to curtail bank fees, loan rates

Published:Friday | March 10, 2017 | 3:00 AM

An independent legislator is calling on the Trinidad & Tobago government to deal with high bank charges and interest rates.

Senator Ian Roach, speaking during debate on FATCA-related tax information exchange agreements approved in the Senate on Tuesday night, said the legislation provides an opportunity to focus on the local operations of banks, particularly what they charge for their services.

He said any ordinary citizen would consider Trinidad's financial institutions "to be institutional bandits, financial extortionists and conscienceless, as they unilaterally impose any and all types of bank charges in addition to the already outrageous level of interest rates".

The government "can and should, once and for all, deal with this systemic cancer of interest rates and bank charges by introducing a bill to either fortify the minister of finance's powers under the Central Bank Act, or intervene in such a way to give the minister new powers that can effectively reign in these runaway, ravenous horses that are the banks," he said.

His call follows an entreaty by a consumer group last week for the administration, led by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, to consider regulating bank fees in that country. It came amid a survey of the banks, but was also prompted by recent increases in monthly service charges to bank customers for maintaining a regular savings account.

Roach too urged the Rowley government to "act with a sense of urgency", saying "too many people are complaining about the banks in Trinidad and Tobago".

Roach, said, America's FATCA - the Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act - was meant "to protect the banks' interest and the United States government's interest", and now it was time for the Trinidad government "to attend to the public outcry about the banks" in that country.

The senator also noted that the Bankers Association of Trinidad & Tobago lobbied for the passage of the FATCA bill, and that he would "also like to see the banks act with such motivation by addressing the daily petition of the public against the exorbitant charges and rates".

- CMC