Fri | Dec 13, 2019

The banks vs consumers in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | February 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Once more, there are numerous complaints, in almost every bank, concerning the quality of service: Customers will queue in lines and wait for service ... and wait ... and wait. Two hours at a stretch seems to be the order of the day. Tellers barely arrive to work on time. When they do, they have to prepare cash for the day, and prepare their various trays, sometimes more than a half an hour.

Many other bank employees will use their cell phones, which is a policy not allowed in cambios or first-class stores. I have seen visitors speak with tellers as if they are personal friends, taking time from clients who are in queue. Talking to a friend in the senior citizens' line, I received the answer; "Well, that is because the Government owes these bankers, so it is unable to criticise them". But I do not see any rationale in that situation.

Yet, where is the management of the bank? One can hardly find a manager who will accept a complaint from a person in a line, and act. The executives I see all walk up and down the corridors, with files being toted around, conversing with each other. Do they have any work to do?

Yet they are reducing staff, closing remote and rural branches while their clients go to expensive ATMs operated by outside security teams. One word here: the security in most banks takes up a greater deal of service chores than does a bank employee.


what is the answer?


What is the answer? The first answer lies in the debt owed by Government to the banks, which negates government controls; and the lack of service-oriented persons to deal with the crowds in the bank on specific days, especially to deal with some technical problems.

There is a country in the Middle/Far East whose government was feeling a similar pinch some years ago because banks decided to close out their rural branches and move to cities and large townships. Great confusion was being caused because clients had to run out to a bank 100 kilometres away to find where their accounts were and obtain cash for their workers.

The government pleaded with the banks to reorient themselves, for it was not only the small or large farmer, but rural schools and colleges, and relocations of industrial enterprises, that were being affected by shortages of cash, and in the long-term, commercial enterprise.

Now the prime minister of that country, a dynamic woman, decided to nationalise 85 per cent of the banking system, for it is not only bankers that are able to manage banks, but intelligent and sensitive people who have the interests and welfare of their country at heart.

The prime minister, now chairperson of various boards, instructed the construction of branches under her command in every remote and rural area that needed their services, irrespective of cost returns. Business was a little difficult for two years, but between then and the end of the last century, that portfolio of banks and employees grew 800 per cent; bringing employment, money, technology and training to the people.

The country, India, and that prime minister, Indira Gandhi, remain in the hearts and minds of their people, and are instrumental to the growth and substance of business in that part of the world.

This week marks the 66th year of the Republic of India, and it is an honour to welcome a minister of state from that nation to the shores of Jamaica, and we hope that mutual economic opportunities exist.

Ramesh Sujanani