Wed | Jan 20, 2021

Battle over bank fees - Opposition MP says he is not attempting to legislate prices; King disagrees

Published:Sunday | February 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer

University of the West Indies' senior lecturer in the Department of Economics, Dr Damien King, was forced to fend off an onslaught of criticisms from Opposition-backed supporters on the weekend, following his pronouncement that the Banking Services Bill brought by Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson was better off dead.

"My first-year economics students already know that attempts to legislate prices nearly always leave customers worse off. And the bank fees bill was such an attempt," King wrote on social media site Twitter.

However, Jackson, the member of parliament for St Catherine South, said he was not attempting to legislate prices.

"Nothing in the (bill) will affect consumers negatively. The study on the Banking Services Act was done by several economists, as I know my limitations. My only goal is to help Jamaican people," Jackson noted.

But, King countered Jackson, arguing that bank fees were, in fact, prices.

King also pointed out to Jackson that the amendments in his bill were not the only contending factors at play.

He said it was the response of the banks to the changes in the bill that would affect customers, mentioning that there was the risk that banks could reduce the number of frontline tellers attending to customers.

"When the banks lay off tellers and stop offering cheque cashing because they can't earn an adequate return on doing so, and so the poor rural people have no option at all, who is going to protect them?" King questioned.

Jackson responded that only a company that does not believe in supporting its country would do that.

"Isn't $19 billion of profit more than enough to keep those jobs, even if their profits drop a bit? For Christ sake, pensioners and poor people who use the banks are abused by the high fees," the opposition MP stated.