Sat | Nov 17, 2018

Banking rule will hurt rural pensioners

Published:Tuesday | February 16, 2016 | 12:00 AM


My 99-year-old mother was visited last week by an agent from the National Insurance Scheme office.

She came for two reasons: The first was to make sure she is still alive (even though her life certificates are submitted on schedule), and second, to advise her that she will have to go to a commercial bank to open an account, because the ministry will discontinue the issuance of cheques that can be encashed at the neighbourhood post office in the near future.

I pointed out to her the age and lack of mobility of my mother. She, however, is in no position to sympathise or issue any suggestion; she just came with the message. She advised me to speak to the office, and I did, but I realise that personnel there, too, can only verify the message.

I think less of my mother's plight and more of senior citizens who have no bank accounts, and live nowhere near to a commercial bank, but can easily get to the post office.

The current system allows the recipient to endorse the cheque to another trusted person to have it encashed at the local post office.

On the other hand, it is not easy to open a bank account at a commercial bank these days, and what of the rules of the bank?

A large number of these pensioners receive no more than $4,000 per fortnight.

How much will it cost them for transportation to get to and from the city, because banks do not operate in deep rural communities?

How much will they have to leave in these accounts to satisfy the bank's minimum-balance requirements? And how many of them will qualify to open a bank account?

I realise that cost saving is a priority for the Government, but I am appealing to all well-thinking Jamaicans to lobby for the old and indigent in our society, so the ministry will arrive at a better solution.

If you do the maths, you will realise that for some, it would amount to receiving nothing at all.