I find myself in sympathy with the Chief Justice Lensley Wolfe. The courts are congested and wildly behind schedule. What with one thing and another, combined with a considerable increase in criminal behaviour, the courts are even more under-staffed and over-loaded than ever.
This must be why the Chief Justice decided to start promptly at 9 a.m., instead of the usual 10 a.m. This seems to be a good idea, but the Jamaica Bar Association is objecting strongly and is even taking the matter to court.
Starting the court an hour earlier than usual would probably involve the learned lawyers getting out of bed an hour sooner and this seems to be distressing them.
Of course, it will mean everybody connected with the courts getting out of beds an hour earlier too.
It is not surprising that the proposed new hours are unpopular. Anything that makes people work harder or for longer hours in Jamaica is bound to be unpopular.
I fear that the Chief Justice doesn't stand a chance of having his way. The police would have to start earlier too. We've got quite a lot of sleeping policemen.
CARIBBEAN COURT OF APPEAL
While on the subject of legal matters, I might as well return to the matter of the proposed Caribbean Court of Appeal. This, in my view, is a very bad idea and a very expensive one when one considers all the costs involved.
In any case, it is quite unnecessary. The English Privy Council has served us well for years and the only reason for supplanting it with a Caribbean Court of Appeal arises from the kind of narrow nationalism which breaks out every now and then.
Our courts and court systems are already pretty ramshackle and you may be sure that the proposed Caribbean Court of Appeal will soon become another of our ramshackled institutions.
However, the Government is set on having a Caribbean Court of Appeal and considering that we have no effective Opposition it seems inevitable that it will soon become a reality.
Deposits in the three foreign-controlled banks, namely CIBC, Nova Scotia and Citibank, have been rapidly increasing, particularly in Citibank which only started retail banking very recently.
Loans issued by all banks have at the same time been decreasing, possibly because banks have become wary of bad loans.
The odd thing here, however, is that loans by Workers Bank have been increasing. Workers Bank is quite solidly bust and is one of the banks combined by FINSAC into the new entity called the Union Bank. It looks as if some banking members of the new Union Bank have dumped a lot of their bad loans on Workers.
In any case, the new Union Bank is in operation. Personally speaking, I wouldn't put a farthing of my pittance in it and I take the view that I wouldn't trust it, or any other Jamaican bank (with perhaps one or two exceptions) as far as I can spit against a high wind.
This may be very unpatriotic of me, but the safety of people's money should be a priority. I don't think people should rush into putting their
money into the Union Bank for I can't see how a number of bust banks can be combined to make one safe one.
The Minister of Finance, Dr. Omar Davies, is perfectly right to make a fuss about the interest rates charged by banks at present.
What is known as the "spread" between what the banks pay out in interest and what they charge as interest is far too wide. I think that what the banks fear is getting in trouble again with their loan portfolios.
In Jamaica, while people love to borrow, they dislike having to repay, and assorted bank managers tell me that they face constant struggles getting their loans repaid.
I think that, if people as a whole were more honest about servicing their loans, the banks would have a greater incentive to reduce interest rates.
Of course the main way in which banks make their money is by lending to borrowers and this tempts them very often to make loans that are a bit shaky.
It's a kind of vicious circle. If they made far fewer but sounder loans they would, I suppose, make less money but would be able greatly to reduce their rates of interest.
While on this subject, I think the Minister of Finance might well take a sharp look at the credit card business. The banks love to increase their trade in "plastic" because they earn a lot of interest in some ways which seem to me to a bit devious.
I have never been able to understand the advantages of owning a credit card. In all my long life I have never owned one and have never suffered any inconvenience by not doing so.
Some years ago, when I was temporarily living in the United States, a lot of people told me that I would find it necessary to have a credit card.
So I went to my bank to get one and the bank manager told me that the only way that I could acquire a credit card would be to give him letters from a number of firms from whom I had taken credit.
I had to tell him that I never in my life ever bought anything on credit or hire-purchase. I think he thought that I was rather peculiar and told me that, in consequence, he would not be able to give me a credit card. I think it was at that moment that I concluded that the credit card business was a mild form of lunacy.
People can protect themselves against high interest rates by simply not borrowing. I am aware, of course, that in a world which seems built upon endless borrowing and lending such a proposition must seem dangerously revolutionary.