Phillips up against the clock on banking bill
Faced with a four-week deadline for the passage of the Banking Services Act, Dr Peter Phillips, the minister of finance and chairman of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament reviewing the bill, has decided on an accelerated schedule of meetings for public feedback.
On Tuesday, Phillips proposed a four-day retreat for all committee members - running from a Thursday to a Sunday - and said he would seek permission to have committee meetings in venues outside of Parliament, including possibly the Jamaica Conference Centre and the Ministry of Finance.
The banking services bill was initially to be enacted by March 31, as part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, but got a two-month extension.
The new legislation will amend and consolidate the existing Banking Act, Financial Institutions Act and the prudential regulation provisions of the Building Societies Act into one governing act, and enhance the existing powers of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) as chief police of the financial system.
"We have given our commitment as part of the Extended Fund Facility to pass the bill. We have less than one month," said Phillips at a meeting of the select committee.
The new deadline, he said, is now the first week of June. The last amended IMF agreement had put the new deadline at May.
He said the current bill was the product of "extensive consultation with stakeholders" and had to get to "the point where we stop studying and commenting".
Key stakeholder groups - including commercial banks, building societies and merchant banks - are expected to make their contribution to the review of the bill next Wednesday, May 13.
With only six members of parliament present at Tuesday's meeting, the finance minister implored that as many of the committee members as possible - comprising nine members of the Lower House and six senators - should make the effort to attend the meetings.