Hopefully, the public is not being patronized by Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, and by extension the Government of The Bahamas, as he goes through the process of meeting with clearing banks to discus the burdensome extra fees being applied for banking services.
Last week, a statement was released by the Ministry of Labor, informing of the Consumers Department’s concerns about the many complaints by the general public regarding the multitude of banking fees faced. The statement brought hope to members of the public, in particular, lower income citizens. The charges for making withdrawals, returned checks, foreign exchange and other services are considered astronomical and Minister Foulkes was applauded for taking the initiative on behalf of of the Labour Ministry and its Consumers Department.
The follow-up has been encouraging. On our editorial page today, another communication from the Ministry of Labour is highlighted. Minister Foulkes has indeed had an initial meeting with representatives of the clearing banks in the country. We note though, the diplomatic comment made by Minister Foulkes, upon the conclusion of the meeting. He said he understands the “challenges of the banks and also appreciates the concerns of consumers.”
Well, Minister Foulkes will be hard pressed to find Bahamians to any significant degree, who think the banks are challenged financially. We think this situation is ripe for a compromise of sorts. Quite frankly, some of the fees are truly outlandish. Minister Foulkes is in an unenviable situation. Because of the economic state of affairs in the land, Bahamians are feeling the pinch, and the lower bracket income ones, more so than others.
There is appreciation that this government has decided to take on the clearing banks about their service fees. However, if Minister Foulkes comes out of this exercise empty-handed, there will be a lot of very disappointed Bahamians. For sure, there will be those who would begin to think of the Free National Movement (FNM) Government as being very similar to the rejected Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration. Under Prime Minister Perry Christie, the PLP gave the nation hopes many times, but failed to follow through.
In this case regarding the banking fees, it would have been best to leave the issue alone, if in the end Minister Foulkes has to walk away and the situation remains business as usual in the banks.
Definitely, there is the expectation of some inroads against the fees, in favor of the consumers.
Minister Foulkes should be so minded.