The New Today


Abusive banks in Grenada: The poor is powerless but must be aware

Whilst the motivation for and the focus of this Headline Warning is about the ‘unrestrained’ unscrupulous and unpleasant conduct of certain banks in Grenada, it may be said that to a great extent this pathetic situation prevails in the entire financial industry which includes primarily the banking sector, the insurance companies, the credit unions, and the modern portfolio of investment and lending institutions.

In fact, for over a decade and counting up, the average citizen has been publicly complaining and seeking justice and corrections, about the various forms and degrees of abuse being experienced across the commercial spectrum of professional services, construction contracts, public utilities, retail outlets, automotive dealers, and the banking sector.

Unfortunately though, the cries of the public go in vain, without any meaningful interventions by the powers-that-be and, not even receiving any attention as a campaign issue by political parties.

A foremost factor in the distresses faced by the Grenadian citizens relates to the ‘unbearable, unjustifiable, unaccountable and unconscionable’ charges for goods and services; and central to this profiteering by those providers is ‘naturally’ the issue of ‘greed, wealth and power’.

It should be acknowledged that the ‘depth and magnitude’ of this reality should not be divorced from the ancient episode which has given rise to the current debates and efforts about Reparations for slavery from colonisation; a prominent underlined issue being about the human wellbeing and survival.

In fact, the gross attitudes and doings throughout the commercial spectrum have been also attributed to the ‘conspiracy drive’ of Neo-colonialism and contextually, this affair has been captured elegantly by the World renowned King Calypsonian, Mighty Sparrow, in the 01 January 1983, “Capitalism Gone Mad” release.

It is very prudent to reminisce on the song and to realise that its relevance is evident and reverberating now more than ever, as Liberalisation and Deregulation elevate with the Digital Economy of ‘faceless’, paperless and cashless transactions.

Although the song by the Mighty Sparrow (Mr. Slinger Francisco) was based on or related to the Trinidadian society, it typifies or narrates and points to the common condition in most other countries and, has stimulated extensively many academic and social fora and papers which includes the 02 February 2022 column of the same title, “Capitalism gone mad” by Henley Morgan in the Jamaica Observer ePaper.

Grenada in particular seems to be leading in the Caribbean where indeed, “Government give(s) them (‘providers, businesses and entrepreneurs’) an open license to steal”.

Grenadians are left to cope in a hostile business environment, with no effective provisions for attending to the deficits affecting the manner in the delivery of ‘basic and immediate’ socio-economic necessities.

There are no (or poor) regulations, surveillances and enforcements; neither any robust price control regime and Consumer Protection Act.

Moreover, the masses are yet to appreciate the roles and benefits of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, Ombudsman Office, Office of the Integrity Commission, Bureau of Standards, and the National Insurance Scheme.

Of specific concern is the scenario by which the Government has placed its people, especially the ‘poor, less fortunate, and vulnerable’ at the mercy of the banks, and continues to dodge and to raise excuses about the ridiculous charges, operations and treatments which the people face from the banks.

The apparent freehand operations given to the banks could be realised when trying to discover whether or not, there has ever been a time when the banks have been taken to task by the Prime Minister of Grenada and/or by the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

It is relevant to determine further, whether the Banking Act (Cap. 26A/Act 19 of 2005) is ‘applicable and fair’ in taking into account the ‘rights and interests’ of depositors, as it purports “to provide for Regulating Banking Business”.

Moreover, are there any updated regulations attached to this Act, and/or are there any other pieces of pertinent legislation? Critical in exploring the role and integrity of the banks is the substance and influence of the East Caribbean Central Bank Act (Cap. 85 / Act 23 of 1983) which provides “for the implementation of the Agreement establishing the East Caribbean Central Bank, and for matters connected therewith”.

Former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell on 21 November 2021 during an engagement with the media, responded to an appeal for ensuring that the banks “be dealing different (‘better’) with the citizens”.

Keith said : “ …. one of the problems …. to some extent the question of charges need to be looked at seriously by Government, together with the ECCB and the banking institution, throughout the entire OECS (‘Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States’)”.

Present Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell commented on 15 March 2023 in a Townhall Meeting, to a concern by a ‘local who is living abroad but loved /yearns to return/resettled home’ about the problems to do commerce with the banks.

Dickon thus: “…. we have some challenges with the financial sector in Grenada, but I also want to emphasise …. if the banks use technology, there is no need to go into the bank …. we also have to use the technology to overcome some of the difficulties …. part of the challenge is that …. our banks …. are overzealous, in their desire to comply with rules that are imposed on us by American, and Europeans.

He went on to say: “…. So it’s not just as simple – this is the situation in every OECS territory, in most of the Caribbean islands …. so as citizens I want us to understand that; that we too have to fight and stand up and talk about those issues …. we are at risk …. “.

It should be instructive to reflect for comparison on the attitude and stance of Prime Minister, Ms. Mia Amor Mottley towards the unconscionable deals of the banks as evident in Barbados.

The published article on 15 July 2022 by Sandy Deane in the online Barbados Today, “PM Mottley Wants To Take Another Look At Impact On Consumer Costs”, reported that Mottley mandated the Central Bank Governor (Cleviston Haynes) “to investigate the issue of bank fees, which are said to be among factors driving the rising cost of goods.”

She has also declared “…. we (‘the Government’) have to encourage our banks to recognise that their core business of making money from lending cannot be abandoned for passive income from transactions …. if others will make egregious profits at a time when others are sucking salt then we have a duty on this small rock of 166 square miles [to ensure] as many people can continue to keep their heads above water”.

Previously the online Nation News features “Mottley Chides Banks Over Fees” by Colville Mounsey, on 29 October 2021, reporting that Mottley has taken the financial institutions to task over high bank fees, being disturbed that the state of play as it pertained to banking in Barbados was untenable.

Despite the various assurances and promotions by the Grenada Government and the Grenada Bankers Association on the Administration’s April 2023 introduction of “Bi-Monthly Payments” and thus about Financial Literacy/Money Management, the general public but particularly professional officers should not fool themselves and should be willing to guide young employees.

In fact, the Grenada Trades Union Council needs to be vigilant about any development or turn of events on what has been said about extra charges, taking the opportunity to broaden the scope of addressing employees’ predicaments.

Contained on the website of the PSA (Public Services Association of Trinidad and Tobago) is, “Barbados Prime Minister Blasts Banks Over Unfair Fees”.

The 30 October 2021 PSA News further reported how Mottley criticised commercial banks for “watching” people’s money instead of putting it to work and as such, she warned that if banks were not prepared to make some changes, the government would be forced to do so through legislation.

The article indicated that at the level of the social partnership in Barbados, the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB) pleaded with the government to stop commercial banks from “exploiting” residents through a range of bank fees, which they claim are now creating additional hardship for workers.

The General Secretary of CTUSAB said that some banks were being “wicked” by putting a limit on the minimum amount individuals could withdraw from some types of accounts and added that people were being forced to use commercial banks and open certain types of accounts given that “in most places now the payroll is tied to a bank”.

Apart from the failure to advertise or to notify about consequential changes in its policies, including charges’ structure and application, testimony can be given that a category of, if not all, depositors of a Grenadian bank is yet to interpret and feel the focus and delivery of a ‘superior customers service’ by this bank.

Shouldn’t it be difficult for a depositor to extend much credit to a bank which seems to be engrossed in a practice which does not show sympathy for the special circumstances and limitations of its clients; as relates to sickness, age, and the access to, means, capacity and inclination or desire for transactions via Electronic Communications / Information Technology / Social Media?

Considering the apparent cessation of using passbooks for registering ordinary deposits and withdrawals, as well as for net balances, but instead the bank implements small portions of paper with scant records of the ‘visit’ printed with quick fading ink. Shouldn’t it then be puzzling and questioning as to why the bank is not posting periodic ‘comprehensive transaction statements’?

To add insult to injury, when a statement is requested to know and confirm whether the account(s) are still existing, viable and accessible, there is no reply from the bank, much less to honour that request.

All actions by the bank are contrary to the normal and reasonable expectations and conditions, as outlined in the passbooks when opening the account.

What advantage is envisioned for a ‘naïve and casual’ depositor who has a small sum balance, and is not in a position to visit the bank for making entries to his/her account; but the bank continues to deduct a maintenance and/or service charge?

Consider that the depositor is a low-rate paid worker, or is a low-rate paid pensioner with the intent to have the savings build up for an ‘emergency’ purpose; then past a few years, wouldn’t the bank cause the depletion on the account to a negligible amount?

The reality also is that banks lend our monies at high interest rates and share the returns at low interest rates on our savings. Wouldn’t cause mental disorder?

Further to the ‘freedom’ enjoyed, the banks in Grenada possess political asset and pursue market monopoly by means of its great liquidity and currency.

More lessons should be derived from the article, “Banking Scams How Banks Are Legally Stealing Your Money And What You Can Do About It”, on the website Good Financial Cents.

Philip Tirone writes: “Whether you want to hear it or not, the truth is that the banks are in bed with the government and although the government tells the banks to “treat people fairly,” they continue to steal your money, while greedily taking money from you (via the government and your tax dollars) at the same time.”

Any real recourse?

J.K Roberts