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PM Dickon Mitchell addresses the issue of delinking

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell – not happy with the pressure on banks in the region from outside forces

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dickon Mitchell has launched a scathing attack on those powerful forces in North America and Europe who are pressuring banks from Grenada and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean to conform to their rules or face punishment.

The Prime Minister made the remarks at a government-organised Town Hall meeting in response to a complaint made by a female participant about the limited opening hours to the public by local commercial banks and calls for them to provide longer hours to serve the public.

PM Dickon Mitchell said that external factors are making it extremely difficult for banks to operate and provide services to the island, including locals who want to open a bank account.

He accused these local financial institutions of being “over zealot” in their desire “to comply with rules that are imposed on us by Americans and Europeans when it comes to our banking sector.”

“That’s the truth,” he said.

According to PM Dickon Mitchell, all of these hindrances such as compliance and the over-compliance, as well as requirement to provide ID’s, and reference letters to approach a bank to do business are “rules that are imposed upon us by organisations in North America and Europe.”

He said these powerful forces are claiming that they “are trying to prevent money-laundering, anti-terrorism financing among other things.”

He noted that in North America including Canada a person can open a bank account within a matter of five minutes.

“That’s the challenge we face and I make no apology for it – a lot of the time these rules are under-pinned by a clear North-South divide and the bulk of the people who live in the South look like me and you (Black) and the bulk of the people who live in the North they don’t look like us.”

“So that is part of the challenge – this is the situation in every OECS territory (and) in most Caribbean islands. They have deliberately tried to brand us as high risk financial destinations and make it very difficult for our own people to (do business in the) bank.”

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell pointed out that there are significant numbers of people in the region who do not have a bank account because these financial institutions have made it impossible for them to open one.

He cited the case of fishermen who are easily locked out of the banking sector.

He said: “So if you are a fisherman in Gouyave and you live in your mother’s home and you go out to fish and you come back, they want proof of where you live. Well, it’s your mother’s house so the water bill, electricity bill is in her name so what proof would you have?”

“And what that means is that it leaves you out of the banking system so you just spend the money, you have no savings, you have no credit history, you can’t get a loan, you can’t get a mortgage,” he added.

The Grenadian leader indicated that the citizens of the Caribbean need to understand these things and be prepared “to support our governments” in the struggle against these outside forces.

“Our universities must be prepared to talk about these things because banks face what we call de-risking.”

“Most transactions are carried out in US dollars which means that you must have a relationship with a US bank in order to send and receive foreign monies and they are threatening to not allow our banks to have relations with foreign US banks.”

“And if that happens it basically means that you are locked out of the international financial system. So those are issues that we face which sometimes threaten our actual livelihood – sometimes you don’t understand why you are being put through – it’s kind of dominance that unfortunately we have to put up with from the Europeans and the Americans in the name of all kinds of stuff.”

“There is more terrorism financing, more money laundering, more drug running in those places than in any other place in the world – that’s the truth.”

According to PM Dickon Mitchell, Grenadians need to understand the problem but also be prepared to stand up and fight, as a negative effect is that pressure is being put on nationals in the diaspora to send bank remittances at home.

He said the issue has taken on the effect of making an individual “feel like a criminal at times when you go to the banks” as all kinds of rules are “imposed upon us.”

This, he added, is the reality of the situation facing the banks that are indigenous or regionally owned.

“We have to understand that, we have to talk about those things, we have to push back. We have to use our lobbying power in Washington and New York and so on so that people understand that we are at risk because of all of these rules that are imposed upon us from outside of the region.”

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