PNP calls on JLP's MPs to 'get balls' and support amendments to control bank feesTuesday, January 25, 2022
KINGSTON, Jamaica— Member of Parliament for South St Catherine, Fitz Jackson, is pleading with his counterparts in the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) to support the amendments to the Banking Services Act, which would limit the fees that banks can charge customers for various transactions.
According to Jackson, who was speaking at a press conference Tuesday morning at the offices of the Opposition Leader, the Bill that was motioned in the House of Parliament as far back as 2013 when the People's National Party (PNP) was in government, should have been bipartisan, but has changed because of the ruling JLP.
Jackson, who sits among the current 14 PNP Members of Parliament, called on at least 18 JLP MPs to break party lines and vote for the Bill when it comes before Parliament once again, to ease the hardship that he said Jamaicans are facing because of bank fees.
He said he has had discussions with MPs from the JLP who agree with the amendments, but they have been forced by the leadership of the party, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, to go against it at the last vote in Parliament in 2018. The vote then was strictly along party lines, with the 30 JLP MPs voting against and the 29 PNP MPs voting for.
“All 14 of us on the Opposition side, stand ready to say yeah when that Bill is put to the vote. Can we get at least another 16, 18 on the other side,” Jackson asked.
“It doesn't have to be all because we are in a democracy where majority rules. Can we get some that have the balls, the courage to stand up for Jamaica? Have the fortitude to stand up for our fellow Jamaicans, particularly at this time in the pandemic,” said Jackson.
“We know of the economic hardships confronting this country. To deal with health, to deal with national security call for resources. Things are tough, notwithstanding what the Minister of Finance says, things are tough out there and those of us who are Members of Parliament and have our feet on the ground, we know things tough. Take little of the pressure off the ordinary persons,” he appealed.
According to Jackson, the Bill is not a fight against banks, which he said are needed institutions, but must be used to amend the Banking Services Act to protect banks from taking from individuals and institutions such as small and medium-sized businesses, unemployed, underemployed and pensioners.
He accused banks of shifting from their core mandate of using deposits to lend at higher interest and earn a profit, with approximately 40 per cent of the profit being presently earned, coming from fees and charges.
“What the banks have done, unilaterally, is to impose a myriad of fees to extract from their depositors. On the surface of it, small amounts, but cumulatively significant amounts and so you will find that over the last year for example over $50 billion is earned by the banks in fees.
“Fee income now becomes roughly 40 per cent of the banks' revenues, so the normal practice of banking has been transformed to the disadvantage of the depositors. So $50 billion is shifted from ordinary Jamaicans account into the pockets of these owners of these deposit-taking institutions,” he said.
Jackson said the Bill is seeking to place a cap on the fees that each depositor can be charged each year while allowing some free transactions each month. These will include deposits, withdrawals and inquiries.