ANY measure which gives TT a fighting chance when it comes to tackling corruption, improving tax collection, promoting paperless transactions, and bolstering spending is to be welcomed. With any meaningful reform, some degree of short-term inconvenience is expected. However, the introduction of the new $100 bill has raised a lamentable degree of confusion. Why is it that things must always go the way of bacchanal?
It’s not in anybody’s interest to add fuel to the panic. Citizens have a role to play in demonstrating forbearance and sticking diligently to the deadlines set out by the authorities. At the same time, we must question whether the brunt of this new measure is being borne by those who have the least to do with it.
There’s a long list of bugbears. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are still dispensing the old bill, in theory increasing the volume of notes that must be exchanged. At the same time, banks have reportedly closed-off non-teller deposits to better scrutinise what is being presented.
Supermarkets are getting more $100 bills, yet the supply of change is barely keeping up. Meanwhile, some businesses have imposed their own informal deadline when it comes to accepting the old bills because they do not want to get caught-up in a last-minute rush or risk-taking in proceeds that are one day legal tender and the next day not.
The “unbanked” who, whether for religious, ideological or whatever reason, may now find themselves in the crosshairs of a new, more stringent regime of financial regulation including declarations of sources of income. While these measures have long been in place, it’s the relatively abrupt two-week window that places pressure on people to ensure they have their paperwork in order. Some have been hoarding for years.
A question has been raised about people from the diaspora, though it must be noted that Trinis abroad are likely to remit the currency of their chosen abodes for pragmatic reasons.
Which points to the irony of the nature of this new measure. Cash is harder to track, meaning the State could only have a loose gauge of the extent of hoarding going on. At the same time, this is precisely the point of this measure: to bring finances better into view, thereby reducing the wiggle-room of those who thrive on a cash system that is largely uncountable.
This is an opportunity for the State to listen to concerns and for the banking sector to demonstrate its mettle. The need for secrecy in security matters is understandable. But to avoid further blues, and the terribly long lines, better communication and co-ordination should be the order of the day now that the cat is out of the bag.