FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert hoped banks might be swayed by moral suasion to ease up on the fees they charge customers to exchange $100 banknotes for the new polymer bill, he told the Senate on Friday.
Opposition Senator Taharqa Obika raised the matter in an urgent question.
Imbert said private banks can charge what they wish to do such exchanges, saying the law lets the Central Bank set only the levels of interest rates and fees for loans and credit advances, but not for transactions such as exchanging banknotes.
“This may require reflection in the future,” he said. “However ,that might be construed as interference in the commercial banking sector.”
Imbert reiterated his remarks from a briefing on Thursday.
“I have requested the banks to see if they could either relax or eliminate the standard fees they charge for deposits and for changing of notes at this point in time.”
Imbert said such fees have existed for a long time, but not all banks are charging them.
“So what we are going to use at this point in time is some sort of collaborative effort, some sort of suasion, to see if, because of the large number of transactions taking place, they can relax their fees.
“But you have to understand it is also an expense for the banks, having to deal with these transactions, so...”
In a slip of the tongue, he said, “We are in constant discussions with the banks to try and accommodate people and try and make this process as inconvenient (sic) as possible.”