PUBLIC Administration Minister Allyson West and Independent Senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh weighed some pros and cons of electronic cheque processing in their respective contributions to debate on the Bills of Exchange (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in the Senate on Tuesday.
West told senators that in 2015, an estimated $8.9 million in cheques was generated in Trinidad and Tobago. That number declined to $7.1 million in cheques in 2019.
She explained that commercial banks currently process their cheques manually and it is a significant aspect of their daily operations. West disagreed with earlier claims from Opposition Senator Wade Mark that a move towards electronic processing of cheques meant the system of processing cheques was obsolete.
She supported earlier statements made by Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning abouit greater efficiency through the implementation of an electronic cheque clearing system.
"It is not the end of the road. It is a step along the way."
Infolink Services Ltd (a joint venture company involving First Citizens Bank, RBC, Republic Bank and Scotiabank) will launch an electronic cheque clearing system in August.
West said the banks will have a public education programme about the new system. She added that cheques will be standardised in line with that system. "The amended cheque format will be mandatory."
Deyalsingh accepted the point that this could improve the ease of doing business where commercial banks were concerned. He also acknowledged that technological improvements were necessary as a result of the covid19 pandemic.
But he wondered if such improvements could affect employment of personnel at banks. Deyalsingh also wondered if the system proposed by the bill would see ordinary people getting money faster through the processing of cheques.
He suggested banks improve on site facilities such as toilets to cater for lower income customers to come to banks to cash their cheques.
The Senate passed the bill.