Rushed regulations aggravated by mendicancy
The processes of laws and regulations that accompany those laws in a modern society should follow a certain identifiable logic. It is not very different to a computer program that has an objective and a flowchart is required to ensure that the sequence of events can be written in the code. Without the steps it is almost certain that the programme will fail to execute and the original objective will fail or give erroneous results.
Jamaica is part of a global system of regulations, and within that system instructions and rules are designed by others without concern for the rights of small but sovereign nations to have a say. The result is that the small nations (including Jamaica) have seemingly little choice other than compliance whether or not we have the ability to do so, or the social and cultural acceptance of those prescriptions. We have had a series of such events and I remind us all of a few of these:
1. We were instructed years ago to spray ganja with chemicals that were themselves banned in the countries of manufacture. They had no regard for carcinogenic or other environmental damage, and the health consequences that we have suffered and may continue to suffer affect even the unborn.
2. After that fiasco of dangerous directives, the developed countries are continuing to develop the huge industry that they now call medicinal cannabis, and will sell products to us (perhaps even to treat the outcomes of the carcinogens).
3. Then we had the situation of the “Ship Rider Agreement” which allowed foreign powers to interdict and search vessels in our waters without needing our permission. When we resisted we were boldly threatened with “de-listing” which would have been a death sentence to our tourism and air transportation.
I could recount previous and more recent accounts where we were duped or forced into doing things to our own citizens that developed countries could not do to their own citizens. Today the topical issue affecting individuals and corporations is regulations governing banking and money transfers, all under the guise of money laundering and terrorism. However, even in the centres of suspected terrorism (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and others) banking seems to continue.
In main area, KYC (know your customer) is a partial statement that applies to us but not to the developed nations, who cannot apply those regulations to their own clients. Allow me to explain why KYC has no literal meaning.
I have been a customer of a certain bank for 47 years and now enjoy access to private banking. I wanted to send US$600 to my daughter so that she could buy birthday presents for one son and two granddaughters. I had to go in and sign a form to say why I was sending the money.
I presume that the system requires that I tell the truth, but perhaps by next year I will have to take their birth certificates. Now they did not ask me where I got the money from as they know — because they have my money in their bank and didn't have to prove to me that they were KYC (Know Your Custodian). I guess that after four decades they can't tell some regulators at home or abroad that they know me, however, they know me enough to charge me the fees.
If I had used the alternative of a money transfer company I would have had to declare where I got the money from. (On one such occasion I wrote “prostitution” and they laughed at me and said I was too old for the world's oldest profession”). That was only for US$100 and I guess that that would be too small for even a terrorist or scammer, so I put “gardening” as my profession.
Neither payment options offers me any guarantee of the privacy of my personal information, and being open for internal and external audits exposes me to the risk of unscrupulous persons having access to the data and possible manipulation of that data. If the data is not exposed to audit, then that in itself is totally illogical. In any case the financial institutions are unwilling to offer me any indemnity for illegal disclosure.
These two examples have been dictated by authorities outside of Jamaica, and further complicated by our own rushed regulations pushed by the IMF and others with an urgency aggravated by our own mendicancy in a rush to get more loans. No government pushes back as they fear retaliation; and no banks push back because they fear retaliation; no company pushes back as they fear retaliation; no citizen pushes back as they expect victimisation.
“Poor people living in shacks, the rich a live with heart attacks” is the order of the day. Our own governments refuse to make the simple changes that would allow us to take our fingerprints once (now that we do digital fingerprinting), instead of three times to fulfil our “fit and proper” for Bank of Jamaica (BOJ); Financial Services Commission (FSC); and Charities Act. What a waste of resources while they appoint friends and political hacks to Government boards who succeed in embarrassing them. “What a bam bam.”
The hastily imposed regulations that bring the banking sector into the scrutiny and complaint zone from their own customers are the current dilemma. Every trade organisation is up in arms, and yet the Bankers' Association says nothing in the public interest lest they offend the BOJ or the political directorate. They make more money in an illogical system than they might under more competitive markets. The profit motive drives them to remain silent and act in inimical ways to their customers.
This makes the quest for alternatives to current banking and correspondent banking threats all the more important for us the “regulation takers” to embrace alternative international payment options. While this may be an inevitable route for us, it is not easily regulated. Therefore by being illogical in the myriad current regulations they may be unwittingly creating a digital environment that may more readily facilitate terrorists and other criminals.
It is high time that we offer our strong objections and logical recommendations to the agencies in places like Switzerland and New York who stay in their high towers of power and make it difficult for our people to be properly banked. They are not at all interested in the fact that the inability to access funding is part of the genesis of the phenomena we live with called crime.
Shots are fired in Jamaica tonight by the disenfranchised who have descended to the depths of depravity, while they are safe in their security-protected offices and homes. They cope with chateaubriand and champagne; we cope with gunfire and garbage. What donkey seh: “The world no level”
— Reprinted from the current edition of online journal Public Opinion