MONTEGO BAY – Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, has highlighted a need for regional financial institutions to adjust their policies and programmes to address the specific requirements of the local population.
The Prime Minister was addressing the 39th Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Caribbean Association of Banks Inc. at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St. James, on November 15.
Mrs. Simpson Miller acknowledged that there were certain non-negotiables related to the fiduciary responsibilities of the financial institutions, noting that increasingly, the regulatory requirements would apply internationally when for example, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), passed into law in the United States (US) in 2010, comes into effect in January next year.
She stated however, that "if our indigenous institutions are deserving of special emphasis and attention, there is a greater need for them to recalibrate their policies and programmes to address the specific need of our population".
The Prime Minister pointed to the fact that a significant percentage of the working population throughout the region lies outside the formal tax system. In Jamaica, this percentage is estimated to be in excess of a third.
She said that even as the government strives to bring such persons 'into the fold', there was a need for the indigenous financial institutions to design programmes which would incorporate such workers and business people into the formal economy.
"To do this will demand innovative, and if I may say so, non-traditional methods. However, we simply cannot pretend that we are North America and Europe. To be relevant, we need to design programmes which will maximize the involvement of the vast majority of our people into the formal activities of our countries," Mrs. Simpson Miller said.
Mrs. Simpson Miller further pointed out that the passage of Hurricane Sandy has once again brought home the absolute need for some form of national insurance "to address the need for resources for the reconstruction efforts".
"The simple fact is that whilst in the USA, perhaps 90 per cent of persons who suffer losses following a natural disaster, have some formal insurance, in our case the tragic fact is that the majority of persons who have suffered damage, have no such insurance," she said.
She called on the indigenous financial institutions to "apply their minds at both the regional and national levels to the development of insurance schemes which can assist those of your clients who presently have no such formal link with the existing financial institutions".
She pledged the government's willingness to collaborate with private sector institutions in exploring the possibilities of setting up such a scheme.