The Bahamas should band together with its regional counterparts to protect the regional banking system against “what appears to be the inclination of Canadian banks to diminish their presence in the Caribbean after years and years of billions in profits”.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, who is also the shadow minister of finance, said the acquisition of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Limited by Colombian GNB Financial Group Limited raises the question of whether regional regulators ought to unite and ensure that loyal regional players be given the first opportunity to acquire Caribbean-based banks and portfolios.
“If we continue to allow outside players to determine the fate of our local banking systems, without the opportunity to chart our destiny, then we might as well have remained colonies. As I repeatedly point out, Bahamians have taken control of the insurance sector. Control of the banking sector is achievable as well,” Copper said.
“I lament that we as Bahamians do not band together to prevent this. Will Bahamians now have to wait for loan approvals from Colombia? It makes no sense. At the very least, we should have sought consultation with our Caribbean counterparts to see how best to marshal our resources and keep this wealth and these banks within CARICOM.”
Cooper said this would have been the prime occasion for CARICOM to assert itself in supporting regional banks.
“I have long bemoaned, inside this place and in other venues, the unfair and inefficient practices of what many local banks are engaged in; including fees, delays, holding checks for inordinate periods, notwithstanding the ACH (automatic clearing house),” he said.
“We note that Canadian banks that have been here for decades with multiple outlets, with massive books of Bahamian loans, they have been shutting down branches, leaving our Family Islands unbanked and levying fees that cripple consumers. Where is the love? Where is the loyalty? The minister of labor had promised to look into it, but nothing has come of it. Now, we hear of another troubling indicator from a large local bank, primarily owned by Canadians.”
“In November, CIBC announced that it had reached an agreement with GNB for the Colombian financial group to purchase 66.73 percent of CIBC FirstCaribbean’s shares, a transaction which is still subject to regulatory approval from local regulators; and that CIBC will continue to hold a 24.9 percent stake of its Caribbean arm.”