Dorian’s destruction has exposed the necessity for reducing cash reliance in The Bahamas, Chief Financial Officer of Fidelity Bank and Trust Gowon Bowe said yesterday.
Bowe, who is also the immediate past chairman of the Clearing Banks Association, said while banking services never stopped for any of the islands impacted by the storm, cash services took more time to get back online.
“The first thing is, which has been a misperception, banking never stopped for any of the islands. If you want to say banking in its totality, meaning that persons that have had debit cards, credit cards, persons that have online accounts and still have their mobile phones are still able to transact banking business. It’s important to say that because sometimes when persons see doors shuttered they take the perception that business has stopped in that regard. The most important message is saying that despite going through the hurricane, persons that have banking relationships still have multiple avenues to conduct business,” Bowe said.
More specifically, on Grand Bahama banks were up and running within a couple of days of the hurricane, Bowe said.
However, Bowe said, a longer term plan has to be determined for Abaco where almost all of the buildings sustained physical damage.
“The plans of all institutions are working through: one, how they restore their premises; two, what intermediate steps can be taken in relation to restoring cash services,” he said.
But despite that, Bowe dispelled the myth that there are no banking services on Abaco, sharing his own anecdote of using his credit card to rent a car when he visited the island last week.
“The reality is when we stop and look at what persons are calling banking services, are cash services. That is talking about if I have a business that is receiving cash, I have the ability to make deposits, and those are solutions the banks are looking at,” he said.
“But in the current state there is no commerce taking place, there are no real cash transactions taking place. So, we have to be a part of the national reconstruction effort to say as we restore critical services, banking and cash services has to be one of them.
“The most important element is how do we reduce the reliance on cash. We believe that in collaboration with the Central Bank and the Office of the Prime Minister, this is an opportunity to start promoting electronic [money] and the reduction of cash in the community.”