By Llonella Gilbert
NASSAU, Bahamas — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Peter K. Turnquest tabled the Travelers Currency Declaration (Amendment) Bill 2018 in the House of Assembly today.
DPM Turnquest explained that the Amended Bill seeks to tackle several issues by stating clearly what travelers must declare to Customs officials in The Bahamas.
An updated Customs Form will reflect the changes to be made, which includes declarations for currency or other negotiable instruments or precious metals or precious stones. Items not declared will either be detained or forfeited as items not declared.
However, the property cannot be detained for more than 72 hours after seizure unless a magistrate orders its continued detention for a period not exceeding three months from the date of the original detention or seizure.
The DPM also defended this present Government Administration’s handling of the Financial Services Industry particularly the domestic banking sector in particular of bank closures.
“What we see today is the continuation of a trend that has been happening now for several years. Unfortunately, it is a global trend as more and more banks because of the availability of technology, are taking advantage of that technology to reduce their costs.
“Reducing their costs unfortunately means that some of them are moving to an electronic banking platform, requiring less brick and mortar locations, and as a result less bodies.”
He said the Bahamian people have not been prepared to benefit or to adapt to the new technology and new reality; and this Government has been trying to take advantage of new technology through the Commercial Enterprises Bill, the efforts being taken in Grand Bahama to create a tech hub, and the promotional tour that the Prime Minister is on in Austin, Texas trying to develop interests in The Bahamas as a tech hub.
“Although we are late, we are trying to help our people are adapt to this new reality — even as we talk about Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and how they are going to affect the way we do business, how monetary policy is determined and controlled.”
DPM Turnquest also explained that the Government does not control the closure or consolidation of banks, but it is preparing and putting in place strategic plans on how it is going to address the evolution of the banking system.
“I do not want to get ahead of the Prime Minister (Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis) as to what are the plans for the domestic financial industry and how we intend to make provision for these communities that have all of a sudden become unbanked.
“We want to extend our reach into communities that have been under-served or not served for years and how we need to rationalise the web shop phenomena and these electronic payments and again all of the crpytocurrencies that are popping up. You will hear more about those kinds of things and how we intend to address them from a technological point of view and a future vision point of view.”
He said that in Bimini, the Government encouraged the Bank of The Bahamas to open there as well as Exuma. The Government also encouraged another Bahamian bank to go into Spanish Wells.
“We are doing the best that we can, but we do recognise that is not necessarily the best and the most financially wise approach, because it does [require] additional costs, and in a lot of these communities the cost of business outweighs the benefit.
“But we have to understand that we have a moral obligation also. So we will continue to do the best that we can for these under-served communities to the extent where we can encourage the Board of the Bank of The Bahamas to look at these communities to see whether they can justify establishing branches in either part-time or off-days, or whether full-time,” the DPM said.