President of the Association of Banks and Financial Institutions in Dominica, Aylmer Irish, has outlined measures that are being taken by its member-institutions to support customers.
Irish said the initiative is a joint approach which has been adopted by the Association of Banks and Financial Institutions in collaboration with The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), address the economic and social consequences of COVID-19 on individuals and businesses across the region.
According to Irish, the support programme, which is to be implemented by all member financial institutions in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), will facilitate loan moratoriums or deferments, for an initial period, and a waiver of fees and charges for customers.
He said each institution is responsible for creating its own package of assistance for their clients.
“With respect to the National Bank of Dominica (NBD), a moratorium on principal and interest repayment for all interested loan customers for a period of six months. Business customers are encouraged to talk to the bank regarding cash flow support or other financial needs,” Irish disclosed and added that a waiver of late fees is included in the NBD package on all loans as well as late and over-limit fees on credit cards for up to six months commencing on April 1st.
He continued, “With respect to the Republic Bank, a moratorium on all loans, including mortgages and help loans for up to 6 months will be automatically made available upon request. There will be debt restructuring and a temporary increase in overdraft and credit cards.”
Irish noted that late fees or loan payments will also be waived at the Republic Bank and there will be no penalty on withdrawals of certificates of deposit.
With regard to the CIBC First Caribbean, he said special assistance will be given on a case-by-case basis to include deferred payments and special loan financing.
Irish also mentioned that there will be a three-month deferral on credit facilities at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) from March 17th to June 30th adding that businesses and corporate clients are eligible for relief programs following an individual assessment.
“In terms of the National Cooperative Credit Union (NCCU), it was or is the policy that a member can be allowed on a case-by-case basis up to twelve months deferment but specific to COVID this time of the year, members are allowed up to a maximum of three months deferment on all loans,” he stated.
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These measure by the Financial institutions are “every day” measures that institutions resort to when a member, client, borrower have problems meeting their payment schedule. In the case of the Credit Union, some member might face difficulties meeting his loan payment obligations because he/she might have lost a job; become disabled because of an accident etc. In another case a business might be experiencing severe cash flow that prevents it from meeting its obligations. The measures announced so far are what the institutions do on a very regular basis. Normal business. Payments are deferred to a later date only to realize that the 90 days interests are merely compounded. So the institution has not lost anything. Really!
Covid 19 pandemic demands a rethinking of the measures to assist borrowers and creditors get back into business. Deferring payment with the consequence of only compounded interest, a short 90 days down the road is woefully unsatisfactory. Much better can be done.