Mark hits ‘dinosaur’ bill in Senate


Opposition Senator Wade Mark. –

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark dubbed a bill to facilitate interbank electronic cheques as a “dinosaur bill” for not going far enough to move financial transactions into the modern age.

He spoke on Tuesday in the Senate in debate on the Bills of Exchange Bill 2022. He said the bill implements an electronic clearing system for cheques, to improve on the 4-7 days to credit an account as now obtains.

Saying the bill’s parent act was 130-years-old and was last reformed 40 years ago, he said the country was “extremely behind” in modernising and reforming the State, especially its financial aspects.

He sought a status report on some US$40 million allocated in 2017 to establish an electronic payment system and lamented the sight of thousands of pensioners queueing up in the sun or rain to cash cheques at the Treasury.

Mark said modern technology should now allow for these elderly citizens to be issued debit cards from which their pensions could be paid.

Mark said under the bill, which was later passed by simple majority, one still had to present a physical cheque to one’s bank. “This is a dinosaur approach,” he fumed. “This will not bring about any modernisation of the banking system.

He said online banking was now a reality in TT, noting that private companies may pay their workers by electronic means rather than by issuing physical cheques.

Mark challenged aspects of the bill, such as urging its regulations be subject to an affirmative resolution of Parliament.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert later said negative resolution was usually used for the technical aspects of bills, while affirmative was used for issues of policy.

Mark said the use of physical cheques was declining everywhere yet this Government was now bringing this bill to ensure the usage, but Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning rose to say Mark’s claim was the opposite of what the bill intended.

Independent Senator Anthony Vieira, in his contribution, acknowledged Mark’s issue with pensioners having to queue at length, but added, “the bill is a step in the right direction.”

Vieira said he shared Mark’s call for a suite of new legislation, such as to regulate cyber crime and crypto currencies and enhance data protection. However, he urged the inclusion in new financial measures of the aged, the computer-challenged and the unbanked.

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