Recently, several international banks were revealed publicly for handling more than two trillion dollars of illicit transactions of an unsavory nature between 1999 and 2017.

To those of us in Jamaica who follow history, some of these banks were built by ruthless and brutal men during the 1800’s, who would eventually build great personal financial fortunes on the back of exploitation, illegalities, and even murder. These were some of the “men who built America” or their own countries of origin.  

History does not however disappear and remain hidden, and no amount of political donations, bribery and corruption, or endowing Universities can erase their evil deeds. Many rose to fame on the exploitation of black Americans, and other immigrant workers were not exempt from the brutality of these powerful families including the Italians, Irish, and Chinese. What these men may have done as good, in my mind, is long interred with their bones.

It then strikes me as unjust the extent of the levels of naming and shaming that is heaped on countries like Jamaica and accompanied by threats such as not allowing us to pay our bills through some of these miscreant large international banks. Face it; corresponding banks have forced us all to adopt costly measures of Know Your Customer (KYC) and other contrived regulations, and become subject to rules accompanied by blatant threats.

Many of the large banks are able to set up facilities in offshore tax-havens where few or no rules are applied to them. This is the shadow world of suspicious transactions including money laundering; terrorism; scamming; and arms purchases. The normal audit assurance seems to have been either inefficient or compromised at very high levels, and that industry saw the demise of half of the “big eight” accounting firms. This is perhaps why the Auditor’s Report is the longest document read at an AGM in a cleverly designed way to transfer total responsibility to the management. Shaggy said: “it wasn’t me”.

Do you remember Enron; Wirenet; Tyco; and Bernie (who Madoff with the money)? These are just a few of the bigger scandals but be assured there are many lesser mortals among the stockbrokers on the large exchanges who have gone to jail.

It is high time that Jamaica and other small countries should find a safe mechanism for transactions in foreign exchange trade outside of the whims and fancies of international banks and ideological politics. It is for our own survival that we must take some action or we may find ourselves as helpless pawns in the fight between the giants.

BOJ Governor Richard Byles announced that investigations into an alternate system of currency transactions had commenced. I support that initiative wholeheartedly and recognize the need for an urgent while considered approach to making good decisions. The old advice is that: when your hand is in the lion’s mouth, withdraw carefully.

The Private Sector players need to encourage Mr. Byles and offer to assist in any way possible to choose an efficient and secure mechanism that can allow us to avoid the current situation of international trade that is dominated solely by the US dollar. Here is a chance for public/private cooperation.

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