Passage of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill is about supporting the people of T&T, according to Nigel Baptiste, CEO of Republic Financial Holdings Limited.
“Play the party politics somewhere else. Let’s not play games with the country,” Baptiste, who is also head of the Bankers’ Association of T&T (BATT), said in an interview on CNC3’s Business Watch on Wednesday night.
He said local banks are under severe pressure and risk losing correspondent banking relationships because of delays with the implementation of the legislation. He said correspondent banks “don’t want to deal with people who are suspect” as they face huge risk by facilitating transactions with T&T. If suspicious activity goes through their system, they will incur various large fines, he added.
Baptiste said if T&T does not meet the new standards of banking the implications can be dire. He gave the example of paying tuition fees; if the new standard is not implemented, people will have to take a flight to pay their tuition internationally as no local bank will be able to facilitate the transaction.
Another possible penalty of the Bill is not passed is the loss of access to infrastructure for online services, he warned.
On RFHL’s planned acquisition of Scotiabank’s banking operations in nine Caribbean countries, Baptiste said in terms of that transaction the issue of scale needs to be understood. He said the total assets being sold by Scotiabank is $2.5 billion, which is 20 per cent of RFHL’s market value.
He said RFHL’s “combination of products and services will help us to do a little better than Scotia.”
Addressing concerns about retrenchment in Guyana, he said: “We will be taking all the employees.”
In response to the regulatory issues raised by officials in Guyana and Antigua, Baptiste said they “will see the value proposition that is being created.”
Baptiste said the advantages of the RFHL acquisition will include the local touch, the timeliness of the bank’s approval process, their ability to take more risks at the individual and corporate levels and their ability to facilitate trade within the region.