My Jamaican grandfather was a very wise man and he once told me that because justice is almost blind, it can only see with its green eyeglasses. I figure that here in Cayman this is the reason why in civil or criminal court the weight of expenses prevents us from gaining the feeling of living in civilized society. Here our civil court is the house of the rich and our criminal court the mansion of the poor. We get injured in the workplace but cannot get compensation because of the fees of the civil court and lawyers, or let me be blunt and say the feudal mannerisms of the expat aristocracy. So we dismiss our thirst for criminal justice and ignore our hunger for commercial compensation and if that was not bad enough, when we turn to our banks we get our hearts ripped open by high interest rates and a lack of empathy.
A few days ago I attempted to gain an audience with my bank manager after I found out, to my surprise, disappointment and annoyance that not only had one of his tellers misunderstood by direction to transfer CI$1,500 from my private account to a business account but by orders from the top, my overdraft facility of $2,000 was stopped or not renewed. I tried my frustrated best to have the $1,500 transferred back to the intended account, but I was told that more important persons within the organisation would have to make the decision as to whether or not this was possible. While trying to sort out this unfortunate error, my son was left to wander around his school as he waited for his father, who did not appear on time, to collect him and upon convincing himself I would not show made his own way along with a friend to his swimming practice.
It is quite obvious that if I had $2,700 in cash and wanted to deposit $1,500 in my personal account that I would not have deposited $2,700 in the said business account and then immediately instruct the teller to transfer $1,500 of that $2,700 to my personal account. I am asking you to assist me in understanding why my bank would refuse me this overdraft facility, especially in times like these. I also ask you to imagine what might have been the considerations for the customer if my same bank manager had been in his own country dealing with his own people. I have been told over and over again that my bank is a local bank, so why then is every small decision that will impact small Caymanian customers decided overseas by persons who I assume have no idea of the severity of our struggle in these depressing economic times.
If it appears that I am upset and angry and that anger does not solve my problem then I must admit that when it comes to the state of the oppression of the Caymanian folk by banks and other economic institutions owned and controlled by foreigners, I am more than upset! I am in fact like many others, damn right angry. You may say that our present position is of our own design and making but I must dispute this line of reasoning. I think that as Caymanians we now find our miracle turning into our nightmare because of the well-established culture of excluding Caymanians from the most important decision making roles in our financial institutions. From what I can see of my bank, Caymanians no longer hold any real power in decision making and it is clear that my bank would replace every Caymanian in senior positions with outsiders if government would allow my bank to do so.
This might sound outright hostile but I think it is good for me to view my situation as not being just my hell; but that of many of our citizens. Certainly when the Cayman government loans money to persons like myself to help save their homes and the bank profits generosity but does very little itself to show the same concern for the economic well-being of this country and its citizens, this tells us that had we been owners of our own economic institutions we would be able to help keep our economy alive by assisting with the flow of money into the economy.
It might be that you can blame me for now having a home, which is in fact my bank’s home, that I can in these serious times no longer afford and like many I cannot dispose of this property as I would like to do. God knows that I now wish I could find some kind of sale rather than protect my bank’s assets while unable to service many of my needs and pay to educate Joshua.
But can I assure my bank and your bank that the days when Caymanians would not question the unjustness of bankers, lawyers and accountants is history. Banks in the Caymanian Islands have always loaned money to Caymanians at a much higher cost than their own citizens in their home countries; and yet we are a tax free jurisdiction that allowed banks to make millions daily by lending here and abroad. With this combined advantage one would have thought that there would be some consideration for Caymanians, especially when our legal, judicial and physical infrastructure had to be advanced to make this all possible; not to forget of course how even during my term as a minister between 2001 and 2005 the CI government paid millions and millions to my bank, which is registered here in the Cayman Islands as a local company. And I am sure that if I was to take a closer look I would also find that my bank as well as other foreign controlled corporations provided almost ideal socio-economic opportunities for persons from their homelands while we are yet to figure out why we could have had a few Caymanian bank managers before and none today.
I suggest that this state of affairs we all find ourselves trying to dig out off was partly caused by the policies and politics of financial institutions that preferred to lend Caymanians money to buy cars, homes and rental apartments rather than money to invest in small enterprises which might have led to the diversification of our economy and a stronger more independent country.