The Jamaican Consulate will host a public meeting Tuesday evening to address concerns over sending remittances, and the difficulties faced by people without bank accounts in converting Cayman dollars to U.S. currency to send money through the cash transfer services.
Jamaican Vice Consul Elaine Harris said, “This is an issue facing a large segment of the community,” not just Jamaican nationals. She said the meeting, at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall in George Town, is open to the public and she expects representatives from JN Money Services, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association and Councilor Roy McTaggart from the Financial Services Ministry to be on hand to explain the current situation and answer questions.
“Government recognizes the seriousness of this,” she said, adding that the meeting “could help correct some misinformation” in the community about the money transfer issues. She said there were some “conspiracy theories” about the U.S. currency shortage caused by a lack of information, including a theory that the money transfer problems are targeted at specific nationalities.
In recent weeks, banks, facing a shortage of U.S. cash, began exchanging Cayman dollars for U.S. currency only for account holders, and other banks are charging steep fees for people without bank accounts. CIBC FirstCaribbean, for example, is charging CI$50 to exchange up to US$500.
In late August, cash transfer companies like MoneyGram and JN Money Services began to allow transfers only in U.S. currency after they lost their local bank account. The companies had to start shipping the cash directly to the United States to get it into the global banking system, causing a shortage in U.S. dollars in Cayman.
Last year, people in Cayman sent almost US$180 million off island through cash transfer companies. Jamaican workers here sent about US$110 million back home last year. The second largest recipient of remittances was the Philippines, which received almost US$24 million. If remittance levels stayed the same during the U.S. cash crunch, that would account for roughly $15 million in U.S. cash going out each month.
Workers already have to pay about 9 percent to send money overseas through a cash transfer, and with the fees for people without bank accounts, it can cost more than US$110 to send US$500.
Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, in an earlier interview, stressed that the shortage will be temporary. He said his ministry is working with the banks and money transfer services to find a long-term solution.
The head of the police service’s Financial Crime Unit will also be on hand Tuesday evening, according to police spokeswoman Jacqueline Carpenter. She said the current cash situation increases the risk for people who do not have bank accounts, with robbers potentially targeting people who have to hold onto their cash.
She said the potential for black market money exchanges increases the risk of counterfeiting in both U.S. and Cayman currency.
Ms. Carpenter said the police service has not received any complaints about illegal money exchange operations.