Jamaica National still waiting for money transfer solution

Jamaica National Money Services representatives told its customers at a public meeting Tuesday that it is optimistic that it will soon be able to resume accepting Cayman currency.

The company, which provides money transfer services, has been accepting only U.S. currency since late August after the only remaining bank dealing with remittance services closed their account.

Jamaica National representatives explained the situation to about 50 customers at Tuesday evening’s public meeting at the Family Life Centre in George Town. They said the company has been working with the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority to resolve the issue.

Earl Jarrett, general manager of parent company Jamaica National Building Society, said he is hopeful a solution will be found and implemented in the next few weeks.

“We have had very meaningful discussions today [Tuesday] and over the last two weeks with CIMA and with your minister of finance and we are working on an approach,” Mr. Jarrett said. “The sense that I am getting from the discussions is that we should be able to restore Caymanian dollar transactions … it is my desire to have this done before the Christmas season.”

Mr. Jarrett encouraged customers to lobby their banks to agree to work with remittance companies, and to “keep the discussion” going.

“It has to be done; we have to return to normalcy,” he added.

The remittance crisis, which began in July when Western Union closed without warning, appeared to be coming to a close last month. On Nov. 24, the cash-transfer franchise announced it would be reopening its cash transfer windows at Foster’s Food Fair locations, using Jamaica-based GraceKennedy Remittance Services Ltd. When the Western Union counters reopened, customers had to wait in long lines for hours to send money overseas.

Speaking at the public meeting, Jamaican Honorary Consul Joseph Marzouca said he was “a little appalled” that only Western Union was able to strike a deal, especially considering that Jamaica National, which runs MoneyGram and other franchises, was the only company to continue to provide money-transfer services in the Cayman Islands over the past few months.

“[Jamaica National Money Services] bore the entire burden of our population for all these months, and I’m not quite sure what has happened,” Mr. Marzouca said. “They’ve taken a lot of blame that they’re the ones that have caused the U.S. dollar crisis. They didn’t cause anything. What they have tried to do is accommodate people.”

Jamaica National Money Services Managing Director Leesa Kow said the company has been looking for a solution for “the entire remittance industry” and that it is important that customers have a choice of service providers.

She said that while negotiations have not moved as quickly as had been hoped, the company felt “positive vibes,” and believes “we’re finally coming to a solution.”