Editorial: Commercial banks & SDIs must operate within professional guidelines

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BoG cautions public against fraudulent “Worldremit” money doubling scheme

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has noted with concern a trend where some banks and Specialised Deposit-Taking Institutions (SDIs) impose certain unfair fees and charges on customers, which serves as a disincentive to financial inclusion.

These nuisance fees and charges include: credit insurance premium overcharges; maintenance fees on savings accounts; over the counter (OTC) withdrawal charges; as well as change of ownership of collateral documents; application of interest on penal charges; quotation of monthly interest rates on credit facilities; and third-party deposit/withdrawal violations.

For instance, some banks and SDIs impose penal charges on customers who withdraw their own funds from their banking halls, in order to encourage customers to use digital platforms – although these platforms are not free.

This, the central bank says, deters some customers – especially those who are averse to the use of digital platforms – from opening and operating accounts; thereby negatively affecting the financial inclusion drive of the central bank.

Banks and SDIs have also been barred from engaging in the practice of changing ownership of collaterals presented by borrowers to secure credit facilities from the borrower to the bank or SDI.

Furthermore, banks and SDIs are directed to desist from the quotation of monthly interest rates on all credit facilities and associated fees, which is contrary to section 55 (2) of the Borrowers and Lenders Act, 2020 (Act 1052).

The lack of compliance with the requirement for banks and SDIs is a worrying development in the banking landscape and bank customers would indeed be grateful to the central bank for stepping in promptly, and ensuring this growing sub-culture in the sector does not become the norm.

The BoG, as the regulator of the banking sector, is committed to the broader vision of financial inclusion and consequently would not countenance any move that negates the gains of its financial literacy programmes geared toward promoting personal savings.

Banking supervision must not relent, particularly as the banking landscape recently experienced a costly cleanup. Those gains must be assured and imposes a heavy responsibility on the BoG to be up and doing.

So far, we are increasingly witnessing a more proactive stance from the regulator which is a good sign and indicates the country’s finances are in safe hands. As we improve the business environment in the country, the banks should be willing partners in the vision of greater financial inclusion.

 

Fisheries Commission must address this anomaly

The unavailability of a research vessel in the country to conduct examinations on the behaviour of the country’s fish species, particularly in closed-seasons is perturbing fisher associations.

The associations comprise the National Fisheries Association of Ghana, the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association and the Ghana Inshore Fishers Association.

Globally, fisheries research vessels are used to survey and monitor fish populations in the world’s oceans. Such expeditions help scientists understand the status and development of fish stocks, and also define measures for their protection.

President of the Ghana Inshore Fishers Association, Joseph Quaye stated that research vessel monitors all activities in the ocean including water temperature and conditions of phytoplankton, which serves as food for the fish.

Ghana has been without a fisheries research vessel for the past 15 years and is quite disconcerting when there is a Fisheries Commission in place as the implementing agency of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD).

The Commission is responsible for all monitoring, control, surveillance, evaluation, and compliance functions in all areas of fisheries development and management in Ghana, including fish health, post-harvest activities, safety, and quality assurance.

Among the functions of the Commission is to provide valuable feedback to MoFAD to inform future policies. Well, if the need for a research vessel has escaped the Commission, this is the perfect opportunity to rectify that anamoly.

In fact, industry stakeholders are of the strong view that the absence of this vital resource is contributing significantly to Ghana’s depleting fish stock and worsening the illegal fishing burden confronting the country.

In 2017, government hinted at plans to acquire a research vessel to probe Ghana’s territorial waters in order to discover the number of fish species. However, till date, Ghana does not have any such advanced research vessel.

Director of the Regional Maritime Centre, Professor George Wiafe, confirmed that the current research vessel at the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture became unworthy for sea since 1995.

Mrs. Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development says government is at advanced stage of procuring a modern, sophisticated fisheries research vessel. That should send a sigh of relief to the fisher associations.

She gave the assurance recently when announcing the 2021 fishing closed-season in Accra together with four patrol boats to enhance monitoring, control and surveillance activities in Ghana’s marine waters.

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