Revised POCA to be tabled this month

Amendments to ease onerous requirements for MSME opening bank accounts

BY DURRANT PATE
Observer business reporter

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

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Amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) to remove the onerous Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements for small businesses opening bank accounts will be tabled in Parliament as soon as this month.

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, who made the announcement yesterday, declared that this should be good news for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, which has been complaining bitterly about the burdensome requirements for opening banking accounts and accessing loans from commercial banks.

His announcement comes days after co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Keith Duncan said the Government is moving to change aspects of POCA to ease pressure on small businesses accessing loans.

MSMEs represent more than 50 per cent of the economy but receive only 10 per cent of loans from banks. Speaking at an EPOC media briefing on Friday, Duncan called for Cabinet to quickly change the law so banks can implement a new structure at the start of the new year.

Yesterday Minister Clarke answered that call, declaring that arising from the proposed amendments, “low-risk persons will have easier access to financial services”.

Giving the keynote address at the Jamaica Institute of Financial Services and Jamaica Bankers' Association's 8th annual Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT) Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel, Dr Clarke said, “POCA and its accompanying regulations are being amended to provide for simplifying the due diligence measures and measures for dealing with high-risk countries in a risk-based approach to supervision among other things.”

MEASURE WILL BROADEN AND DEEPEN FINANCIAL ACCESS

He explained that simplifying due diligence is a very important element of the Government's aim to improve, broaden and deepen financial access. He further explained, “With simplifying due diligence some of the more onerous documentary requirement for accessing financial services should be lessened and thus bring more persons in the formal financial sector.”

The finance minister identified one of the major complaints from the “unbanked” as the procedure that one has to fulfil in order to open a bank account, which poses a high burden and a high barrier to entry.

Dr Clarke argued that with the amendments “people with low risk should find it easier to open, operate and maintain bank accounts; that, I think, is good news”.

TERRORISM PREVENTION ACT

He said the Terrorist Prevention Act and its accompanying regulations are also being amended to deal with targeted financial sanctions such as the freezing of assets and the procedures for listing people deemed to be terrorists. Dr Clarke noted that while this amendment will not be tabled by him but the relevant minister, this amendment should also be tabled this month.

He concluded that these two proposed amendments will bring Jamaica's laws in compliance with international treaty requirements to strengthen the country's AML/CFT framework. The theme of this year's AML/CFT conference is “Compliance: Navigating the Digital Landscape”.

The two-day conference, which ends today, targets anti-money laundering and compliance professionals, members of the legislative community, regulators, auditors, as well as members of the gaming and real estate business.

The conference provides participants with sound and practical strategies to effectively safeguard clients, institutions and the country in general from money laundering and terrorism financing efforts, while maintainimg internationally accepted standards

Online and local participants have benefited from presentations from local and international experts on issues such as Bribery, Corruption and the Link to Money, Laundering, The Role of Compliance in Advancing Business Strategy, Terrorist Financing and Sanctions and the Impact of Digitisation on the Regulatory Environment.


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