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House debate on Banking Sector Bill delayed to today

By Balford Henry, Senior Staff Reporter

Wednesday, June 04, 2014 | 1:23 PM    

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KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The House of Representatives will debate the much delayed banking Services Act, which will affect the regulation of the country's financial institutions, including the Bank of Jamaica, when it resumes today at Gordon House.

The Government had hoped to debate the bill yesterday.

But, the debate was postponed, after the Opposition raised an objection, on the basis that it was not properly laid in the House last week and that some members had not seen or received copies.

The bill, previously referred to as the omnibus banking bill, was first tabled on March 25, and was initially scheduled to be enacted by March 31, as a benchmark under Jamaica’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, it was withdrawn and re-tabled in April, with a two-month extension granted by the IMF to May 31.

A joint select committee, chaired by Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Peter Phillips, was named between April 17 and May 2, to study the legislation.

That committee held three meetings. However, Phillips withdrew the bill on May 14 from the House, noting several inaccuracies and typographical errors, which required a revision and re-tabling of the bill the same day, as well as the reconfirmation of the members of the committee. A similar exercise was carried out in the Senate on May 16.

In a furious bid to meet the May 31 deadline, Dr Phillips convened a three-day non-residential weekend retreat at the Bank of Jamaica auditorium in downtown Kingston over the weekend of May 17-19 (Friday-Sunday), with the meetings lasting up to 10:00 pm.

The report of the committee was tabled last week, but there were not enough copies of the bill to circulate to members. Some MPs, including Everald Warmington (South West St Catherine), complained yesterday, Tuesday, June 3, that they had not seen the bill up to then.

Leader of the House, Phillip Paulwell, told the Speaker that he would delay the debate for a couple hours to give the members who had not seen the bill time to read it.

However, Leader of Opposition Business, Derrick Smith, told the Speaker, Michael Peart, that Opposition was objecting to the House taking the bill yesterday, as more time was needed for the members to properly digest the contents.

Phillips accused the Opposition of “humbug”, adding that “mischief is afoot”. However, Speaker Peart insisted that Phillips withdraw the accusation that “mischief is afoot”.

“Mr Speaker with deference to you, I withdraw it. I will say, however, that there is total disregard to the point that one, with a reasonable mind, could assume that mischief is afoot. We will defer it, but it is an unreasonable request,” Phillips responded.

He said that all the requirements for the bill to be debated had been met, and questioned the motive of the Opposition.

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