CLARENDON, Jamaica – Residents of Frankfield in Clarendon say the absence of financial institutions in the rural community has made life difficult.
After the rationalisation of a number of commercial banks island-wide, Frankfield like many other rural towns was left with ATM machines where bank branches once occupied.
Late last year, charges were brought against Alliance Financial, which saw the closure of associated remittance and cambio services.
The popular Western Union and MoneyGram no longer operate in the town and there is just one bill payment agency.
According to Karen Carty, community advocate and People's National Party councillor caretaker for the Frankfield Division, the situation has caused hardship on the residents and businesses alike.
“There are elderly persons, who do not have anyone to conduct business on their behalf and who have to travel as far as Spalding or May Pen in the parish or Christiana in Manchester. It is a hassle for them to travel that far and with Jamaica being in the middle of a pandemic it is not safe for them,” Carty told OBSERVER ONLINE, arguing that financial institutions are needed for the town and its environs of around 12,000 residents to grow.
Banks have said that the cutting back of branches is part of their strategic digital transformation with customers able to access most services online or via the ATM. However, many of the town's residents lack digital literacy and, according to them, the ATMs are unreliable as they are more often than not out of service.
The situation is hurting businesses, according to general purpose store operator Miguel Mundle.
“We need at least one commercial bank. We are losing millions of dollars and very soon, you will see businesses closing down,” he said.
“The only people who benefit from what is happening right now are taxi and bus men,” Mundle said.
He suggested that four out of every 10 persons who utilise remittance services in Spalding are from Frankfield, arguing that when residents leave the town to collect money or do other financial transactions, they also do their shopping or utilise other services around where they conduct business.
“So if someone collect $15,000 from Western Union and they want to buy some paint they will not come back to Frankfield to purchase it, they will spend the money elsewhere,” he said.
Mundle pointed out that a commercial bank would not only provide financial services but a sense of security. He explained that due to the distance of the commercial banks, businesses over time have developed a routine when making deposits, which invites robbers.
Added to that he said the lack of road maintenance has forced persons living in the Frankfield environs to travel to as far as Christiana in Manchester.
“The roads leading into Frankfield are bad. People will leave from Peckham and go to Spalding instead of coming to Frankfield which is closer. Frankfield has bottomed out. When something bottoms out the only place left for it to go is up but Frankfield is not growing,” Mundle said.