After years of complaints about the limited banking services in the Caribbean Netherlands, obstacles are being removed so residents and entrepreneurs of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can open a bank account in euros at a Dutch commercial bank.
Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra stated in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday that he had decided to prepare an adaptation to the Regulation on Financial Markets for the Caribbean Netherlands which will allow banks in the Netherlands to offer euro current accounts (“eurobetaalrekeningen”) on the three islands.
Aside from the current legal restrictions, which so far have kept commercial banks in the Netherlands from offering bank account services in the Caribbean Netherlands, there are also some practical obstacles for the Dutch banks.
These obstacles, the banks have indicated in talks with the Finance Ministry, mostly have to do with the geographical distance between the Netherlands and the islands. The banks, for example, consider the actual identification of clients as an obstacle.
Minister Hoekstra said he was in consultation with the banks to talk about the obstacles and how to address these. The minister didn’t expect many Dutch banks to become active on the Caribbean Netherlands market. He spoke of a “limited effect.” The US dollar is the official currency in the Caribbean Netherlands.
Having a euro current bank account makes only payments between the islands and the Netherlands easier.
The Second Chamber is concerned about the limited banking services, especially in St. Eustatius and Saba. Members of Parliament (MPs) have voiced these concerns multiple times and have more than once asked the Finance Minister to keep Parliament abreast of the developments and where possible, to make improvements for the islands’ residents. In a previous letter, the minister, based on an assessment, concluded that banking services in the Caribbean Netherlands were under pressure due to the small scale and the insular character, especially in St. Eustatius and Saba. Another conclusion was that the electronic payment traffic in the Caribbean Netherlands and between the islands and the Netherlands didn’t function properly. “These signals have resulted in a further assessing of the current level of banking services in the Caribbean Netherlands and whether additional measures are needed,” stated Hoekstra, who remarked that the assessment in the past months was carried out together with his colleague Ministers of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations and of Economic Affairs and Climate.
A particular point of interest of the Second Chamber and the minister is the possibility of Internet banking on the islands. Internet banking has the potential to increase the convenience for consumers and to decrease the cost for banks, noted the minister.
“It is encouraging to note that the sector has taken a big step forward. Banks on all three islands are offering the possibility of Internet banking,” stated Hoekstra, who added that the cost of Internet banking didn’t “substantially deviate” from the cost in the Netherlands.
According to the minister, the banking services offered in the Caribbean Netherlands are currently at a “stable minimum level.” He promised that, together with the financial supervisory entities, he would remain alert to the possibilities of improving banking services on the islands.
The Daily Herald