A prospective remigrant and I were discussing his return to Guyana. He was concerned about his social security check which is his sole source of income.
Social security payments are based on the amount of one’s earnings in the United States, and one’s entitlement starts usually at age 65. This gentleman preferred to have electronic payments in Guyana as obtained in the United States. It was a revelation to learn that Guyana is the only country in the Caribbean that does not have the facility for electronic deposits. Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and the smaller islands do. Why not Guyana?
Guyana must have an agreement with the United States to permit these deposits. However, there is none in place. Is it that the country does not have the necessary technical capacity? Cheques may be mailed based on an existing agreement between the two countries. What if the cheque is lost or stolen? A replacement may take several weeks, if not months. For a retiree such a delay could have crippling effect on his life.
An electronic deposit is fast and reliable. It also allows the recipient to avoid cheque clearing fees and reduces currency conversion fees. With half of Guyana’s population living overseas, and many being seniors, it is difficult to understand the absence of this facility in the banking system.
Moreover, housing developers are building retirement communities for seniors from abroad. It would be most helpful if these returning residents had an assured way of receiving their benefits.
If the country intends to attract seniors, it must have the requisite financial architecture to safeguard their money. The success of Jamaica and Barbados in this regard is due in no small part to having an enabling financial system.
Indeed, electronic deposits generally result in the recipient leaving more money in his account than if he were cashing a cheque. Banks therefore will benefit in terms of gross deposits.
This financial gap has existed for some time. It is thus unfair to blame the coalition government which has performed admirably in the face of several political and security challenges. And it has commendably begun to move the country to a sounder use of technology.
Through a partnership between the banking sector and government, it is highly desirable that the necessary steps be taken to allow the use of these deposits by Guyanese who wish to spend their golden years in their country of birth.