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Brison wants clarity on local banks' role in forcing ‘Revolut’ exit from St. Maarten.

~ Says there’s no legal impediment for citizens ~

rolandobrison29112023PHILIPSBURG:--- MP Rolando Brison on Monday raised a pressing concern regarding the withdrawal of services from St. Maarten by digital bank Revolut, apparently as a consequence of actions taken by local banks. MP Brison directed his question to the Minister of Finance, seeking intervention and clarity on the matter and expressing his apprehensions about the actions of local banks and the potential hindrance to local economic diversification.

It vexed the MP that the same banks, that offer no innovation of fintech services, are now obstructing opportunities for locals and stifling economic growth. He underscored the need for a more inclusive approach from local banks, urging them to actively contribute to the growth of e-commerce rather than impeding progress.

Brison acknowledged the prerogative of companies to make decisions about their operations, stating, "That's a company decision, and I would think anyone would have to respect it." However, he delved into the matter by highlighting the grievances of local residents who were informed by Revolute that the service would no longer be available to persons with addresses in St. Maarten.

This service is incorporated as a bank in countries like the United States, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and also in Portugal, but their online banking services are available globally in any country that does not expressly forbid it by law. St. Maarten is legislatively one such country that does not legally forbid citizens from using foreign online banking, while the USA does have such restrictions. Benefits and features vary and include easy money management, travel perks, and investment opportunities.

Some users, Brison explained, in pursuit of understanding the abrupt decision, sought answers from Revolut's help desk. According to Brison, the responses indicated that commercial banks in St. Maarten had expressed complaints about Revolut, escalating the matter to the Central Bank. Allegedly, the pressure exerted on Revolut by local banks led to its decision to exit the local market.

“The same banks, that have done absolutely nothing to help our local people get into e-commerce, are now complaining about alternate services and telling them they shouldn’t be in St. Maarten. If the banks were taking the initiative to properly offer online international e-commerce for artists to use like musicians who want to sell their music online and collect it via a service like Spotify that would be one thing. But none of that is being offered,” MP Brison said, adding that this latest action by the banks once again shows the system of banking on St. Maarten has continued to ignore innovations that should come from within.

Returning to the issue on Tuesday during the Central Committee meeting, MP Brison explained that in light of our current legal framework, as outlined in Article 2 of the banking oversight ordinance, it's essential to clarify that only banks physically established in Saint Martin are required to obtain a banking license from the Central Bank. Drawing a parallel with the Business License Ordinance, which applies similar rules to physical stores operating in St. Maarten, he said it becomes evident that online entities, like Amazon, facilitating transactions for citizens in St. Maarten, do not require a specific license to operate.

The existing law, he pointed out, that dates back to 1994, does not mandate online banking services to obtain a license to operate in St. Maarten. This legal perspective, as pointed out by MP Brison to Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, is particularly crucial given the current circumstances where local banks are not offering comparable online services. Legally speaking, he stressed, there is no impediment for citizens of St. Maarten to subscribe to online banking services from external providers.

MP Brison emphasizes the importance of acknowledging this legal reality and encourages a welcoming stance towards such services. He asserts that until the time when local banks can match these offerings, there should be no obstruction to citizens utilizing these services. Brison advocates for updating legislation in line with the evolving financial landscape, ensuring a balanced approach that accommodates both the needs of the citizens and the growth of the local banking sector.

Brison argued that if there is a requirement for international banking services to obtain a license, it should be done transparently and fairly. Brison advocated for continued efforts, such as the Payment Services Act from the Central Bank, to regulate these entities and foster a conducive environment for financial innovation.

Brison further criticized local banks for their lack of initiatives in offering online international e-commerce solutions to the community. He emphasized the importance of supporting local entrepreneurs, artists, and small businesses in their efforts to engage in e-commerce and diversify the local economy.

 

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