Opposition Leader Julian Fraser has insisted that the government consider a loan cancellation initiative to the National Bank of the Virgin Islands (NBVI).
Fraser asked Prime Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley in the House of Assembly (HOA) if the government would consider any form of interest remission program accrued on loans made by the bank during the COVID-19 period.
In response, Dr Wheatley said the bank was not actively considering any form of rebate scheme and explained that NBVI operates on the same terms as all other commercial banks in the territory.
The Prime Minister explained that any loan cancellation program would be detrimental to the bank’s financial situation.
“Customers have the option of repaying accrued interest without increasing their monthly payment obligations,” Dr. Wheatley said.
He explained that moratoriums on loan repayments were offered by the bank from March 2020 to March 2021 and continued to be granted on a case-by-case basis.
These are our customers
Meanwhile, Fraser insisted the government should reconsider its stance on the matter, arguing that it was a government-owned bank and that the people of the territory were its shareholders.
“This government came to this honorable house and asked for the stamp duty to be relaxed on the sale of goods, and came home and boasted that it was a $5 million benefit to the community; whoever went out and bought that land,” Fraser explained.
He said the government should approach the issue in the same spirit, noting that the bank’s customers, having seen no relief from the government, were now walking away and heading to other commercial banks.
Fraser said the Prime Minister should look into the matter and come back to the House with an answer for the benefit of the people of the territory and said it would show that the government looks at the bank’s customers in the same way as he did it with the farmers. and fishers and landowners.
Premier Wheatley then promised to meet with bank officials to discuss whether there was anything more that could be done under the circumstances while responsibly meeting the bank’s obligations.
The bank suffered a net loss
In the meantime, Dr Wheatley noted that the bank had waived all late fees on loan repayments due during the period April 2020 to September 2021.
He also said the bank suffered a net loss in the 2020 financial year, even though it maintained its full workforce and operating overhead for that year.
The majority of clients, Dr. Wheatley said, have voluntarily returned to pre-COVID debt service terms, although circumstances in the territory have not returned to normal in 2021.
According to Dr Wheatley, this allowed the bank to rebound from the end of its previous financial year.
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