Business

Senate passes Agricultural Loan Societies and Approved Organizations Act

The Business of Parliament

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver

Wednesday, October 11, 2017



Agricultural Loan Societies

The Senate passed the Agricultural Loan Societies and Approved Organizations Act, 2017, during its sitting on Friday.

The Bill results from a decision by government from 2012 to merge the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) and the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies.

The Bill was piloted through the House of Representatives in April by Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda, and through the Senate by Minister of State, Pearnel Charles Jnr.

The Act will dissolve the ACB and merge its monitoring and inspection functions into the activities of the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.

The repeal of the ACB Act will effect the transfer of those functions; establish the Agricultural Appeal Tribunal, and provide for the registration and regulation of agricultural loan societies.

$67 million seized by FID

The Financial Investigations Division (FID) of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service seized a total of approximately $67 million in cash and forfeitures between April and August, 2017.

This was reported in the Fiscal Policy Paper (FPP) tabled recently in the House of Representatives by portfolio minister, Audley Shaw.

According to the FPP, the FID seized $35.4 million in cash, and forfeited $26.1 million in cash over the period.

Seizure is the physical taking of property based on law enforcement's belief that the property is associated with a crime. However, prosecutors can decide to pursue the case, which leads to forfeiture, which decides whether the seized property should be permanently transferred to the government.

The FID said that during the period, significant joint operations were carried out with the Major Organised Crime Agency (MOCA), the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) relating to Parish Council officials in central Jamaica leading to the restraint of $220 million in cash and assets.

A restraint order has the effect of freezing property that may be liable to confiscation following the trial and the making of a confiscation order. It may be made both against the defendant or person under investigation, and any other person holding realisable property.

The FID also reported that it had secured an important conviction in the corruption case involving Dr Jephthah Ford in collaboration with MOCA.

Ford, a well known medical doctor and a former People's National Party (PNP) candidate for North Western St. Andrew where he was defeated by Derrick Smith of the JLP ,was found guilty of perverting the course of justice after attempting to bribe a police officer to release two Surinamese men who were caught in 2014 with nearly $60 million. Sentencing has been delayed until later this month.

The proposed Microcredit Act

The Financial Regulations Division (FRD) of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has received the third draft of the Bill from the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC), and it has been circulated to the key stakeholders in the microcredit sector for review and comments.

Having received feedback from the relevant stakeholders, the comments were compiled and additional drafting instructions were issued to the CPC in May to revise the Bill. The FRD says it is awaiting the revised draft Bill from the CPC.

The proposed new Act will provide for the licensing and regulation of small privately owned money-lending institutions, in an effort to address the deficiencies inherent in the operations of the industry.

The Act will promote greater transparency, protection of consumers and reduction in risks or elimination of the industry being used as a vehicle to facilitate money laundering, the FPP stated.

National Financial Inclusion Council

A National Financial Inclusion Council (NFIC) was established in March this year and a National Financial Inclusion Strategy launched in March this year.

The NFIS is expected to create an environment in which underserved Jamaicans and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are given relevant knowledge and access to financial products and services, which would enable them to save, invest and build economic wealth.

The focus of the NFIS will be on MSME and agriculture finance, housing finance, consumer production, and financial literacy and retail payment systems.

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