Zacca backs proposal for National ID system

THE Government’s thrust for a national identification system has received support from the head of one of the country’s largest financial players.

President and chief executive officer of the Sagicor Group Christopher Zacca says a national identification system is important for bringing more Jamaicans into the formal economy through electronic transactions, which he said is the way of the future.

“Every other country is doing that. We have gone a far way at Sagicor and in Jamaica; I think we have made progress. Some of the impediments to that are the regulations around knowing your customer. We just have to continue finding innovative ways to regulate, but at the same time freeing up the system so that smaller people can enter the formal system,” Zacca told a recent Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

Director emeritus at the Sagicor Group, R Danny Williams says he, too, is in full support of a national identification system: “Quite honestly, I support it. I think as a country we need to have it, and the sooner the better.”

Zacca added that a national identification system will aid with competition in banking, allowing people to easily move their accounts between banking institutions. “So we are hoping that it comes back in an acceptable form to the country. It would help in a lot of areas, especially financial services,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in his Administration’s continued push for the establishment of a national identification system, recently pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for it. He said the Government must be able to verify the identity of and account for each Jamaican when it is providing benefits such as those which have been offered throughout the crisis.

He said such an identification system is crucial, especially during periods where the threat is individualised. “[When] the individual gets sick the individual must be treated, the individual must be contact-traced. And [if] the individual gets laid off, the individual requires care packages, the individual requires government compassionate grant, and the individual requires exemption to move within curfew hours.”

And director of Sagicor Investments William Melhado said the COVID-19 crisis has given Government the impetus to move swiftly to a more digital economy and a national identification system.

“Many companies in Jamaica have been quite aggressive with their digital journey, but what I think [is] a missing component is consumer sentiment, [as] it was still perhaps easy to do the transactions manually or in branch. I think what this crisis has done is propel[led] that consumer sentiment more towards operating digitally. It’s a nice kind of meeting on the continuum, so I think people now are super sensitised,” he said.

— Alphea Saunders

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