Despite the economic challenges this year, many Jamaicans are still expected to make that journey to spend Christmas on the rock. Those who can’t make it home are still expected to send money for relatives.
According to GraceKennedy Money Services (GKMS) operators of Western Union, while the amount of money people send has decreased, the number of transactions has gone up by five per cent.
GKMS managing director Joan-Marie Powell said although persons complain that remittances are down, Jamaicans overseas continue to take care of their families. “Persons who used to send US$100 may send $80 or $50, but the fact is they’re still sending. In fact, the number of transactions has actually increased by about five per cent, as people send a little less, but more often,” she notes.
Powell contends that despite the challenges, Jamaicans remain committed to their families and will continue to demonstrate that commitment in a tangible way. 12 months of economic hardship Acknowledging the economic hardship of the last 12 months, Powell said GKMS still had a lot to be grateful for. “Our clients have stuck with us, and we just want to thank them for their support,” she said. Powell promised additional resources to handle the increase in customers of Western Union and FX Trader during the peak period, adding a word of caution for persons who may be tempted to neglect their bills. “People have a tendency to defer payments and spend all their money during the holidays.
We’re encouraging customers to pay their bills so that come January they won’t have that hanging over their heads,” she advises.
According to the GKMS executive, additional personnel, computers, as well as terminals, have been deployed to Western Union, FX Trader and Bill Express locations to handle the increase in holiday business. Powell said GKMS had also created a special service for their customers in the United States (US). “For those persons who live in the US or those who may be visiting family there this Christmas, we have introduced our Cross Border Payment Service, which will allow them to pay utility bills at any of the more than 50,000 Western Union locations across the US,”she said.
Powell noted that the Cross Border Payment Service came out of a demand from GKMS customers in the US, who wanted to have direct access to utility companies in Jamaica. “They (customers) told us that although they live in New York or Florida they still had responsibilities in Jamaica and often they would send the money but the bills would go unpaid,” she explained.
Anyone armed with an account number can simply walk into a Western Union outlet, pay a fee and settle balances owed to the Jamaica Public Service Company, National Water Commission, LIME, FLOW, National Housing Trust and Students’ Loan Bureau. Powell said customers will eventually be able to pay bills to all the companies for which Bill Express collects.
Going forward, the GKMS managing director said the company will continue to consider the requests of their customers, as they try to improve the company’s suite of services. “I also just want to tell our customers to stay safe this holiday season and wish for them a prosperous New Year,” said Powell.
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