By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Dean Barrow left Belize on Monday for Washington, D.C., where he is leading a technical team from Belize in discussions with senior officials of the US Federal Government and US banking monitoring systems over the ‘de-risking’ situation affecting financial institutions in the region.
Financial Secretary, Joseph Waight; the Governor of the Central Bank, Glenford Ysaguirre; Belize’s Ambassador to the US, Patrick Andrews and Advisor to the PM and one of the architects of the renegotiated Super Bond, Ambassador Mark Espat accompanied Barrow on the trip.
During Friday’s House meeting, Area Representative for Caribbean Shores, Kareem Musa, raised the issue of the current banking woes, saying that a number of his constituents are concerned of the state of banking affairs for Belize. Musa urged the government to take a serious look at the problems our banks are facing, and the consequences we face as a result of de-risking.
In response, Barrow informed that he and his team already had meetings scheduled to discuss the matter. He said while he cannot guarantee a successful outcome, his government will do all it can until they find a solution to the problem.
Barrow told reporters following the House meeting that, the official line from the banks, such as Bank of America, and others, is that the regulatory burden that US authorities have imposed on them does not make it cost-effective to continue doing business with smaller economies.
“I believe for the last full year that Bank of America was the correspondent bank for the Belize Bank, the total value of that relationship simply makes it not cost-effective to continue to do business in our small jurisdictions. The total value of that relationship to Bank of America might have been like US $6 million. That’s the kind of money that Bank of America makes in a minute or quicker than we can sneeze”, Barrow said.
The Prime Minister went on to explain that the banks cutting off smaller ones would be paying more to discharge their regulatory requirements than they would make from Belize, so they are ending the relationships.
“All this is against the backdrop and in the context of the authorities in the States and globally being concerned about money-laundering, financing of terrorism and that sort of thing. I just don’t want for the kind of connection be made with that larger background scenario and the particular actions that have meen made with respect to Belize, so that somebody can run off with the idea that there is a special anti-money laundering or terrorism financing problem with our jurisdiction,” Barrow said.
He added that there is not, as far he can determine, any particular problem with the financial structures in Belize; nor have those structures given rise to the de-risking measures.
Deputy Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega will act as Prime Minister until Barrow returns home on Sunday, January 31st.