By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
A team of negotiators, led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow will leave Belize this weekend for Washington DC, USA, to hold negotiations with relevant parties over de-risking measures taken against Belize.
In response to the concern raised in the House by Area Representative for Caribbean Shores, Kareem Musa, that government needs to seriously address the matter of de-risking, banks locally have been faced with lately, and the impact such a move has and will create for Belize, Barrow said they have already put that wheel into motion.
Barrow informed that he and his team has meetings with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency. He said while he cannot guarantee a successful outcome, his government will do all it can do 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 the others, is that the regulatory burden that US authorities have imposed on them does not make it cost-effective to continue to do 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 shared.
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 end the relationship.
“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 been 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 emphasized.
He said that there is not, as far he can determine, any particular problem with our structures and with the way the banking structure is conducted in Belize that has given rise to the de-risking.
Accompanying Barrow on his trip are the Governor of the Central Bank, Glenn Ysaguirre, Advisor to the PM, Ambassador Mark Espat, Financial Secretary Joseph Waight and Belize’s Ambassador to the US Pat Andrews.