At the start of the month, Love News told you that the Central Bank of Belize has begun charging processing fees to the local banks, which will in turn pass on to the consumers. The new charges have to the with the Automated Payments and Securities Settlement System, or APSSS, which has improved the efficiency of banking services since it was implemented in October 2016. APSSS has been costing Central Bank an estimated $800,000 annually and it has gotten to a point where Central Bank is forced to implement fees to cover this overhead cost. As a result new banking fees are in effect that are being passed on to the local consumer. What we noticed however, is that where Central Bank is charging one dollar, the local banks are charging more than double that amount. Love News decided to contact Central Bank to find out if they are planning to regulate the fees that the local banks charge, since we are noticing stark increases and in the case of Belize Bank, they began levying fees since June 1 as opposed to July 1 when Central Bank began charging the APSSS fees. Central Bank’s response was that it has published its fees to financial institutions on its website and encourages all customers to familiarize themselves with them and to be discerning in making decisions on financial transactions. When we asked if they are concerned with what seems like a ploy for local banks to capitalize on this new fee structure to tax the consumers, they replied by saying that the financial institutions have invested in configuring and customizing their core banking systems to integrate with APSSS and have worked assiduously to ensure a safe and efficient payment system. While the Central Bank was quick in responding to our questions, we also got a comment from the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno, on these new bank charges. According to him, the charges are due to UDP being a “tax and spend” government.
Leader of the Opposition – John Bricenio: “We have just a tax and spend Government. They find any which way they can to get their hands into the pockets of the Belizean people and then you say well Central Bank is taxing them but at the end of the day the profits of Central Bank is transferred to Central Government so again this is an indirect tax from this Government. What is happening is that this Government has been placing so much emphasis on infrastructure and that has been placing the emphasis in growing the economy, that then can address the issue of poverty, creating more jobs, then more monies can be circulating and at the end of the day the Government can collect more taxes but they are focused on this infrastructure development, it is costing them so much that they are scrambling like crack heads trying to get as much money as they can to try to meet their wage bill, their loans that they have to pay so that is certainly something that has to be addressed, it must be addressed, I can assure you that we will find a way to address that.”
According to Central Bank, the cheque processing fees have been introduced so as to make the necessary shift from paper to the more efficient electronic payments.//////////