Friday’s House Meeting saw the Bill to amend the Central Bank of Belize Bill passed through its third reading. The Bill seeks to provide for emergency programs that would be required under extreme circumstances. Prime Minister John Briceno presented the details of the Bill, and how it would affect the Government and the Central Bank of Belize.
Opposing the Bill was the Leader of the Opposition Patrick Faber. According to Faber, if the Bill is passed and ratified, it could possibly put Belize in an even worse situation than now.
Hon.Patrick Faber, Leader of the Opposition, United Democratic Party: “:We used to have to have those outstanding advances at the end of the financial year be repaid no less than three months, this is what the amendment changes, it can now be stretched out. So there is no financial accountability , they will stretch this out and knowing the People’s United Party Madam Speaker it will eventually end us up in further financial issues. So I’m sorry Madam Speaker from our end it is very difficult to support this understanding fully well that we are in a financial crunch and that the government needs to be creative in order to try to find ways of getting us out but let us use the mechanisms as they are established and use them properly. Let us not have the referee play the game and let us not put trust in politicians but especially not the People’s United Party who have demonstrated repeatedly that they don’t stand for good governance despite all of this rhetoric that we hear now going on and on and on from them. So from our end Madam Speaker we cannot support this bill.”
Also rising in opposition of the amendment was Member for Albert, Tracy Taegar Panton. According to Panton, the amendment will further take away from the autonomy of the Central Bank of Belize.
Hon. Tracey Taegar Panton, Area Representative, Albert Division: “The amendment seems to chip away at the already weak autonomy of the Central Bank of Belize and more and more it is appearing that the Central Bank is becoming merely a functionary of the Ministry of Finance and I think we want to guard against that Madam Speaker if we are going to achieve the objectives stated in the amendment bill. The lines are indeed blurred and the Central Bank should be and should continue to be the regulator. I do not believe Madam Speaker it would be prudent for the bank to get involved in the market and as the Leader of the Opposition points out there’s a vehicle for that, the National Bank of Belize if that becomes necessary. But the relationship at the Central Bank has always maintained with the financial institutions and the commercial banks allow for that kind of cooperation and so I would like us to be very mindful of how we proceed as it relates to diluting the independence and the autonomy of the Central Bank as well as creating the enabling environment for the bank to become a player in the market.”
Prime Minister Briceno responded to both opponents, saying that this change surely does not indicate a free for all.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: I’d like to correct the Honorable member from Albert that the Central Bank is not going to be lending directly to lenders they are going to be working with the lending institutions and these lending institutions then will have to, if they accept that money, it will have to be lent under the conditions that are being set forth for them to lend then to the borrowers and as we said this is simply to be able to create foreign currency because we need to create more foreign currency in this country and to create jobs that’s why we’re looking at the BPO, tourism and agriculture it’s going to be targeted. When you talk about the overdraft again I think also many our side they gave some very good example at trying to explain to this but the Honorable Member from Orange Walk North read the section where it’s saying the policies and procedures established and it said what it can do and can’t do so it’s not going to be a free for all. And see in the last point where it says 68, b, 2 it says it is going to prohibit borrowing from programs and facilities by borrowers that are insolvent people that had already gone bankrupt before the crisis. So we are being very careful, we’re being very prudent with what we want to do but at the same time we know that we have to be creative and we have to be bold and that is what this government is all about.”
The Bill was passed and will go to the Senate on Wednesday.