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Banks must step up: Mayor Wagner

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Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2020. 2:25 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belizeans are anxiously looking forward to the slightest hope of a time beyond COVID-19, when things get back to “normal.”

And while no one has any idea right now what “normal” looks like, the private sector will likely struggle to get back on its feet after months of taking losses.

Enter the commercial banks, says former banker and Mayor of Belize City, Bernard Wagner: “…we will need the financial institutions to take up their loads as well banks will need to take risks. They will have to begin to inject money into small businesses because we have over 25,000 I believe unemployed right now in the City. There’s no way any business entity would be able to hire 25,000 people immediately, so the banks will have to begin to look at new approaches, a new model of driving young entrepreneurship, driving small business because these people that can’t find another job they will have to find a job of their own they will have to be their own bosses.”

Banks have already instituted waivers and deferrals on financial products such as loans and credit cards but one of the major issues is liquidity in the system because of the conservative outlook.

Wagner says the Central Bank of Belize will play a lead role: “…easing up on restrictions, easing up on capital requirements, that probably would help the banks feel more compelled to help. I have been a banker for 30 years and when you sit in that seat you have a different viewpoint but from this viewpoint that I am seeing the banks have to play a better and a bigger role in this getting back. The thing is that they told us you’ll get a waiver but you have to apply just do it across the board and not just the interest-only but do the principal as well.”

The Council launched its second municipal bond in late March, offering an interest triple that on the prevailing market. It is still paying off the first bond floated during the administration of Darrell Bradley.

 

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