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Barbados PM Mia Mottley bats for changes in restrictive banking procedures instituted by the US on Caribbean countries, including Belize

Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2022. 2:53 pm CST.

By Hugh O’Brien: It is no secret that the banking regulations forced down the throats of Caribbean countries, including Belize, by the United States in particular, have created numerous barriers and significant challenges for basic and regular banking transactions for the average person. Just to open a bank account has so much due diligence that many small clients get turned off and give up, and small cash transactions are more than often overly scrutinized.

These procedures aim to target money laundering and terrorism financing but are they having their impact? Apart from driving many legitimate transactions underground, and into cryptocurrency, online and other digital money forms, they have put a severe strain on correspondent banking relationships, and the ability to move money across borders.

The US House Committee Committee of Financial Services was meeting to discuss de-risking in the Caribbean banking sector and Mottley was invited to share the Caribbean perspective with the US legislators.

“Our economies cannot function on their own. We do not make enough clothes, we do not produce our own food, we do not produce our own equipment and therefore unless we are able to trade with the rest of the world we are at risk of becoming financial pariahs,” Mottley said in batting for improved banking regulations and supportive correspondent banking relationships. Belize is no stranger to the fallout Motley spoke about, having lost 2/3 of the country’s correspondent banking relationships between 2015 and 2016, due to US banks choosing a defensive stance and avoiding the risk of penalties by deciding simply to not do business with small countries like Belize.

In an Instagram post shared after the presentation, Prime Minister Mia Mottley added “The reality is, that unfair and unjust reports, requirements and potential blacklisting, poses very serious consequences for all aspects of society and threatens our ability to trade and do business with our neighbours and allies. It can, and must change.”

“Do not let this be recorded as an act of unconscious bias. And why do I say so. Look at the list of countries who are listed and you will see that they are almost all former colonies and people of color. And look at the countries who in spite of being able to open up a bank account within hours of Delaware, or Wyoming, within hours in Luxemberg or Zurich and they remain off of these lists that speak of the risk of money laundering, and look and see where the divide comes,” Mottley shared.

“I believe that this committee has a keen eye for fairness and equity and all we ask for today is for a level playing field….One of the solutions we leave you with is that the Treasury ought to be truthful to its mandate. It says it wants to be risk sensitive. Well if it wants to be risk sensitive, then it needs to focus on where the money is rather than creating rules that act as a proxy to money laundering and terrorism financing. And it has found the answer, even if fortuitously or scientifically this year by following the money in the Russian sanctions.”

In Mottley’s view, the US should go after the individuals and oligarchs involved in money laundering and terrorism financing, rather than put up rules that make it difficult to do business in the former colonies where people of color live.

The Barbados PM was hopeful noting “We can use both technology, communication and sharing of information, but above all else fairness and transparency to ensure that our people are not further punished from being able to participate in their lives through their economy, through their savings, and with their families across borders and businesses.”


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