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Further amendments to financial regulation structure passed

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2023. 3:27 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: On Friday, eight bills were read a second time that are intended to satisfy the revamping of the financial regulation structure to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and related crimes.

The Credit Unions (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The Central Bank of Belize (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The International Banking (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The Moneylenders (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The Money Laundering and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Bill, 2023; The International Banking (Amendment) Bill, 2023; and The National Payment System (Amendment) Bill, 2023 broadly expand the powers of the Central Bank and associated regulators over various aspects of the banking and finance system and more tightly regulate agencies including credit unions and money lenders.

In debating the Credit Unions (Amendment) Bill, area representative for Albert Tracey Taegar-Panton noted that there is no lack of legislation on the books on this matter, but a distinct lack of enforcement. She added that not enough attention is being paid to the institutional strengthening and capacity building of institutions expected to monitor and enforce activity in the financial sector. She asked for a further report at some appointed time as to how these institutions are being strengthened and their capacity built and that consultation, which she described as “rapid and fast” in some cases to meet an urgent deadline, continue once the bills are passed and on the books. She described a deepening layer of bureaucracy surrounding the laws and that the experts are being kept busy drafting new legislation to satisfy international demands.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance John Briceño in reply acknowledged that the regulations are often “one shoe fits all” and quoted a fellow Caribbean prime minister to say that the developed countries want to “lock down” the financial sector in the Caribbean whereas most heavy hitters are hiding monies in the United States and Europe.

But, he said, “we have no other option than to do what they are asking of us otherwise they are going to sanction us, they are going to blacklist us.” And, he added, correspondent banking relationships are under threat and we have had to spend precious money trying to keep up.

There was no further debate on any of the subsequent amendments and they now pass to the Senate for approval.

 

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