Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2023. 7:44 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Development Finance Corporation (DFC) serves as Belize’s de facto development bank, offering financial services in the areas of education, agriculture, housing, and others.
On Wednesday it officially marked its 60th anniversary with ceremonies in Belize City at the Biltmore Plaza, having been established during the time of self-government in 1963.
From $6 million in assets, it reached a height of $312 million when in 2004, scandal broke concerning its investment portfolio, leading to a Commission of Inquiry and facing the prospect of liquidation. There followed a period of belt-tightening until the return of the People’s United Party in 2020 when the DFC and its staff dared to dream again.
Prime Minister John Briceño criticized legislation sponsored by the United Democratic Party when first in government in 2009 that he said placed the organization “in a straitjacket” and had them “losing money.” Under the guidance of now-retired general manager Natalie Goff and her successor, former Chairman Henry Anderson, the government has been working on loosening those restrictions while still ensuring those in positions of power are held accountable.
The P.M. particularly praised Goff’s management and gave her credit for turning around the institution, focusing its priorities on helping entrepreneurs particularly women and young people and those in micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as those seeking homes. He went on to describe what the DFC is looking for in making the decision to lend and keeping the organization free of corruption charges: financial viability, no political interference, and keeping employees honest.
Anderson added that the DFC still has skeletons in its closets such as write-offs for its housing program and the aforementioned Commission of Inquiry, as well as general complaints about its response to applications, but the organization has no time to dwell on the past: “We are in the now and we have to get to the future so it just serves as energy to look at what is the highest peak that the DFC has achieved in terms of portfolio growth and understand that we need to continue to lay the foundation so DFC can once and for all become a proper development bank that offers all of the products that a development bank offers that it has never done in its history before and that’s what we are building now.”
The Prime Minister maintained that despite financing and setting the tone with policy, the Government’s directors on the board are in the minority and no minister dares sign a note to support granting a loan – not even himself; he said he had not so much as thought about it even in his days as deputy to Said Musa. According to Anderson, his brief is to improve the quality of service and structure and run DFC like a business, maximizing its customer base.
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