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Jan 29, 1999

Financial issues dominate House meeting

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It was pretty much your usual sitting of the House of Representatives today in Belmopan, despite promises of a mass protest by the United Democratic Party. In fact there were no U.D.P. supporters visible in the immediate vicinity of the National Assembly and the morning began with the usual presentation of papers and bills for consideration. Among these were an amendment to customs regulations which increases penalties for the evasion of duties and an amendment to the Immigration Act to make those who employ illegal aliens responsible for their repatriation. While the presentation of the bills was very straightforward, those in the galleries became very vocal during a very animated question and answer session between the members of the Opposition and the ruling party. As expected Opposition Leader Dean Barrow focused largely on economic issues, including the status of the portfolio of the Small Farmer’s Bank back in 1993.

Dean Barrow, Leader of Opposition, U.D.P.

“Supplementary Madam Speaker, will the Prime Minister not agree that according to the aggregates of the Central Bank the net foreign assets of the banking system today are the lowest they have been in two years and that that was also the position at year end; the lowest they have been at year end for two years.”

Said Musa, Prime Minister

“No Madam Speaker, I do not agree. In fact the figures are right there for the public record: $93,000,000 in reserves.

And the figures today are at 64% way above the statutory requirements of 40%.”

Erwin Contreras, Area Rep., Cayo West

“Will the Minister of Budget Planning say what was the status of the loan portfolio of the Small Farmers Bank at the time of the general elections in 1993? And would he agree that the bank was a failure and would he say now what is the capital of the new Small Farmers Bank and how many officers it employs?”

Ralph Fonseca, Minister of Budget Planning

“The Ministry informs us that on June 30th, 1993 the Small Farmers and Business Bank was fully operational. It had approved 244 loans and $1,171,039 had been disbursed. At that time the bank was viable. Indeed it was tremendous success heralded in by Belizeans eager to care for their loved ones with the dignity of work and a deep respect for their financial obligations. Belizeans were getting and paying their loans and most importantly Belizeans were working and supporting their families.

The authorized capital of the bank has not changed since the formation in late 1992. The share capital is $10,500,000 divided into 500,000 ordinary shares of one dollar each and 10,000,000 preferential shares of one dollar each.

Fortunately when the bank was maliciously closed down right after the 1993 elections the company was not struck off. Including security cleaning and messenger staff, the bank has 13 employees. Today Belizeans are eagerly buying up the ordinary shares at the rate of 20 for every $1,000 transaction. We believe in the Belizean people and we believe that we have it in us as shareholders of our own bank to make it work and work well.”

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