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Sep 27, 2023

The Development Finance Corporation Celebrates 60 Years

The Development Finance Corporation has endured the test of the last sixty years. Today the financial institution celebrated its sixtieth year of service to Belize. D.F.C. has faced its share of success, failures and controversies since its inception. News Five’s Paul Lopez was there for the celebration in Belize City. He takes a look back at the establishment of the institution’s investment portfolio over the years and how political influence has played a role in shaping the direction of the D.F.C. Here is that report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The Development Finance Corporation held a ceremony in Belize City to celebrate sixty years of service to the nation. The ebb and flow of the institution’s investment portfolio since its inception tells its own story.


Melissa Bennett

Melissa Bennett, Administrative Assistant, Development Finance Corporation

“We started off in 1974 with six million dollars and during our peak time it was three hundred and twelve million and we are gradually going back up at a hundred and forty-four million. So, our aim of doubling our portfolio is not farfetched because if we do it right, in the next three years we can possibly double it from that one forty-four.”


It wasn’t until ten years into its existence that DFC became a financial institution for the Government of Belize. Since then, DFC has been steered in tandem with government’s development priorities.  Arguably, one of the most challenging times for the institution was in 2004, under the People’s United Party. The DFC’s investment portfolio was at its highest value, with significant investments in housing schemes, student’s loans and agriculture. Not long after, DFC was on the brink of being liquidated and a commission of inquiry was launched into its operations in 2005.


Melissa Bennett

“There was the amendment in 2006 of the DFC, the DFC returned the soy bean processing plants to the government and there was a reevaluation of assets for resale.”


In 2009, the United Democratic Party made amendments to the DFC Act. They placed emphasis on agriculture, as well as micro and small enterprise investments.  But in 2017, DFC’s figures once again began to decline. The People’s United Party returned to government in 2020.


Prime Minister John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“The laws that was past then to ensure the DFC can remain alive they were too stringent. It was in a straight jacket. So the DFC was unable to provide the specific services that a development bank needed to give. So, from 2011 to 2020 the DFC was practically losing money. It is not because of the management but simply because the way the previous government amended the act of DFC they were unable to provide the necessary service. Mrs. Goff and her staff realized what was necessary to fix it.”


The P.U.P. also amended the act after taking office.  Prime Minister Briceno says the dark days at the institution have taught his administration some valuable lessons.


Prime Minister John Briceño

“The lessons that we have learnt is that the DFC like every other financial institution should not just be lending for lending sake because somebody wants to make a loan. We have to make sure it is financially viable, stable to make sure that people can pay. We have to minimize the political interference within the DFC. We also have to make sure that it is not only the political directorate that has to be held accountable but even the employees. If they participate in a fraudulent loan or a loan that should have never been approved that they could also be held accountable, by doing that we could make sure the DFC remains a stable institution.”


Prime Minister Briceño contends that the DFC is in a much stronger position than it has ever been in its history. But, is there too much political influence in the affairs of the DFC’s operations? The board of directors consists of three government representatives, five private sector representatives and a chairman appointed by the prime minister. We asked DFC’s C.E.O. Henry Anderson, who started back in 2021 as chairman.


Henry Anderson

Henry Anderson, C.E.O., Development Finance Corporation

“I will give you my personal experience, when I got a call I was the general manager for BEC at the time and Mr. Coye said the Prime Minister would like to ask you if you could chair the DFC. Would you do it? And so I started. When I met with the Prime Minister and Mr. Coye it was simple instruction, improve the quality of service and run the thing like a business so it doesn’t lose money. That is it. I have never gotten any phone call or nonsense like that. I understand back many years ago DFC had a problem. But as Mrs. Reneau and Bennett said, that out of problems comes opportunity and the silver lining is that DFC has a very modernized and solid governance structure.”


And when we put the same question to Prime Minister Briceño he said that even as Deputy Prime Minister, under former Prime Minister Said Musa, he had never written a note to DFC to lend money to anyone.


Prime Minister John Briceño

“The Belize Development Corporation is quote on quote owned by the government. And, they need to work in tandem with the policies of the government of the day, but it is worked in such a way that the government does not have a majority on the board. So they are there to present the direction of the government, but the days are long gone where a minister can sign a note and give this one a loan and even they were attempt to that it plays no role in the decision making of the loans. For instance I have never sent any kind of notes to lend money that has stopped. We do not have that kind of interference at the DFC and that is why you are seeing that kind of growth.”


So, the report coming out of today’s event is that the DFC at sixty is operating as an example in the region with the most diverse investment portfolio since its inception, greater transparency and a robust management structure. Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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