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#394104 - 12/04/10 03:01 PM Economic Meltdown in the Free Zone
Marty Offline
At news time, the Commercial Free zone in Corozal is facing serious difficulties at the beginning of one of its busiest times of year. The Christmas season could see businesses collapse because of an economic roadblock between local and foreign financial institutions. Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber is apparently meeting with ministers, representatives of Free Zone and Chamber of Commerce to see if they can find a solution to the crisis. Essentially, there is a problem for businessmen to make deposits in U.S dollars. Reports are that the financial meltdown started about three weeks ago when businesses could not access US dollars through the Central Bank because the bank, we are told, is unable to deposit U.S. dollars that come from the two major banks in the free zone. The difficulty of the deposits is also causing a major problem for businesses to conduct transactions in U.S. dollars. At this time it is estimated that at least seventy million U.S. dollars are sitting in the banks and economic activity is at a standstill since the money simply cannot flow to creditors. One possible solution could be for businesses to seek new banks but even that solution is cumbersome.

Channel 5

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#394106 - 12/04/10 03:02 PM Re: Economic Meltdown in the Free Zone [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Free Zone Foreign Currency Fright

Emergency meetings are underway at the Central Bank in Belize City right now to try and solve a looming crisis that could threaten business as usual at the Corozal Free Zone - a particularly terrifying prospect especially with Christmas right around the corner.
Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber is meeting with Ministry of Finance Officials, the governor of the Central Bank, a cabinet subcommittee, and representatives of the free zone chamber of commerce. The problem is with making deposits in US dollars - which is the main currency of the zone. Unofficial information to our newsroom says the problem started three weeks ago when the central bank's US dollar account with HSBC was closed down - making it so that the central bank cannot deposit the US dollars which comes in from the Atlantic and Belize Banks which operate in the zone.

The problem has made it so that it is becoming difficult for the banks to make deposits - and moreover it is even more problematic to make international US dollar transfers to pay for shipments. According to the Free zone businessmen, 17 million dollars in sitting in the bank that they cannot access for transfers and it's threatening the continued operation of the zone. The zone businessman are urging the central bank to link up with another international bank to return things to normal - but they say that has already been taking too long. We'll keep following it.

Channel 7

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#394238 - 12/07/10 03:26 PM Re: Economic Meltdown in the Free Zone [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Businesses in critical financial problems within the Corozal Free Zone

While BSI will be receiving the ten million dollar bailout, the situation in the Commercial Free Zone remains grave for businesses that have been unable to make deposits in US dollars. An emergency meeting was held last Friday evening between government, Central Bank and Free Zone officials but the situation persists tonight, and if it remains unresolved for much longer, it could have serious financial ramifications during one of the busiest periods at the Zone. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

While it is the height of the Christmas shopping season business at the free zone is not what it appears to be. Its merchants have not for the past few weeks been able to make financial transactions with counterparts in China, Panama and the United States. Subsequently, they have not been able to purchase and import goods.

The procedure is such that the U.S. dollar which is the primary currency used at the zone is routinely deposited into one of two banks operating in the area, namely Atlantic and Belize Banks. The monies are later transferred to the Central Bank of Belize which then conducts the overseas transactions with a number of lending institutions including Bank of America. Recently those banks have not been accepting the monies forcing Central Bank to hold on to an accumulating figure, in the range of seventeen million dollars, which it cannot use to carry out business on behalf of its clients. The reason for the freeze has not been explained but it is known that the Central Bank is looking for another corresponding bank for the transfer of U.S. dollars. It is a problem that has many store owners concerned about the fate of their businesses. On Friday evening an emergency meeting was convened to address the matter.

Present at the meeting was Central Bank Governor Glen Ysaguirre, board members representing the Commercial Free Zone, officials from the Ministry of Finance and Minister Patrick Faber. While a solution is being sought and several options are being explored News Five was reliably informed today that the situation will be discussed during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. The CFZ committee of management is also expecting a favorable response from Ysaguirre on Tuesday but cannot say for certain whether an answer is forthcoming before the end of this week.

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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#394486 - 12/10/10 03:17 PM Re: Economic Meltdown in the Free Zone [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Free Zone Fright Deepens

The third payment has been disbursed to cane farmers and they are preparing for the season to start next Wednesday, but all is not well in the north because business owners at The Corozal Free Zone are nearing panic stage tonight as the hard currency deadlock has still not been resolved - and there's no solution in sight.

As we've reported, the Central Bank of Belize which formerly processed the tens of millions of dollars in hard currency from the zone has lost its correspondent bank relationship with HSBC - an international bank.

So tonight 17 million US dollars is sitting in a Central Bank vault and millions more are accumulating in the zone - with nowhere to go.

It is threatening to force a stoppage in operations at the zone - which would be dramatically consequential in terms of losses of jobs and of business, especially at Christmas.

The prospect of shutting down the zone may sound dramatic - but business owners are strapped and are having difficulty meeting costs and clearing containers.

The Prime Minister today confirmed that government is desperately seeking a correspondent banking relationship but with international money lau8ndering strictures in place, it has been difficult.

The Free Zone businesses say they are under extreme and mounting pressure - as the deadlock has been in effect for, going on four weeks. They say a solution must be forthcoming quickly or else something will have to give. We'll keep following the story…

Channel 7


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#394492 - 12/10/10 03:27 PM Re: Economic Meltdown in the Free Zone [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Chaos at the Tourism Village

It was more of the same on Day Two of the Sustainable Tourism Program which involves the controversial zoning of the Fort Street Tourism Village. Thousands visitors disembarked the four cruise lines, but those who ply their trade to put bread on their table, were not happy campers. Under the new rules they must wait on the outside. It is peak season and with no money in their pockets, there was chaos and confusion. News Five’s Marion Ali was at the Village today and has this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

It was back to the grind for those who rely on cruise ship visitors at the Fort Point Tourism Village as they returned to the location to earn their keep. Those who we spoke with at gate four on Wednesday told us that the newly introduced Sustainable Tourism Programme was not working for them because they had not made any money. Today, when we returned we found that some tour guides, taxi drivers and hair braiders were still not making any money by the new system.

Claire Williams, Hair braider, Fort Street Tourism Village

“Usually deh time yah out yah peel everybody done get wah job. And right now Christmas deh close and everybody di try fi deh family.”

Marion Ali

“They say that it is a rotation basis. Fu unu turn noh come yet?”

Claire Williams

Claire Williams

“They noh give we no rotation, the braiders noh get no rotation. We have to stay behind the barrier and we have to deal with the tourists from over there. As you can see the dispatcher noh talk nothing bout no braids no nothing.”

Marion Ali

“Maybe the tourists deh noh want their hair done today.”

Claire Williams

“This is what I am saying. The tourists don’t come off the ship saying I’m going to get my hair braided, I’m going to get my toes painted; I have to convince them to get it done and I am not getting that break to convince them. Everytime when I try the police tell me I gotta step back.”

On Wednesday we spoke with this tour guide, Cecil Gill, and he told us that he made no money because he did not get the opportunity to approach the tourists. Today he said it was more of the same.

Cecil Gill, Tour Guide

Cecil Gill

“It’s very difficult. Nothing change, just pure confusion.”

Marion Ali

“It’s a rotation according to the people who plan this, it’s a rotation system.”

Cecil Gill

“I noh see it working. I noh get no rotation. I have to di walk up and down to get mines.”

Marion Ali

“Did you make money yesterday?”

Cecil Gill

“No not a penny and today, I still noh mek none yet. So as you can see pure confusion.”

Gill said he is willing to give the planners more time to iron out the kinks in the new system but while they do, he and others in the industry are not taking home any money. The new system, meanwhile, also includes a zoning of the tourism area.

Wayne Usher, City Councilor

“The zone itself if you’ll start from the Swing Bridge. You go down Queen Street, you go straight down and then you make a left by where the U.S Embassy was then you go around the Central Bank around Marine Parade, come around the Lighthouse pass the tourism Village and back to the Bridge foot. That’s the zone that is the tourism zone.”

But people who live or have businesses in the zone called a meeting last night to discuss their own personal issues that the new zoning has brought on. While he supports the project, Jeremy Spooner of Spooner’s Photo Lab on North Front Street, says he has his own concerns.

Jeremy Spooner, Businessman

Jeremy Spooner

“There were some concerns of some of the residents about parking issues. My concerns were about parking issues, toilets in the area because a lot of time tourist come and ask to use our toilets. Also, the direction of the traffic because right now it is very convenient for me—to come around from Marine Parade or by St. Mary’s Church to get here. If they change it, I would have to go over the Swing Bridge and come here or go down North Front Street and Holy Redeemer is a pain in the morning with all the kids going to school—there is always traffic jams. I notice that when they approached the area, they are approaching it as a tourist destination and I think they have forgotten of the residences and the businesses that are here. I just reminded them that although I welcome the idea, the upliftment.”

The project, according to City Councilor responsible for Tourism, Wayne Usher, is an upliftment to the old capital and the industry.

Wayne Usher

“There’s going to be a managing committee managing that zone to see that things are done right and according to plan. The zone itself will constitute an area where there’s commercial activity of course, the tourism, the entertainment, the hotels, they are tight in there. So all of this will encompass it. And then there is the craft market, the renovations at the Memorial Park, the upliftment. All of that will be included and people will benefit even the heritage side of it. If you have colonial houses in that area, you can on your own, with your private home, you will be able to open that down the stretch.”

Marion Ali

“But tourists won’t be confined to that area because there will be tourist who might want to go to Albert Street, go and eat at Dits?”

Wayne Usher

Wayne Usher

“That will by no way confine them. They are not confined to the zone. The zone is to upgrade and uplift that immediate area where the cruise stops.”

Usher said that the project will be expanded to include other areas as time progresses. Meanwhile the infrastructural adjustments and fine-tuning along the tourism zone will get underway by March of 2011. Marion Ali for News Five.


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