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#480165 - 12/18/13 04:42 AM S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO
Marty Offline

Some home/business owners, in danger of losing all they have worked for because of stagnant economic conditions and unforgiving creditors, have spoken of suicide

The financial crisis is “worse than a hurricane”

What would you do if you found yourself in a situation where the hard-earned assets that you have acquired over a lifetime were about to be disposed of in front of your very eyes, and you are absolutely powerless?

Today, Amandala spoke with a group of people from the “tourism mecca” island town of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, who have resorted to seeking the assistance of the media to address what they term as a “very real” issue that is currently affecting some residents of the island.

It appears that a group of mainly prominent, native San Pedranos are in danger of losing either their businesses, or properties that they have essentially toiled for during the course of their entire lives because of unforgiving creditors who refuse to take into consideration the stagnant economic conditions that have beset the island in recent years.

According to one of the hoteliers who have been affected, the situation has been created by the constantly rising costs of living, compounded by the fact that the unsuspecting borrowers procured loans at a time when the economic outlook was bright on the island; however, they have now found themselves in a distressing predicament – stuck between “a rock and a hard place” – and facing potential bankruptcy because of their inability to service those loans, which is ultimately leading to the complete loss of their homes and/or businesses.

These home/business owners are up in arms because they are presently at the mercy of seemingly heartless commercial bankers who apparently do not show a shred of leniency toward, or understanding for, their clients.

Overwhelmed with despair, the home/business owners emphasize the fact that they have been long-standing customers of the banks for many years, who have diligently serviced their mortgages; thus, they would have never thought that their businesses/properties would be liable to be auctioned.

Some have been overcome with fear that they would be targeted or victimized by their creditors, so most of the victims were reluctant to share their stories or reveal their identities.

However, one of the persons who said that she had felt the brunt of the meltdown that has unfolded, described the financial crisis as “worse than a hurricane,” because she said that people get aid in the event of natural disasters, but presently, the islanders believe that they are now “on their own,” because they have exhausted all avenues in terms of getting help from any of the relevant authorities, such as the San Pedro Town Council, the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Beltraide and even the National Bank of Belize.

The situation has the potential of becoming even more tragic, since we understand that at least two of the business proprietors who have been affected have thought of committing suicide. Their frustrations stem from the fact that they don’t have anywhere else to turn, and are petrified of the fact that their families would have nowhere to go if their homes were confiscated.

The persons with whom we spoke told us that the situation is “devastating,” because the affected persons have so far done all that they could.

Their emotions were visibly high when they mentioned that they have pleaded with their creditors to “have a heart” and work along with them in order to renegotiate their payment plans, but to no avail.

When that option did not work out, they repeatedly requested Government’s intervention, but GOB has also turned a blind eye to their plight, say the business owners.

The business owners stated that they simply want an opportunity to reconstruct their loan payments.

On two separate occasions this year – first on April 3 and then on December 9 – the concerned citizens wrote to Prime Minister Dean Barrow. In their letter, they declared, “For decades, we have endured crippling utility, transportation and labor costs, and it is only because of the lack of a level playing field in gaining access to investment capital and the rigidity of the financial institutions combined with the current financial crisis that have caused many of us not to be able to meet our financial obligations, causing us to suffer many reversals, foreclosures and hardships which are affecting our homes and everyday lives.

“Because of this, we have united and are forming an association to fight for our birthright and inheritance, and also to salvage what remains. For this cause, we request immediate action on your behalf (as the PM) to intervene and assist us in this urgent matter.”

Hence, the San Pedro Founders Association was formed to provide opportunities for individuals who find it difficult to help themselves out of overwhelming debt.

In that effort, the members of the association plan to raise funds through donations and fundraising events, and to use those funds to provide financial assistance and legal advice to persons in need.

If you would like to find out more about the San Pedro Founders Association, or if you are interested in reconsolidating a loan, call 634-0041 or e-mail spfoundersasso13@gmail.com.


#480170 - 12/18/13 05:07 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Marty]
Nobody You Know Offline
So let me get this straight. They borrowed money from banks and now the banks expect to be repaid?

#480172 - 12/18/13 05:14 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
Lack of financial awareness is a crippling thing.

A couple of years ago I tried to restart a Junior Achievement program in Belize. There had been a chapter in the country before, but it folded due to organizational & financial issues. I could not get the international JA organizers to give us a go again .........

We will not see our way out of this sort of thing until people know how to organize their household finances, and unfortunately there is no program for educating people about this.

I'd like to see a financial counseling committee made up of accountants and successful business owners who can sit down with people and show them a way to organize their finances and work their way out of trouble.

#480177 - 12/18/13 05:31 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Nobody You Know]
3 beer story Offline
Did the owners give all their profits to the bank when they were making them in the boom economy?

#480189 - 12/18/13 07:20 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Marty]
Phil Offline
I know several of these unfortunate people. One has an interest rate of 23%. The Bank won't renegotiate back to today's lower level and none of the other Banks will re finance due to the situation. Every single penny the business grosses on the books is forced to be paid to the Bank leaving nothing to run the business and reinvest. It guarantees failure and foreclosure. Yes they signed and made mistakes but this is on the verge of thievery by the Bank in question.

A lot of these old school San Pedrano's have no previous experience of finance and business Management and base their business strategy on today's income. Most were Fishermen that never finished High School and started working as teenagers out on the Reef. San Pedro expanded, they had family land and prospered venturing into a bright new field called Tourism, were inexperienced and had nobody to lean on for solid advice. They were preyed upon by the Banks (one in particular it seems) who to be honest were probably equally inexperienced in giving qualified loans. These people have no benefit of a Business Degree or Financial Planning nor had the chance to get one.

It's a very sad situation. I had hoped the new National Bank could help alleviate this and suspect that's why it was set up as GOB is sick of the Bank in question. Thankfully many of the next Generation do now have the ability to learn Business Management and many are doing so.

#480197 - 12/18/13 07:45 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
When was the boom economy?
Belize based travel specialist

#480206 - 12/18/13 08:22 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Marty]
Amanda Syme Offline
We had some super boom economies in the '80's and 90's and many of these loans will have stemmed from those great hey days.

It is unconscionable that local banks are still expecting business people to pay such high interest rates.

Here on the island people think getting a loan at 11.5% interest per annum is "good."

Imagine how these folks would thrive if they could be refinanced at 7%. Folks in the developed world have fairly easy access to 3.5% interest. If San Pedranos had such benefits we would be seeing lots of wealthy islanders, and I am sure the wealth would be shared and harnessed to improve the lifestyles of ALL island residents.

#480207 - 12/18/13 08:28 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Marty]
artb Offline
I went the motions of applying for a loan at few Belizean banks.
Their rates were usurious, I couldn't believe it until I heard it from 3 different banks.
What makes Belizean banks special in a sea of poor people, why are they entitled to more profit than banks in other countries?

#480208 - 12/18/13 08:31 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Katie Valk]
Rykat Offline
"These home/business owners are up in arms because they are presently at the mercy of seemingly heartless commercial bankers who apparently do not show a shred of leniency toward, or understanding for, their clients."

You will find banks in the States have pretty much the same attitude - couldnt care less. But signing for loans at 23% and operating a business with probable margins of 10-20% (maybe) ain't too bright either.
Sad situation.
GOP - The Party of Lincoln.

#480223 - 12/18/13 10:22 AM Re: S.O.S. FROM SAN PEDRO [Re: Rykat]
bywarren Offline
Here is a quote from the essay The Pros and Cons of Full Dollarization
"Countries with full currency substitution economies can invoke greater confidence among international investors, inducing increased investments and growth. The elimination of the currency crisis risk due to full currency substitution leads to a reduction of country risk premiums and then to lower interest rates. These effects result in a higher level of investment."

There are definate downsides to having a currency that is only good in the country of its origin.
One is higher interest rates.

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