Central Bank celebrates 30 with commemorative currencies

"2012 is a very important year for the Central Bank - it's our 30th anniversary," said Central Bank Governor Glenford Ysaguirre.

He told us on Tuesday that fresh commemorative currencies, in $20 and $1 denominations, will be released to mark the special milestone.

Belize's money is printed by De La Rou in the United Kingdom, with whom the Governor says the Central Bank has had a long-standing relationship.

Of note is that the $1 commemorative coin will not have the head of the Queen of England, the Head of State in Belize, who has been an icon on Belize's currency continuing after Independence. The $20 bill may also exclude the Queen's head.

He said that they wanted something "absolutely, totally Belizean," and pointed to the fact that "other countries in the region are talking about going Republic," such as is the case with Jamaica.

The Central Bank's website also features a 2011 commemorative $2 coin released for Belize's 30th Independence anniversary last year, which features, on one side, two men taking down the Union Jack and putting up the Belizean flag; and on the other the Belize Coat of Arms.

The 2012 commemorative dollar coin would have the Central Bank building on one side, and on the other side a soaring jabiru - the bird used on the bank's logo.

The Central Bank was created one year after Independence, in 1982, and the bank wants to show that Belize has moved away from the Colonial Era, said Ysaguirre, agreeing that the commemorative currencies may possibly set a trend for future Belize coins and bills for circulation.

Ysaguirre also said that the Central Bank is developing a long-term strategic plan which would see them enhancing their role of promoting economic development while contributing to the development of Belize by bringing value-added services to stakeholders in the private sector.

He also said that they want to ensure, in regulating the financial system, that there will be improvement in efficiency as well as wider access to credit.

Ysaguirre added that several long-term initiatives are being looked at, and one of the more pressing needs is the institution of a credit bureau, which, he said, would improve efficiency of the banking sector.

He also spoke of the need for more electronic products that would take the place of the "archaic check clearing system," and which, he said, would allow for immediate settlement of bills to facilitate business activities to make it more efficient and to also reduce risks to merchants.

As for the role of the Central Bank, Ysaguirre said it is a special type of bank which provides services to the government and the various commercial banks, which deposit their excess cash with the Central Bank. It is also responsible for issuing currency notes and coins and supervising the commercial banking sector and other financial institutions; managing monetary policy and providing internal advice to the government; and regulating the country's foreign exchange, Ysaguirre added.

The bank has its own security service, with 28 persons, and 160 staff members, including bank examiners; administration and human resource staff; and economists, among others.

Four members of the board are appointed by The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dean Barrow: chairman Manuel Esquivel, vice chairman Ralph Feinstein, Damien Gough, and Darrel Bradley. Financial Secretary Joe Waight holds an ex-officio seat on the board. Other board members are the Governor and his deputy, Christine Vellos.

As for questions on the bank's autonomy, Ysaguirre said the autonomy of the bank is enshrined in the Central Bank Act.

He agrees that, "Yes, the majority of the board members are appointed by the Prime Minister," but the bank, in conducting its operations and affairs, "does enjoy a great degree of autonomy."

Ysaguirre is in the 4th year of his tenure as Governor of Central Bank.