“Of the People, for the People” is the motto of the new state-owned National Bank of Belize, which will offer housing loans at 6.5 per cent annual interest on the reducing balance with $20 million in start-up capital.

Legislation to set up the bank was approved at the sitting of the House of Representatives in Belmopan on Wednesday, August 7.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow introduced a Bill to fulfill a promise made at his first quarterly press conference of the year on April 29 to create a new bank which would put pressure on commercial banks to lower their interest rates.

The Bank’s stated primary objective is to offer credit to public officers, teachers and other needy Belizeans. It is designed to help middle-income and even low-income families to own a home.

The Bank will have an authorized share capital of $100 million through a million hundred dollar shares.

Wednesday’s Bill allowed the government to subscribe to 200,000 of those shares. The $20 million to buy the shares came from US$40 million in financing which the government of Belize can tap into under the Petrocaribe agreement with Venezuela.

Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Senator Joy Grant chairs the board of the new bank, and former Provident Bank president, Jose Karim Marin is its Managing Director.

Other Board members include Dylan Reneau, president of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and John Mencias of the Petrocaribe Fund. For weeks now the local newspapers have been running advertisements to recruit bank staff.

In April P.M. Barrow explained: “We are looking principally at mortgage financing. We intend to ultimately accept deposits and turn this into a full-scale bank with all the services. The idea is to expand the home-owning class of this country, to provide cheaper access to credit, and we will not stop at mortgage lending.”

The National Bank will take over the former headquarters of the Small Farmers and Business Bank in Belmopan.

The Reporter