The National Bank of Belize recently celebrated its first birthday, with much the same fanfare with which it celebrated its birth. Today, Prime Minister Dean Barrow lauded the institution which he says can barely keep up with the demand for affordable, low-interest credit from Belizeans. The bank was capitalized with twenty-million dollars from Petro Caribe funds, and today the PM came to the House seeking approval for another ten million in capitalization. There is no quarrel with the request for further funding, and no quarrel with the bank�but Opposition member for Orange Walk Central John Brice�o is asking for an expansion in the scope of the institution to include student loans.

John Brice�o, Area Representative, Orange Walk Central

John Brice�o

"I would like to bring to his attention if somewhere we can find a way to move the student loans from the DFC. And why I say that Mister Speaker is because I have been talking to a number of students who have been trying to get loans from DFC and one it is very difficult to get; they ask a lot from these kids�from security to people to sign for them to make sure that they pay. That by itself I can understand, but most importantly Mister Speaker, they are charging the students eleven percent. And at this time you know that credit is so cheap. I would want to suggest to the prime minister if he can look into moving those loans from the DFC to the national bank where there students can pay a cheaper rate, at least eight percent and easing on some of the conditions. I know a young man who just got a loan and his interest payments while attending school is two hundred dollars a month. He is working, his family cannot afford to pay so he has to work to find the two hundred dollars, or one-ninety-five every month. So maybe Prime Minister, something that you can look at and see what we can do to help alleviate the pressures that these students have."

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

"The National Bank is now doing refinancing and people who have mortgage loans at the commercial banks are able to in fact come to the National Bank, pay off the commercial bank and refinance through the National Bank. We started off concentrating or dealing exclusively with mortgage financing. The remit of the bank has long since expanded and the bank does offer student loans. I am not sure of the size of the student loan portfolio. I don't see why the same sort of accommodation couldn't be offered by the National Bank in terms of people being able to refinance the loans that they might currently have with the DFC. But let me find out. I am not sure whether any policy decision was made with respect to student loans in the same manner as the policy decision was made with respect to mortgage financing."

Channel 5