The injustice we are committing against the people of Benque have to be reversed.
Through no sin or misdeed of their own depositors at the former Mount Carmel Credit Union have been left with empty pockets and broken dreams. Meanwhile, we as a country just stand on the sidelines with no cause for concern. Almost as if to say, “That’s their problem, not mine”.
But the demise of Mount Carmel should be everyone’s concern as it may signal things yet to come. A financial institution with stellar performance and unprecedented growth, Mount Carmel was the envy of its day. Money was pouring in from home and abroad. Dividends were healthy. And the staff was partying! What could go wrong? Who could crash this financial success driven by hard working Benquenos?
There are many more questions than answers. But what is certain now is that the final bell has tolled for Mount Carmel. And its depositors have been placed in a coffin.
A few years ago myself and a small vocal group stood up at a general meeting of the St. Martin’s Credit Union in Cayo to oppose on-lending of our own monies to keep Mount Carmel afloat. We opposed the loan not because we were against helping the people of Benque; but because we saw the risk of throwing hard-earned monies at a failed institution that was sinking with no clear rescue strategy. At that time we were vilified by the organizers of this plan. Nevertheless, the plan was withdrawn. Today, our members can agree that hundreds of thousands of dollars were not lost.
But Mount Carmel should not be thrown aside as a lost case. Real people with real savings are hurting! As responsible credit unionists we need to explore ways to ensure our brothers and sisters are not left in the financial graveyard. Of the millions of dollars borrowed, loaned and donated every day my guess is that someone, versed in finance, knows from where capital may be obtained to stop this hurting.
Perhaps we should reach out to the pool of trained bankers, economists and experienced business persons of this country so as to find a solution to this ugly situation.
No matter the outcome of this financial saga, in the end, it is bitter and it is casting a dark shadow on our financial sector. Confidence needs to be restored by demonstrating to our local depositors that we value their years of sacrifice. We need to re-assure hard working Belizeans abroad that we are serious about protecting the savings they send back home. We need to show all credit union members that we will stand beside them during times of monetary challenge.
The first step to restoring confidence is to reverse the injustice that has been done to the people of Benque. We can do it because Belize is better than this!