BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 19, 2021– Earlier this week, it was reported that the Governor of the Central Bank, Gustavo Vasquez, who was appointed on April 1 of this year by the Prime Minister, Hon. John Briceño, was suddenly removed from that post in the regulatory body last week.
In a letter to the Central Bank staff on Friday, Vasquez stated that his governorship had been terminated due to his unwillingness to do the bidding of “special financial and economic sector interests.”
He further indicated that he would be taking all necessary action to defend his reputation.
So why did the Ministry of Finance, headed by the Prime Minister, decide that Vasquez, a world-class financial consultant with a near 3-million dollar contract with the government, was not the person it wanted at the helm of the country’s financial system?
Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño says he followed the recommendations handed down to him by the Central Bank Board. According to Hon. Briceño, the members of that board and Vasquez, who was appointed to replace former Central Bank governor Joy Grant just a few months ago, were not seeing eye to eye.
The Prime Minister said that, for this reason, he opted to remove Vasquez, the man he handpicked for the job — contrary, he said, to claims being made in some quarters that the Ministry of Finance was trying to usurp the autonomy of the Central Bank. The Prime Minister went further to say that he still considers Vasquez a friend.
However, the chairman of the United Democratic Party, Michael Peyefitte, at a press conference held by the party on Tuesday, said the purported grounds for the removal of the Central Bank Governor were very limited, and he went on to assert that any antipathy of members of the Central Bank Board to Vasquez was not sufficiently solid reason for his removal from the post.
Peyrefitte told the media at the press conference that, according to the Central Bank Act, Vasquez could only have been removed if he had become a member of the National Assembly, or held a post at a domestic bank, as per section 15 (1) of the Central Bank Act.
The act states that only the Governor General can remove the Central Bank Governor from office, and that the Ministry of Finance is only empowered to remove Deputy Governors and Directors.
Sub-section 2 further states that even the Governor General must have justifiable reasons for removing a Central Bank Governor. It indicates that only if the Governor of the Central Bank becomes bankrupt or insolvent, is found guilty of an offense involving dishonesty, or becomes unable to perform his duties would there be sufficient grounds for termination by the Governor General.
The last time a Central Bank governor demitted office was when Glenford Ysaguirre was replaced by Joy Grant under the Barrow administration because he refused to comply with a request by the Government of Belize on principle.
At the time, then Governor Ysaguirre denied a request made by the Government of Belize for US $70 million which would be used as partial payment to Lord Michael Ashcroft for GOB’s acquisition of BTL.
Ysaguirre had said that any additional payout to Lord Michael Ashcroft at the time “would be destructive for the economy of Belize,” especially in light of “a limited foreign exchange reserve.”
This time around, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño is suggesting that the Board of the Central Bank felt that Vasquez was unwilling to implement certain key economic concessions geared towards pumping new life into the ailing economy.
Mr. Vasquez, who had served as an officer of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for about 15 years, is now reportedly in conversations with the Government of Belize regarding a financial settlement for his three-million-dollar contract.
Of note, no official letter of termination handed down by the Governor General has been made public or officially released by the Government of Belize. At this time, Mr. Sydney Campbell is holding over as head of the Central Bank, but the Prime Minister has said that Campbell will not be holding that office permanently.
On the Central Bank Board of Directors at this time are Mr. Sydney Campbell, who serves as Chairman, Mrs. Sol Espejo-Molina, Mrs. Neri Matus, Mr. Giacomo Sanchez, Mr. Joseph Waight, Mrs. Marilyn Gardiner-Usher, and Mr. Kareem Michael. The office of the Central Bank Governor is still vacant at this time.