The Central Bank of Belize (CBB)’s recently appointed Governor, Mr. Gustavo Manuel Vasquez, was fired last Friday because he and the CBB’s Board could not see eye to eye, according to Prime Minister John Briceño.
Briceño, speaking to the media on Wednesday, explained that Vasquez was and the CBB’s board had a lot of policy differences. Briceño said that the matter reached the point where the board felt it best to part ways with the Governor and they made the recommendation to ask him to resign. According to Briceño, he has been briefed that the board is currently meeting with Vasquez to find a reasonable settlement for his contract.
While Briceño said he was asked to resign, as we had reported previously, Vasquez has had emailed the CBB staff that his “appointment as Governor was terminated by the Governor-General with immediate effect on the instructions of the Ministry of Finance.”
Vasquez’s email went on to state: “Please be absolutely assured that I leave with my head up high as I tried my best to restore the integrity and operational autonomy of the Central Bank and certainly faced stiff opposition from the Ministry of Finance and special financial and economic sector interest.”
Briceño, speaking to the farewell email said, “He [Vasquez] is absolutely wrong because I could assure you that myself as the Minister of Finance and my Deputy Minister of Finance had no intentions of trying to control the Central Bank, but we do have a responsibility to see that the Central Bank is the government’s banker. The Central Bank has to be GOB chief cheerleader in trying to get the economy going, in trying to get the banks to reduce their interest rates, in trying to get all that excess liquidity being pumped into the economy, to grow the economy, to create investments, to create a job, and the board is feeling that they weren’t seeing that. They [the Board] felt at the end of the day that it’s best that we part ways. Despite the fact that Manuel is my friend, remains my friend, I’m here to do a job, so I had to accept the recommendation of the board.”
In a separate interview on the Love FM/TV’s Morning Show, Briceño stated, “If you appoint a board and that board is saying that they were having many issues with him, as the Governor, it is your responsibility to listen to the board and so the former Governor may look at it from a different perspective. He was let go due to the differences that he consistently had with members.”
Grounds for Termination under CBB Act
But even as Vasquez and the board of the Central Bank of Belize are reported to be in discussion over a settlement, there are still lingering questions as to whether Vasquez’s termination is legal.
Section 15(1) of the Central Bank of Belize (CBB) Act states: “No person shall be appointed or remain a Director who, (a) is a member of the National Assembly; or (b) is a director, officer or other employee of a licensed bank or licensed financial institution.”
Section 15 (2) of the Act also goes on to list other conditions under which the CBB’s Governor could be removed. That section reads, “Governor-General may terminate the appointment of the Governor … only if the Governor… as the case may be, (a) by writing under his hand addressed to the person who appointed him resigns his office; (b) becomes subject to any of the disqualifications specified in subsection (1) of this section; (c) becomes bankrupt … (d) is convicted of an offense involving dishonesty; (e) becomes totally or permanently incapable of performing his duties, or (f) is guilty of gross misconduct.”
On Monday, the Reporter reached out to Vasquez for a comment but he informed us that he would refrain from commenting on the matter at this time.