International Credit Union Day (ICU) celebrated in Belize Print E-mail
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Friday, 25 October 2013 00:00

Raymond TzulCredit Unions in Belize celebrated International Credit Union (ICU) Day last week Thursday. ICU has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948. The day is recognized to reflect on the credit union movement and to promote its milestones. It is a day to recognize those who have contributed greatly to the movement and show members our appreciation. This year’s ICU Day was held under the theme, “Credit Unions Unite for Good: A Better Way”; emphasizing the benefits of Credit Unions working cooperatively around the World.

There are now some 56,000 cooperative financial institutions world-wide, holding some 300 million members in 101 countries that pool their resources for the common good.

One of those Credit Unions who held an open day last week Thursday in recognition of ICU was the Saint Martin’s Credit Union (SMCU) located on Eve Street in San Ignacio Town.

Today, the SMCU is a seven thousand strong member institution with the membership coming up with over a million dollars in savings every year. As a result of a continuous seven to ten percent growths yearly over the last decade, the SMCU is soon to roll out expanded, services to its customers.

The SMCU Building itself is now being expanded and as a result an additional teller will become available from the current four. The loans department will also be expanded to four officers from the current two to meet the demands for loans.

In addition to making your savings at the SMCU, you can now simultaneously pay your light, water, telephone and even cable bills. There is also a Western Union Services at the SMCU to send your money anywhere.

One of the successful programs that the SMCU is now running along with the Belize Natural Energy Charitable Trust is a financing program for tertiary level education. Students can now apply for loan financing towards Junior College and University Education even without a current employment status. Some two hundred students are now benefiting under this SMCU program.

Initiatives are also underway to expand the SMCU’s reach in rural areas under the Rural Finance Program (RFP). Finance officers under the almost two year old RFP visit villages like Seven Miles, San Antonio, El Progresso, Bullet Tree Falls and Duck Run, taking with them financial services and speaking to community leaders about the benefit of saving at the SMCU.

But the status of any Credit Union is highly dependent on its leaders and the membership.

“…you would always have the fact that you have to deal with delinquency, people who don’t pay, the positive thing about this entire situation is that Credit Unions now fall under the Central Bank of Belize, so there is better monitoring and regulating of Credit Unions, so for example delinquency is one of the things they look at, they pressure Credit Unions as the banks as other financial institutions to control delinquency, because if you allow delinquency to get out of control, that will be your demise, but as a Credit Union I am happy to say that we have maintained a consistent delinquency rate of between four to five percent, which is very good,” says Raymond Tzul, Assistant General Manager of the Saint Martin’s Credit Union.

The reality on the ground is that Credit Unions are now having a fierce competition along with the Banks to take down interest rates.
“The reality is that we have a very tough competition with the Banks and this whole issue of for example the lowest interest rates that the banks are offering, one of the things I want to stress is that the Credit Union always had the best interest rate long before the Banks decided to bring down their interest rate…we charge one percent on the monthly balance and the reducing balance,” explains Raymond Tzul.

Assistant Manager Raymond Tzul also adds that when a member comes to make a loan at the SMCU the fees that are paid for the loan are less than the banks. If a member chooses to take out a mortgage at the SMCU the fees that are paid is far less than the banks maintains Raymond Tzul and in addition free insurance coverage is obtained for loans up to $40,000 while at the bank the customer has to pay for that insurance.