Bank of South ready to operate with backing of Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela


Alternative lending institution Bank of the South is ready to begin operation, thanks to the funding from Bolivia, Argentina, Ecuador and Venezuela, a top official said Monday.

Bolivian Economy and Public Finance Minister Luis Arce said countries were "now fulfilling the requirements for the establishment and start of operations of the Bank of the South: resources from Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have been guaranteed."

Addressing a group of young political activists, the minister said the only step left for the bank to begin lending was for the four heads of state to give the go-ahead.

"The only thing we need is for the presidents to gather and raise the checkered flag to start activities at the Bank of the South," said Arce, adding there was no set date for the opening.

The bank was designed to promote the financial independence of the members of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), by reducing their dependence on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, whose loans invariably entail onerous conditions.

As Arce has said in the past, the bank "can serve to get a small or large country out of a tight (financial) spot, without having to submit to the order and conditions of the International Monetary Fund."

While Unasur gathers 12 countries, the bank's charter holds that the institution can begin operation with a minimum of four countries, which have to guarantee the resources and secure the approval of their respective congresses.

The bank, headquartered in Venezuela's capital Caracas, with branches in Buenos Aires and La Paz, is expected to start work with an initial capital of 7 billion US dollars.

The idea of a regional lending bank was originally proposed by Venezuela's late revolutionary leader Hugo Chavez.

Unasur also comprises Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay.