After more than a year of threats and speculation over whether the government would honor its debt from the Negotiable Investment Certificates (CENIs) scandal following the collapse of the banking system in 2000, the Central Bank this week announced that it has renegotiated the terms of debt repayment to the Banco de Producción (Banpro) by both extending the term and lowering the interest rate.
Banpro is one of the minority holders of the CENIs.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Central Bank has renegotiated its $157.7 million debt to Banpro into payments over 20 years at 5 percent interest. The old terms were 10 years at 8.4 percent interest.
The debt restructuring, according to Central Bank President Antenor Rosales, will mean that Nicaragua’s debt payment this year to Banpro will be reduced to $4.8 million from the $41.1 million that had been budgeted. That means an additional $36.3 million will be freed up for other social-spending programs this year.
The CENIs were issued in 2001 by the government of President Arnoldo Alemán to cover the collapse of the state banking system. They were supposed to cover those who had lost money, but most were bought by private banks as investment.
The terms and interest rates were then renegotiated under the administration of President Enrique Bolaños – a move that critics claim benefited the CENI holders in something akin to insider trading. The Sandinistas have called the CENIs scandal, estimated to have cost the country between $500 and $600 million, the “robbery of the century,” and have used the issue as a weapon against their political adversaries.