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Date: 02 Apr, 2009
Source: The Barbados Advocate

GOVERNMENT will remain active in ensuring that the country’s image as an international financial centre is not tarnished.

In stating this, Prime Minister David Thompson pointed out that his Government intends to take such action since any threat to that segment of the economy must be taken seriously.

He said that summits like the recent G20 event in London can at times get consumed, sometimes with either single or larger issues, given that it depends on the extent to which those with a vested interest in pushing the issue, can get it to be seriously configured.

“But we take any threat seriously because issues mushroomed out of ignorance, not out of knowledge so that a person may react to an issue on instinct rather than on available evidence,” he said.

“So our job really is to constantly provide the international community with information on Barbados as a reputable financial services centre which has tax and information exchange agreements with countries, and that we are not a secretive domicile or a domicile that conspires with others to allow people to avoid taxation,” the Prime Minister said in an interview with this newspaper.

There was much speculation that the London (G20) summit would have instituted sanctions on countries deemed as tax havens and indulging in harmful taxation practices. The Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) has placed Costa Rica, Malaysia, the Philippines and Uruguay on its blacklist of non-cooperation tax havens, as part of efforts agreed at the summit to crack down on tax evasion.

Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Singapore, Chile, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein and Monaco are placed on a special grey list of countries that have agreed to improve transparency.

Thompson said that Barbados and The Bahamas had specific roles in helping to combat any negative fallout on the regional sector. Thompson said that Barbados has been designated to deal with the issue in Europe, and is responsible for establishing a unit that would coordinate initiatives both in Europe and in the United States. “So we have a very key role to play,” he told the Barbados Advocate, while also noting that he had submitted a letter to British Prime Minister Gordon Browne, on the subject.

The Prime Minister also said that this week when he travels to London, he intends meeting with the Chairman of the Financial Services Authority in the UK, as well as with the Minister of Trade and a senior minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“The Bahamas has been designated to deal with the United States where the Prime Minister has launched an initiative, to deal with some of the issues,” he added.

The G20 countries are the G8 states comprising the United States, the UK, European Union (represented by two officials), Japan, Canada, Germany, France and Italy, and Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea and Turkey.