Financial Services Minister Brent Symonette said Monday that members of the former Christie administration “dragged their feet” with important deadlines imposed by the European Union (EU), which he claimed, is ultimately what led to The Bahamas being blacklisted last week.
However, he asserted that the issue is “non-political” and that he is focused on getting The Bahamas off the EU’s ‘D’ list as quickly as possible, as it is in the “best interest of Bahamians”.
Symonette said, “We will continue to make sure that does not continue to happen. The facts will come out and we will lay the letters for the other side. January 27, no answer. So, we are not being political about this issue. The facts are stubborn. They are what they are and we will move on…”
He also suggested that it may be time for The Bahamas to appoint an ambassador to the EU to prevent this jurisdicition from being blacklisted again.
“I am proposing to my colleagues and we will be discussing in short order, whether it is time for The Bahamas to have an ambassador to the EU and possibly to the World Trade Organization (WTO) as we move forward with talking to the EU, so we have a higher degree of dialogue between the Bahamas and the EU,” he said.
“We are working against a backlog of a failure by The Bahamas to address the concerns raised at earlier dates. There were times during the former administration where letters were not answered and action was not taken and we are working against that background.”
In response, Opposition Leader Phillip ‘Brave’ Davis said the government should be focused on getting The Bahamas off the blacklist, rather than “pointing fingers”.
“This is a matter that we need to approach on a bi-partisan basis but the government continues to point the finger and the record will show where we lie with this issue,” said Davis.
“Let us get to resolving and removing the country off the black list instead of pointing fingers.”
Symonette replied: “The idea now is to correct those problems and move on to delisting of The Bahamas. Blame lies on either side and the facts are we must engage in more active discussions with the EU to make sure the blacklisting is removed while still maintaining the sovereign status of The Bahamas. We have much more to do.”
While Symonette acknowledged that Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest will address the blacklisting issue “in greater detail” at a later date, he maintained the government’s commitment to completing what needs to be done by December of 2018.
The Bahamas was added to the EU blacklist of tax havens last Tuesday.
At the time, Turnquest, who is also the Minister of Finance, called the move “regrettable”.
He said the decision was made “without discussion” but said he remains hopeful that the country will be removed from the listing “in the shortest time possible”.