A desperate dash to stop EU blacklisting

A desperate dash to stop EU blacklisting
From left: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Peter Turnquest and Member of Parliament for Ragged Island and the Exumas, Chester Cooper.

Opposition offers govt. support to ‘navigate country out of latest crisis

At the 11th hour, the government is making one final attempt to avoid being blacklisted by the European Union (EU).

Eyewitness News received reports that the Deputy Prime Minister, Peter Turnquest and Minister of Financial Services, Brent Symonette, left for Europe yesterday hoping to meet with EU officials to put forth The Bahamas’ case to avoid the predicted black listing set to be decided tomorrow when the EU meets.

Meanwhile, the opposition said it’s not surprised of the blacklisting forecast and has offered assistance to the government. With the country facing the looming economic indictment, Shadow Minister of Finance and Financial Services and Deputy Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, Chester Cooper, is offering the opposition’s help and support in ‘navigating’ the country out of this latest issue.

“The PLP is sincerely interested in helping the government navigate the process of delisting and will avail ourselves for consultation and to pass emergency legislation if required, to adequately respond to this attack,” said Cooper.

The Exumas and Ragged Island M.P. says the announcement that the European Union (EU) intends this week to blacklist The Bahamas as a non-cooperative tax jurisdiction is disappointing but not entirely surprising.

According to Cooper, the government previously assured that it had staved off this move by the EU.

“The shifting goal posts of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the illusory criteria the EU Code of Conduct Group (COCG) have imposed without giving The Bahamas any real voice are a threat to our livelihood,” he said.

“It is mind-boggling that all that has been done by The Bahamas in recent years is not enough to satisfy these international bodies.”

The opposition is of the view that there can be no question that the national interests in the security of The Bahamas’ offshore financial centre are paramount.

“We have a wealth of expertise and have no illusions that delisting is a national priority to preserve our financial services industry and correspondent banking relationships, which have already suffered enough.”

The shadow minister of finance and financial services, maintained that achieving the short-term goal of delisting is not enough, as these international bodies will likely move the goal posts again.

“What is needed is a proactive course of action and a national non-partisan plan to improve ease of doing business and to create incentives for real international business to create economic substance in The Bahamas,” he explained.

“Meaningful consultation with industry stakeholders, particularly the Bahamas Financial Services Board, and the opposition on these issues is a must. Waiting for the OECD, and now the EU, to come up with further hoops for us to jump through will not do.”

The opposition believes there must also be a comprehensive approach to economic growth by generating better financial conditions in which entrepreneurs can thrive.

“As we have previously suggested, a local economic czar, designing more and easier access to banking services, deeper investment in food security through local private public partnerships, local and foreign investment in expanding industries in which more Bahamians can participate and wealth creation are just a few things that can begin immediately to ensure the sound financial future of The Bahamas,” he said.

Cooper said The PLP looks forward to bringing their wealth of knowledge to the table to assist the government in this matter.

On Friday, it was revealed that the EU is set to add The Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands to its tax haven blacklist along with nine other jurisdictions including American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Namibia, Palau, Samoa, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.