Opposition Leader cautions against “bullish” behavior
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest had strong words for the French ambassador when he delivered a letter confirming the country’s blacklisting as a tax haven this morning.
Turnquest, Minister of Finance, told Parliament the blacklisting concerns the tax information exchange agreement between the two countries, and the perception by the French authorities that the Bahamas has not been responding to requests for information in a manner that is satisfactory to them.
He stressed the move was taken without any engagement with high-ranking stakeholders, or triggering any dispute mechanisms outlined in several agreements made with the European Union – of which France is a member state.
“It demonstrates complete disregard for damaging repercussions and long term impact such punitive measures have on countries like the Bahamas.
He continued: “I was in France last week and at no time was it indicated France was considering this action…it is an affront to amicable relations fostered with France and the EU.
“I expressed to the ambassador this morning our total disappointment, disgust, and I would even say anger at the method in which they have brought it out.”
The Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes was founded in 2000, and the Bahamas was an inaugural member as part of an ad-hoc group that led to the creation of the forum.
It consists of OECD member countries as well as other jurisdictions that have agreed to implement tax related transparency and information exchange.
Turnquest said: “There is no point with us engaging in this multilateral organizations if individual members are going to take unilateral action particularly without dialogue at the highest level. They expect commitment from us at the highest political levels. The OECD blacklisted us because they claim we did not engage with them at the highest political level.
“We will communicate formally because the Bahamas is a committed partner to tax transparency and cooperation and the fulfillment of our obligations with our international partners,” he added.
In response, Opposition leader Philip Davis said his side joined in the expression of outrage over the way the matter has been handled.
However, Davis cautioned against taken a “bullish” stance before getting to the root cause of such an arbitrary decision.
“The country has been under assault in respect to one of its contributing arms to gross domestic product and that is in the financial services. And despite all efforts they always appear to be the moving of the goal post by the international community.
“I only caution that we try to understand why is it that before being bullish in our response. It starts off that the reasons undergirding this blacklisting is our failure to properly respond to requests. One of our challenges not just with France but many of our partners around the world is our ability to respond to requests.”
However, Turnquest insisted the country had no request, on record, that had gone unanswered.
“The fact of the matter Is that we had none, we have none, as far as we were aware none in the record. The points made are well taken.
“The French ambassador communicated list of requests, we are in process of determining what could possibly be…as far as we concerned every request has been responded to, none are outstanding according to our record.
He added: “If the French authorities had bothered to send us back a note to say, then we would have had a basis but we will look into it, and respond and be guided by it.”