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EDITORIAL: Challenging OECD report on Barbados

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Challenging OECD report on Barbados

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THE WARNING this past weekend by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean that  Barbados’ vital international financial services sector has been put at risk by misrepresentations from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) warrants firm bipartisan responses, across the political divide, in the national interest.
Given Barbados’ history of cooperation with the Paris-based OECD in enacting and enforcing stringent regulations against financial crimes, including money laundering, it would have come as more than a disappointment for the OECD’s Global Forum to speak of prevailing ineffective systems and mechanisms in the functioning of the country’s legal framework to deal with the issue of tax evasion.
Critics may also recall how irate Caribbean partners had rebuked Barbados back in early 2002 for going its own way to escape a then perverse “blacklisting” by the OECD of some regional jurisdictions.
When the political dust had settled, Barbados was to firmly deny having made concessions to multilateral organizations, under the influence of the OECD.
What, however, it had failed to do was to subsequently ensure an official presence at the OECD meeting in Canada when the Global Forum was inaugurated with its “peer review” mandate.
As recalled, the other Caribbean jurisdictions that had participated in the inauguration meeting of the Global Forum, strangely, did not question the authority of the OECD to establish such a body.
Now the Forum’s “peer review” system is being used, or misused, as a weapon to influence compliance on claims of tax evasion, as revealed by McClean.
Caribbean jurisdictions should endeavour to act in unison to separately avoid falling victim to the politics of arrogance being pursued by the OECD.
Basically a rich nations’ club, the OECD has often been disposed to pummelling the sovereignty of small and vulnerable economies like ours.
Perhaps CARICOM Heads of Government should be alerted to the negative implications for Barbados of the OECD’s Global Forum Report and should consider how harmful this approach could also prove for other jurisdictions in this region.
In seeking to pass judgement against Barbados’ approach in relation to its international obligations on tax evasion, the Global Forum may have unwittingly invited critical scrutiny of its overall objectives, particularly as they impinge on the sovereignty of small and vulnerable economies that are not opposed to cooperation for what’s right and just.
This is an issue, we emphasise, that requires bipartisan cooperation at both the national and regional level.