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WILD COOT: From the frying pan


HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: From the frying pan

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WILL OUR LEADERSHIP FAIL? I might be wrong but if I remember correctly, the first reaction of our leader was “they can’t do that”. I am speaking about FATCA.

According to the report, it comes as a surprise then that the main query of what the Inland Revenue of the United States is doing has been attributed to the banks. That’s because bankers have perspicacity. They are taught to see further down the line. One would have thought that with the plethora of lawyers and our penchant for legal debate, lawyers would have been the first to question what the US is doing. Or even priests who are so adept at pointing out what God condones or not condones. Maybe the priest would invoke Psalm 109.

The legislation has not yet been set before Parliament, but our banks have to anticipate that legislation will be passed. Our experience in BRA or with the Minister of Finance is an example of not holding our breath. BARP can testify to that. But the banks realise that they will ultimately carry the can. You see, no one will tell the United States of America that it cannot dictate that our BRA should pay a fine of $50 000 plus if our banks do not succeed in getting any US owner of a $50 000 or more business to pay tax.

We are a sovereign nation. Or are we? And if we refuse to pay? This is colonisation over and again. The British left and the Americans take over. Can the US fine the tax collection authorities of China or Russia or Cuba or even Iran for not disclosing that the American citizen or a person doing business with America failed to comply with FATCA? Can the BRA stand up or will it play dead to the US but bully our customs officers; bully our banks – and the Central Bank say nothing.

There once was a prime minister who defied the US when it wanted to play in our territorial waters without permission – when it downgraded our airport for spite. He carried his case to the highest authority. That is when we were somebody. We had guts. He appealed to the world saying “we are small, but we must be respected”. In those halcyon days a prime minister would go to Europe and confront the European countries for blacklisting us. That was when we were somebody.

And do you know that if perchance our banks cannot get its ducks in order and that we have to suffer the indignity of a fine, it will add to the perilous state of our indebtedness. Stamp in a man’s face when he is down! Additionally, looming over our heads is the threat of which the prime minister Perry Christie recently warned. He said that our Caribbean banks would be unable to do business with American correspondent banks. Cut off from the world.

Will our esteemed politicians pass legislation that is iniquitous to our people? Let’s see who will vote yes or who will stand for democracy in the face of the “most democratic nation” in the world. Should not our Central Bank be prepared to defend our banks? Or can it? The silence is deafening.

Just suppose that we had the guts to say to the US. “Normally a country would in a friendly way request another country (although it may be small) to help in its efforts to get citizens to pay taxes.” Not the US. Like a king whose domain is the whole world, or like the pope sending out an encyclical, the word goes forth that every nation should comply or else. King Herod of old method was to kill every newborn male child. Ronald Reagan’s remedy was to invade Grenada, for Cuba it was isolation and blockade for 50 years.

If we were a big country, we would get our ambassador Mr Tony Marshall to put the case before the United Nations before we pass any iniquitous laws here in Barbados.

Our politicians should be cognisant of the knowledge that they will not always have diplomatic protection and immunity. Someday when they are no longer protected, when travelling to the United States, questions may be asked as to the legitimacy of their stash. If unable to answer satisfactorily, they could ask Noriega what has or is happening to him.

You know that it is only by a quirk of nature that some countries have a large mass above the water still, while others barely peeping. However we are now seeing thousands of mankind reaching out to the shores of the developed countries. By rubber dinghies, by overcrowded rafts, by whatever means people are leaving depressed countries and flocking to the “developed” ones. Reparation in reverse!

• Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]

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