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WILD COOT: FATCA and BRA


HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: FATCA and BRA

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FEEDBACK FROM MY LAST ARTICLE, From The Frying Pan, was encouraging. Our past Prime Minister Errol Barrow asked us, “What is your mirror image of yourselves”. A searching question.

Our response to FATCA can throw some light on the matter. Encouraged by the USA, the UK, and soon others, are demanding that other countries that they can bully, report the business activities of their citizens doing business abroad in a foreign country or with their currency. The US dollar is not the only universal currency and it is advisable for persons not US citizens not to trade in this currency.

The Wild Coot was taught that only a demand from a judge in an established court could unlock information on a customer. Such is the confidentiality of information within a bank relative to its customers. Today there is so much money laundering, guns and drugs that the barriers to disclosure are slowly being eroded.

We have such a situation confronting Barbados. Should a bank disclose to BRA information on a customer which information is to be passed on to the Inland Revenue of the USA? The question should be put to each and every customer falling into the disclosure bracket so that his permission could be obtained. If he says no to the bank, then the bank cannot give the information and will be obliged to close the account; neither should it inform BRA of the closure.

But you know that there may be customers whose business involves more than US$50 000 that have no connection to the US. For example, if a Barbadian who grows potatoes exports his produce to China and bills in US dollars, he can have a US dollar account in Barbados as well as in London for convenience. Tell me if that has anything to do with the US Inland Revenue since America boasts that the US dollar is universal currency. You cannot have it both ways.

Now banks have until August 17 to report the accounts or be fined. Do we have the guts to say no to Uncle Sam? Antigua is still waiting for justice after many years, from the US disrupting of their gambling business even though sentence by WTO has been passed in their favour. The Wild Coot was living in Antigua at the time of the dispute. Antigua lost a lot of business to Costa Rica. In Barbados at the time of writing, the law has not yet been changed. Are banks up the proverbial creek?

Funny enough, no lawyer seems to have taken up the debate, if it is a debate in Barbados. Someone told me that the Canadians have raised over $500 000 to help fight the application of FATCA there.

Here in Barbados we seem to be just drifting. Somebody signed a contract with Cahill and nobody knows who did. Has an environmental survey been done? People in St Thomas are protesting. Protests have been heard left, right and centre.

Dr Karl Watson’s voice has been heard questioning changes to the beach at Dover, a voice echoing what people who frequent Dover beach have been saying all along. Changes are being made to the landscape and vegetation around Dover. Has permission been given or has Sandals got the go-ahead in its wide-ranging slew of tax concessions? We wonder what else could be in the permission given to Sandals. In any case we ask the question, does the increased number of tourists touted as attributable to Sandals reflect  increased foreign exchange revenue to Barbados? My instincts tell me no.

Our minister of finance, maybe at his wits end, is reported to bemoan Caribbean countries’ debt position, they sitting in a strategic underbelly of the US. Now the US under the Democratic government demands cooperation for FATCA. Even on Bush Hill they bargain. (How you know Wild Coot? – ah boy). Billions are being spent by the US on a hegemonic mirage in the Middle East. Are priorities confused? Who threw the world into a state of catatonic tower of Babel in 2007?

We need to say congratulations to our Governor of the Central Bank Dr DeLisle Worrell on his elevation to the membership of the Bretton Woods Committee. Perhaps we now have an opportunity for our voice to be heard among “friends” and not necessarily vultures.

Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]

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