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AS I SEE THINGS: Put issues in the right context

Brian M. Francis, [email protected]

AS I SEE THINGS: Put issues in the right context

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AS SMALL, OPEN and highly vulnerable countries, we in the Caribbean will everlastingly be challenged by developments taking place in the international economy, many of which we have little to no control over. Notwithstanding, we still have a moral obligation to our citizens to respond appropriately or else risk destabilising our economies and societies.

To find real solutions to these external shocks, as global developments are often classified, it is important that we always be clear to distinguish between what people and countries say are the reasons for their taking certain actions, and the real reasons for their actions. If we fail to make this distinction, our rational and reasonable responses to these folks’ stated concerns will never stop them from continuing to exert pressure, since their real motives or concerns are not being addressed.

Put differently, we in the Caribbean must ensure that we are able to properly contextualise issues affecting us, or those with the potential to impact us negatively, before determining what sort of responses we should initiate. For example, some of those claiming that Caribbean countries are “tax havens” know very well that this is untrue. Yet, they continue to assert it (and to fool the ignorant among them) and to seek to initiate or recommend the initiation of sanctions against our small, vulnerable states.

Clearly, it is vital we understand why those who know better are still proceeding along these lines, or we will end up responding with ineffective technical or technocratic solutions, when a very different approach is required for a long-term solution to this challenge.

Another example is the highly successful United States-led assault in the World Trade Organisation under Bill Clinton in the 1990s on Windward Islands and Jamaican bananas that was driven, despite statements to the contrary about concerns pertaining to “free trade” and ending “trade preferences” for some developing countries over other developing countries, by election campaign finance-related lobbying by Chiquita, so that they could muscle in on these islands’ United Kingdom banana market.

In this context, therefore, we in the Caribbean need to carefully examine what has been happening in key Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries; most particularly, the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union over the past two decades, as these developments continue to affect our economies and societies in significant ways.

For instance: How does Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act fit into a true analysis of what’s really going on? How do the attacks by several OECD countries over the past decade or so on “secrecy” of beneficial ownership of registered companies by offshore financial institutions in the Caribbean, even as many of them have similar arrangements in their countries, relate to this?

Is it mere coincidence that as Caribbean countries have moved to comply with the demands, accompanied by threats of sanctions, it should be noted, to increase transparency in the registration of offshore companies, and to share this information with OECD countries which request such information-sharing, the cry of “tax havens” has increased in volume, and with a large number of Caribbean countries named as such, with sanctions threatened unless they cease to be the “tax havens” that they are not?

I rest my case as you reflect on these and additional questions and begin to set your minds on the proper contextualising of issues.

Email: [email protected]