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WILD COOT: Blowing hot air


HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: Blowing hot air

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I HAVE A DISAGREEMENT with my friend Sir Charles Williams, although I can understand his point of view, as he is a businessman who is driven by instinct and hard work. I agree with him that likeable as he is, President Barack Obama’s FATCA (Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act) has done irreparable damage to the Caribbean – the underbelly of the United States and as reportedly stated by the ambassador, the ‘south border’.

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump spoke of making America great again; he spoke of returning jobs to America. In this regard, he was on the same path as Hillary Clinton. The Caribbean did not feature in their approach. It would be a betrayal now to retract on the rhetoric that brought Trump his success. 

Unless repealed, President Obama’s FATCA will continue to cause irreparable damage both socially and economically to the Caribbean, especially Barbados that relies so heavily on payments for imports and support from immigrants abroad. Recently, there have been voices in Europe questioning the value of derisking and the recent publications for increase in the shareholders’ equity for commercial banks. This aspect also relates to the problems created by FATCA.

Indeed, the focus of Clinton’s campaign was to continue the hurtful policies of President Obama that affected the Caribbean. I do not see where bringing jobs back to America will promote business in the Caribbean except if people, fearful of Trump, will want to relocate themselves or their wealth to the Caribbean and Barbados, which up to now still offers useful assets.

While Sir Charles spoke of deregulation, my perception of Trump is that he is a very clever man. He said the things that would appeal to a certain element of the electorate. Once elected, he will pursue his own agenda of self-aggrandisement and nepotism, and most of the pre-election promises will just be rhetoric. That has been his trademark from young. Which deregulation will suit Barbados?

He said that Mexico’s goods would be charged high taxes, but Mexico could retaliate on American goods with high taxes too. As for Barbados, if FATCA is not repealed, we can retaliate by not selling rum to the US. Makes sense. Businesses that have relocated to Barbados will live in fear. So will commercial banks and correspondent banks in the US. Their fear – high fines.

It cannot be good for our society if hardback criminals can be plucked from their cells and foisted upon us unwillingly after having honed their art of deviance, sometimes from childhood, in America. In fact, this would only be an acceleration of what has been going on under President Obama. Imagine what this has been doing to an already gun-infested society. Are we then to believe that Trump, the president-seeking man, will make a volte face and become a Mother Teresa? 

Sir Walter Scott was right: “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.” Or as the saying goes, an Ethiopian cannot change his skin or the leopard his spots (Jeremiah 13:23).

While we have to wait and see if good sense will prevail and if Washington will change him (but after all, like the Wild Coot, he is in his 70s), we know that from the beginning he has defied the Republicans, and even told them that they knew that he was a snake. When he selects his cronies, there will be even less to change and influence him.

Those who advocate that we should hurry up and find our way to Washington in order to have a palaver with President-elect Trump may be barking up the wrong tree, especially if his busy schedule allows five minutes.

We, like Lazarus, will have to wait and see what Dives’ table has to offer us, or maybe we should start seeking shelter and crumbs elsewhere. Maybe. But we have seen what happened to Grenada in the ’80s. 

So, Sir Charles, we will wait and see. Perhaps you can elaborate on which deregulation you envisage can help Barbados outside of reversing the impositions of FATCA that are causing chaos with the new stringencies of commercial banks toward their customers. Furthermore, there is now talk of commercial banks raising their fees in order to compensate for the costs and inconveniences caused by the new regulations.

 

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

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