EDITORIAL: Oxfam report a travesty
AS THE YEAR draws to an end and we prepare to celebrate a New Year and thank the Almighty for the many blessings he has bestowed on us as we continue to move about our daily business, we are jolted by yet another attack on our small open economy.
This time the attack is on our offshore sector and comes from the international charitable organisation known as Oxfam. This veritable organisation has found it possible to compile a list of the world’s worst tax havens and has listed our country at No. 13 on its list of 15 worst tax havens.
Now Oxfam has no authority over and above the ordinary right to its own opinion to dilate on the merits or otherwise of financial centres; but it has formed the view that offshore centres deprive national governments of much needed revenue from big corporations and wealthy individuals which could otherwise be used to relieve national suffering and poverty.
This argument holds little water since if islands like Barbados do not offer conditions to attract international business entities we will not get any income therefrom in any case. And by now it is clear or ought to be to Oxfam and its associates that this income provides a critical source of economic development in terms of jobs and foreign exchange.
It is in our national interest to deal with these fallacious arguments and call them out for what they are as soon as they are made. We congratulate the Minister of International Business for branding the Oxfam report as “wicked”, “misleading” and mischievous” since such baseless reports can do intolerable damage to our local economy. His muscular response was well merited.
In the meantime, President-Elect Trump is talking about lowering the corporate tax rate in the United States to 15 per cent, and no one sees anything wrong with that, since he is hoping to bring back to the US billions of dollars held in international financial centres in what are perfectly lawful and legal arrangements under existing international taxation rules. Keen readers will recall that when Barbados under Owen Arthur proposed a 15 per cent tax rate on corporations to enhance our offshore sector, our metropolitan opponents started crying “foul”.
And that is the problem, because what the major international bodies are trying to do is to have the rules changed so that what has always been lawful suddenly becomes unlawful, now that small economies have demonstrated a capacity to stay within the law and attract the attention of huge multinational companies like Apple, Google, Amazon and the like.
In the midst of our merriment, this country’s leaders must recognise that a large part of our standard of living is founded and grounded on the offshore sector, and that the sniping and sharpshooting of the enemies of the sector must be constantly protected under the mantra that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
We have a duty to react to every criticism of what we are doing, but even more so we must be proactive in monitoring the trends in international financial and wealth planning circles.
This Oxfam report is not worth the paper on which it was written, and needs to be analysed in detail, for as we enjoy the Christmas season, we need to reflect that every dollar we earn contributes to our national well-being! Happy New Year to one and all!