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Laing: Sarkozy’s list bodes well for Bahamas

The negative implications of being named a tax haven, particularly by one of the world’s “major countries”, is never a good thing. And the absence of The Bahamas from the French president’s list was an affirmation of its approach to participating in the global financial services industry, according to Zhivargo Laing, the state minister of finance.

The minister’s statement follows recent comments made by Hubert Ingraham, the prime minister, to Caribbean Media Corporation Monday.

The Jamaica Gleaner reported the comments made by Ingraham, who was responding to the naming of several Caribbean jurisdictions as tax havens by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, at the close of the G20 summit in France earlier this month.

Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados were on Sarkozy’s list of 11. Ingraham said he was not surprised by Sarkozy’s comments regarding them.  The Bahamas was not on Sarkozy’s list this time around, although Liechtenstein, Panama and Switzerland were.

“I was not surprised by the comments of President Sarkozy in relation to the countries in the region, but I noticed he included Switzerland and that gave me some comfort,” the prime minister said.

“The reality is, all of us in the financial services business have to do business with the developed world, and so the strength to which we holler and scream is part satisfaction for ourselves, but at the end of the day we have to comply.”

Laing felt the world was beginning to recognize the efforts made by The Bahamas in the sector.

“The fact is over the years we have taken the opportunity to do what we had to do to be in compliance with universally recognized standards in the financial services sector, and I think the world is recognizing the extent to which we have done so,” he told Guardian Business in an interview yesterday.

“This should bode well for the reputation of the jurisdiction and its credibility among our international partners.”

Laing said The Bahamas’ position has been to ensure that there was an even playing field – so that the country was not obliged to take actions that would undermine its ability to compete globally.  He said The Bahamas has led the charge for universally applied standards, along with other offshore financial centers and small jurisdictions.

Barbados, which enjoys tax treaties with a number of nations, had not been black listed along with The Bahamas in an earlier “naming” by the OECD, but according to Ingraham will likely find itself capitulating as well.

“It is ironic that Barbados is now being categorized by the French in that way, but Barbados will do what is necessary to comply and so will all,” the Gleaner reported Ingraham to have said.

In a Gleaner article published last Thursday, former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders charged the OECD was out of order, saying it had no right to impose its will on Caribbean nations who in turn had no obligation to capitulate.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) rather than the individual nations named should answer Sarkozy, while exploring the best path to collective resistance with non-OECD countries like Singapore, Sir Ronald was reported to have said.

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