Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
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PM slams PLP on financial sector

House passes package of financial reporting bills
Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday castigated the former Christie administration over its “lackluster” performance regarding the financial services sector, suggesting that its mismanagement of the economy almost led to the country being blacklisted.

On Tuesday, The Bahamas was spared from being blacklisted as a tax haven in the European Union’s (EU) December 2017 blacklist.

“The Bahamian financial services industry has been under threat for some time,” the prime minister said in a statement.

“Upon coming to office, some of our worse fears were realized when we found that this sector of the economy was in deeper trouble than anticipated because of negligence by the previous administration.

“Despite the PLP administration’s claim of being for the people, its lackluster and late-again approach to dealing with this very important part of the economy was about to land us in the very same position that caused a previous FNM administration to have to prevent the country from being blacklisted.

“Since the election, the government has been working to get our economy back on track.

“Strengthening and growing our economy will lead to better paying jobs and greater job security.”

While The Bahamas was not named on the blacklist, the EU placed eight jurisdictions on watch that were impacted “badly” by hurricanes this summer, including The Bahamas.

The EU said that these jurisdictions, which were given special consideration, have been given until early 2018 to respond to the EU’s concerns, suggesting that there is still work to be done.

Bills passed

As part of the Minnis administration’s ongoing effort to avoid being blacklisted, the government yesterday brought a compendium of bills to the House of Assembly to “to ensure that we meet various international standards”.

The bills, the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Amendment Bill, 2017 the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Amendment Regulations Bill, 2017 and the International Tax Cooperation Amendment Bill, 2017, were debated and passed in the House before 1:30 p.m. yesterday.

Four government MPs and two opposition MPs contributed to the debate.

The prime minister did not.

As he lead off debate on the bills, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said it is vital for The Bahamas to be compliant with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) tax information guidelines.

“…The OECD and its member states are deadly serious about the actions they intend to take when they talk about defensive measures,” he said.

He continued, “As a jurisdiction, we have to do everything we possibly can to ensure that we protect our reputation and that we signal and act in a proactive manner to ensure that we remain clear of any kind of blacklisting, graylisting or any other kind of listing of non-cooperation.

“The OECD and its member states are telling us [that] failure to comply with what they consider best practices and transparency come with consequences. As an open economy, those consequences can be significant for us, outside of financial services.”

Turnquest along with Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette are expected to travel to San Marino next week to sign an OECD multilateral agreement. Mangrove Cay and South Andros MP Picewell Forbes said the opposition is in full support of the government’s initiatives.

“It is a bad feeling when you travel the world and persons are mentioning you among non-cooperative countries,” said Forbes, who is leader of opposition business in the House.

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