The French government’s decision and method of blacklisting The Bahamas was “disrespectful and disappointing”, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Turnquest said he expressed the government’s “total disgust” over the move when he spoke with the French ambassador yesterday.
He said France did not make use of the dispute resolution mechanisms provided in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters, which both countries are signatories of.
Additionally, Turnquest said there was no indication from the French government of its intention to blacklist The Bahamas when he was in France last week.
“The Bahamas has gone through significant pains to pass a suite of legislation, much to the disdain of the industry that has made us uncompetitive in some regards,” a noticeably upset Turnquest said.
“And yet, rather than our partners having the diplomacy [and] the respect to at least engage with the state at the highest level — that is with the public authority, the Ministry of Finance, or, if that is insufficient, with the prime minister of the country — they proceeded in a less than transparent manner to damage the reputation of The Bahamas by placing it on a list.
“Mr. Speaker, it is not within the legal operation of the United Nations and the way that relationships between countries is expected to take place.
“I have expressed to the French ambassador our disappointment, our total disgust with the way that this has been done, the
disrespectful manner in which The Bahamas has been treated in this particular regard, and we intend to communicate that to the Global Forum, to the OECD, and to the EU as there is no point, Mr. Speaker, with us engaging in these multilateral organizations if individual members are going to take unilateral action continually without dialogue at the highest levels.
“They expect commitment from us at the highest political level, and you will remember that the OECD had blacklisted us about a year ago because they claimed that we did not engage with them at the highest political level. Well, the same is true here. They have not engaged with us on a matter at the highest political level, or indeed, at any level.
“And so, we will communicate our feelings in this regard formally.”
The Bahamas, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands and Seychelles were added to a French list of non-co-operative states and territories in tax matters earlier this week. Turnquest said he was officially notified of the blacklisting yesterday morning when he received a letter from the French ambassador.
Turnquest said there is a perception by the French authorities that The Bahamas has not been responding to requests for information in a satisfactory manner. However, he assured that the matters have been responded to pursuant to existing agreements.
He said the decision of the French government to not use the established channels of communication for such issues, demonstrated a complete disregard for the damaging repercussions and significant long-term impact that these unilateral punitive measures have on countries like The Bahamas.
“I advised the ambassador that such a surreptitious posture, knowing that they intended to blacklist us, is an affront to the amicable relationship that we have fostered with France and the European Union,” he said.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis expressed the opposition’s agreement with Turnquest’s statement on the matter. However, he urged Turnquest not to be “bullish” and to instead look into the French government’s complaints, noting that while legislation was passed, perhaps it was not being properly enforced.