Editorials

EU unlikely to be dissuaded by tough talk

Whether through design or a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, the European Union has been blatantly discriminatory in its listing of mainly developing, non-majority white countries as being non-cooperative with regard to money-laundering/anti-terrorism financing and tax matters.

Jamaica, for example, is listed as one of the countries that pose significant threats to the financial system of the European Union (EU) due to money laundering, but not London or Hong Kong, locations where a major bank allowed billions of dollars in blood-soaked drug cartel money to flow for years by the bank’s own admission.

The European Commission often proposes, suggests and releases position papers on tighter money laundering in its own jurisdiction, but that is as far as it usually goes.

The EU’s criteria for blacklisting countries are opaque, agreed only among those within the EU and not applied to those within the EU, even though Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland are notorious tax havens by assessments from tax watchdogs the world over and even the EU.

There is no question that the EU’s listing of countries is unfair.

However, those who run the world economy did not get there by playing fair.

The reasons for the EU’s actions may be complicated – not least among those reasons being the argument that several EU countries have made their tax environment uncompetitive in many respects.

Massive social commitments also make their countries incredibly expensive to run, therefore, they hunt for tax dollars.

If you are well-resourced, you can lobby the EU with financial or economic strength.

If you are the world’s wealthiest economy, you can simply ignore the EU, as the United States of America has done when some of its territories were listed.

If you are The Bahamas, you comply.

Inclusion on these lists threatens our financial services sector and our correspondent banking relationships.

But that doesn’t mean you have to refrain from complaining.

On Friday, a joint statement by the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Attorney General indicated that it expected to once again be what many term as blacklisted.

“Shortly after the general election,” the statement said, “the government received notice of certain deficiencies related to the implementation of the [Commercial Entities (Substance Requirements) Act 2018] and the economic substance reporting that were found in the annual monitoring for 2019 and 2020.

“Our administration has worked diligently to satisfy the concerns of the European Union, however, not all deficiencies could be addressed before the determination of our review in April 2022. As of now, it is anticipated that the European Union will add The Bahamas to its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions.”

We understand the EU intends to add Anguilla, The Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands to its list of non-cooperative jurisdictions during an upcoming meeting in October.

Speaking at the 77th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Saturday, Prime Minister Philip Davis said The Bahamas is the victim of “inequitable and unjust” measures on the part of major economic actors.

Davis said the EU’s decision is “unfair”, noting that developed countries with regulatory regimes similar to blacklisted countries are not even eligible for inclusion on these lists.

“The evidence is mounting,” Davis said, “that the considerations behind these decisions have less to do with compliance, and more to do with darker issues of pre-judged, discriminatory perceptions. Black-governed countries also matter.”

Davis is not the first leader to point this out.

And we appreciate his speaking out.

Though there is no proof that there is racial bias, the former colonies of Europe are clearly being impacted in ways developed countries are not.

However, lashing out will likely not keep us off the EU’s list.

From the joint statement, it appears that someone did not properly do their job in addressing what was pointed out.

The continued fragmentation of responsibility in dealing with different international financial regulatory obligations is doing more harm than good.

We suggest integrating this into a single office that employs people who are responsible for ensuring we meet our commitments.

We also suggest filling the vacant ambassador post at or embassy in Brussels with haste.

While it is fine to point out the disparity in treatment, we must do all we can to protect our financial services sector, which supports many other professions and has afforded many people of all colors an enviable quality of life in this country. 

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