How many times will the government be blindsided?

Dear Editor,

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is disappointed that despite all the efforts made by The Bahamas to adhere to international standards, our nation has been placed on an adverse listing yet again. According to media reports, The Bahamas has been added to a blacklist of tax havens by France. The premise for this action has been identified as a lack of enough co-operation on financial transparency.

The current administration has presided over multiple blacklisting of The Bahamas by the European Union, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Netherlands and now France, not to mention the corresponding actions by the U.S. and UK Treasury Departments.

The government was once again caught off-guard by the recent blacklisting initiated by France. This is a disturbing trend for an administration that also claimed to have been blindsided by the EU blacklist in 2018. Additionally, the prime minister and his delegation recently opened the country’s embassy in Brussels, Belgium with the objective to enhance The Bahamas’ relations with a number of European nations. We believe that France is a European nation and cannot understand why the government was caught off-guard by this recent announcement.

On November 13, 2019, the prime minister stated that “as a small island developing state, with financial services as our second largest industry, the impact of being blacklisted has proven to be a barrier to our economic growth”. The PM is right in his assertion but we need to go beyond stating the obvious and address this issue in a more comprehensive and strategic manner.

Many will also recall that on November 14, 2019, the deputy prime minister stated that “we have no reason that we are facing any blacklisting [a]nd overall, our relations with the EU and our international partners is very good, the dialogue is very positive”.

On November 26, 2019, the deputy prime minister was in Paris, France addressing the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information.

It is obvious that our political leaders are miscalculating, have a different perception of reality or are simply out to lunch. Bahamians are losing confidence daily in an administration that is always unprepared and reactive to matters of national importance. What went wrong this time?

We maintain that the current administration continues to adopt a myopic approach to the second pillar of our economy. The avoidance and removal from adverse listings by international agencies cannot be the sole priority. The goal posts will continue to shift and it is naïve for the government not to realize that the next standard or hurdle is imminent and inevitable. It is therefore imperative that we tackle this vexing issue by leveraging our memberships of international and regional bodies. We urgently need a growth action plan to revive, rebrand, refocus and reposition our financial services industry.

In the final analysis, The Bahamas must shed the tax haven label. It is time to confront a tax system that is regressive and oppressive to the detriment of the masses. The middle class and vulnerable in society cannot continue to bear the brunt of the tax burden imposed by a government that has worsened the misery index.

Arinthia S. Komolafe, leader of the Democratic National Alliance 

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