BIBA President Ryle Weekes in an animated discussion with Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart at the opening of the International Business Week Conference in Barbados. (A. Miller/BGIS)
By Sharon Austin
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Barbados will defend its interests stoutly and will not give any nation or group of countries licence to “launch opportunistic attacks” on its business brand and its commitment to international tax co-operation and transparency, without a response.
This was the message delivered by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on Thursday at the opening of the International Business Week Conference in Barbados.
Stuart said: “We will not ignore what is now a clear pattern of our competitors in the pursuit of investment in financial and other services.
And, we will rebut all efforts by any organisation that attempts to force unilateral changes to our domestic law in an effort just to ‘make up numbers’.
“Barbados does not intend to be a passive bystander in this purported ‘step’ change in the rules governing international tax cooperation. That would be contrary to our clear foreign policy focus in such matters.”
He told his audience that for these reasons, subject to confirmation that no domestic law impediments exist, Barbados must signal its interest in participating in discussion on the development of a global rules-based system to concretise the emerging standards on automatic exchange of tax information, and give active consideration to signing the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters.
The prime minister expressed the view that Barbados should continue to demonstrate leadership in this area, within the Caribbean Community and, internationally, among the non-OECD, non-G20 and non-G8 members of the OECD Global Forum.
“This we must do, in order to ensure that those who are least culpable and least able to influence the markets are not held to standards unconnected to their demonstrated risk to the financial system, even as we all must adapt to the imperatives of securing the future and the integrity of the global financial markets and fair play in financial services trade. Put simply, differently, we cannot allow Peter to always pay for Paul,” he insisted.
Conceding that no one owed Barbados a living, he stressed the island must battle for investment like any other state.
“We must, therefore, expect that in this fight we will have to absorb and, where possible, deflect direct attacks… It was so too with sugar, then bananas and now with rum,” he contended.
Stuart noted that some detractors had been trying to disseminate incorrect messages about Barbados’s international business brand and underscored the importance of knowing the brand.
“In fact, it is because we are custodians of a very special brand that we must be careful and prudent about the opportunities that we embrace, whether those opportunities come from traditional or from newer markets. This is why Invest Barbados has been given a clear mandate on the kind of investors we should seek to attract.
“This is also why we must be more precise in articulating the key features and messages of our brand, both at home and abroad. That is why too, our regulators must continue to be very vigilant and prudent in implementing best practice standards and procedures,” he stressed.
The prime minister said that, while it was necessary for Barbados to constantly enhance its reputation as a quality, transparent jurisdiction for international business and financial services, there was also a need to be innovative in the way legitimate investment was facilitated.