Three weeks after the release of the so-called Panama Papers placed the global offshore financial services industry under more intense scrutiny, Barbados is undertaking a review of its own international financial services sector to counter the perception that the island is a tax haven.
Minister of International Business Donville Inniss, in making the disclosure, said Government has been seeking to get a clear understanding of what is transpiring in the global arena.
He pointed out that five European countries led by France and Germany had stated their intention to close down tax havens and go after offshore financial centres generally.
The Minister of International Business pointed out that in order to ensure that the local sector was compliant, Government had been meeting with the Central Bank of Barbados, the Financial Services Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Invest Barbados, the Ministry of International Business, the Ministry of Finance, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA).
Inniss said Government has also been consulting with its advisors in the United States – specifically Washington, D.C. – as well as Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, to get a good grasp of what was taking place.
As part of the stepped up response, he said Barbadian diplomats overseas would also be engaging their counterparts in a bid to explain and defend Barbados wherever possible.
“We are preparing to mount the necessary road shows, not to go on the defensive, because as I say, we have been doing the right things all the time. We have been very compliant. We have boosted our regulatory environment; we have amended our legislation and we have signed on to the automatic exchange of information through the Global Forum grouping,” Inniss said.
He disclosed that delegations from France and India would be in Barbados this week to take a look at the offshore sector.
“The delegation will be here on an official visit … to take a look at what we offer, the structures we have, our regulatory and compliance issues and then report back for circulation in the global arena.”
In response to the release of the Panama Papers, which reportedly mention 34 Barbadian companies, Inniss assured that Government was not sitting down and throwing its hands in the air, saying there was nothing it could do.
“We will continue to say that we are a jurisdiction of substance. That is what we will continue to say in the market. There will always be the rogue nations, but the fact of the matter is that this sector is too important to the Barbados economy for us not to get up and defend it. So all of us in Cabinet have been asked wherever we go, to please defend this jurisdiction.”