Barbados has come in for high praise from Executive Director of the Commonwealth Association of Tax Administration (CATA) Duncan Onduru for its level of economic independence.
Acknowledging the island’s 50th year of political independence which is being celebrated this month, he said the ability of a country to finance its expenditure commitments through its internally generated resources was “the highest mark of independence”.
Addressing the opening of CATA’s 37th Annual Conference at the Barbados Hilton Resort yesterday morning, Onduru said: “Many countries have celebrated years of political independence, yet many are still faced with the challenge of economic dependence. Going by the available statistics, Barbados seems to have made tremendous strides towards economic independence.”
He noted that with a population slightly under 300,000 spread across 166 square miles, a life expectancy of 75 years and a per capita income of almost US$15,000, the country was ranked 59th in the world in the most recent United Nations Human Development Index.
“So, part of our takeaway . . . from this conference is to learn the secret that has made this country move far ahead of its peers. And we never know, it could be the efficiency with which they manage their tax system,” Onduru noted.
However, stating that most Commonwealth member countries were undergoing difficult economic times, the CATA official called for greater unity among tax administrators to tackle the economic challenges.
“The sluggish economic growth rates, still hanging in the low single digits; the adverse currency exchange rates; the plummeting oil and metal prices; the mounting debt portfolios; and the huge fiscal deficits, have had profound adverse effects on the people’s wellbeing and their trust in their governments and their institutions,” he said.
“Without forging strategic alliances, some of these challenges would remain insurmountable. Within the Caribbean region, for example, we have a number of countries which are hosting financial centres. These countries are presently struggling to implement some of these standards of transparency to shake off the perception of being considered tax havens where crooked individuals and multinational corporations implement their tax evasion schemes.”
Onduru added that while countries have demonstrated their willingness to comply with international standards of transparency, they require much capacity building and structural reform support from the international community.
“The challenge we have now is how the Commonwealth Tax Administration can engage actively and influence these international tax debates from a common platform to ensure that the interest of all the members, however diverse, are taken into account,” he said, pointing out that steps were already being taken in that regard.