The European Union (EU) has written to the Freundel Stuart administration, providing what is believed to be an explanation of its decision to include Barbados on a December 5, 2017 list of 17 global tax havens.
However, it appears that the 28-member grouping has kept this country on the blacklist, despite Government’s protests.
Minister of International Business Donville Inniss has confirmed to Barbados TODAY that he received correspondence from the political and economic bloc in response to a letter he sent last month.
However, Inniss refused to disclose its contents, and would only say that he would be signing another letter this week “to respond to them regarding the question that Barbados be removed from whatever list they have”.
He said he was hoping the issue would be settled soon, even while admitting that similar challenges would pop up from time to time.
“In the international business we will continue to have challenges with our partners in other jurisdictions, and the European Union matter remains there. I hope that will be settled early in the New Year,” Inniss said.
Barbados was among four Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries on the list of 17 blacklisted by the EU as non-cooperative tax havens.
Also included on the blacklist, which followed ten months of investigations by EU officials, were CARICOM countries Grenada, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as American Samoa, Bahrain, Guam, South Korea, Macau, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Those placed on the dubious list were described as not doing enough to crackdown on offshore avoidance schemes, and they could lose access to EU funds.
Some two weeks after the list was published, Inniss had said he did not know “what the problem is”, and in the absence of clarification from the EU, it was difficult to determine what steps Barbados needed to take in order to be removed from the list.
“First of all, you have to know what the problem is that the European Union has. So until that is made clear to us I don’t think I can make a public announcement as to what needs to be done,” he said then.
Inniss, who had previously described the blacklisting “unfortunate and unfair”, had also suggested that Barbados was a fully cooperative jurisdiction when it came to taxation matters, and that it had made the required commitments to either amend or eradicate its regimes that were not in line with EU specifications by the December 5, 2017 deadline.
He is now making it clear he did not intend to sit idly by and allow international bodies, including the EU, to destroy this country’s reputation.
In fact, he said he would keep other international agencies on his radar, insisting that he would not tolerate “the other agencies and collection of individuals around the world who will continue to attack the good name that we built for Barbados over the years”.
Barbados’ international business sector, which in the past has enjoyed a strong reputation, has had to navigate difficult waters in more recent times, with the sector coming under increasing pressure from states and institutions, including the UK-based aid and development charity Oxfam and the US state of Illinois, both of which blacklisted the jurisdiction as a tax haven.
Meantime, Inniss, who is also Minister of Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development, said he would “strive towards creating a more enabling environment that allows for a higher level of entrepreneurship in Barbados” and would seek to make it easier for young people to become entrepreneurs.
“I would like to see a little bit more flexibility in terms of the business support services that we offer, including financing, and I would like to see a more entrepreneurial private sector and not one that is so heavily dependent on the state,” the minister said as he outlined his wishes for the business community in 2018.