Barbados remains a jurisdiction of integrity, says President of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) Julia Hope, who is also reporting that the sector has not suffered any noticeable fallout as a result of former Government minister Donville Inniss’ money laundering debacle.
Earlier this month Attorney General Dale Marshall said the island’s investment and international business reputation had been tarnished as a result of Inniss’ current legal troubles in the United States.
“In the last few days, I can tell you that the international community has already begun to turn its scope on Barbados and questioning whether in fact we are meeting the kinds of standards that the international arena expects of us. The reputation of Barbados has now taken a sufficiently large hit that they have to consider whether to move their business ventures somewhere else,” Marshall had told a news briefing at Government Headquarters at the beginning of August.
However, when asked what was the word among the international business officials here, Hope told Barbados TODAY she has been following up with sector representatives to get a feel of what was the sentiment and “there hasn’t been anything”.
Inniss, the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development in the last Democratic Labour Party led administration which was booted from office in the May 24 general election, was arrested in Florida earlier this month and subsequently pleaded not guilty in a federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
Prosecutors said in the indictment that in 2015 and 2016, Inniss engaged in a scheme to take about $36,000 in bribes from high-level executives of a Barbadian insurance company, which has subsequently been identified as the Bermuda-based Insurance Corporation of Barbados.
In exchange, they said, Inniss used his position as a Government minister to help the insurer secure two Government contracts.
The prosecutors said Inniss, 52, a legal permanent resident of the US, concealed the nature of the bribes by receiving them through a dental company and a bank located in Elmont, New York, under the guise of payments for consulting services, and as a result faces possible imprisonment.
Hope said BIBA continues to keep a close eye on the developments.
At the same time the association is working closely with the new Mia Mottley led administration to meet deadlines relating to global tax rules, while seeking out new markets.
“We are following it [the case] closely. At this stage I don’t think we can say there has been any real negative impact,” said Hope.
“The jurisdiction is one of integrity and we are working at the moment going forward on the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and EU [European Union] BEPS [base erosion and profit shifting] initiatives,” she said.
The OECD refers to BEPS as tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations.
In 2016 the OECD gave Barbados a rating of “largely compliant”, meaning the jurisdiction was still not complying fully with some regimes governing the sector.
Hope told Barbados TODAY BIBA was working closely with Government on any outstanding compliance matters as it related to the OECD and the EU.
“We are only going to see from that a further strengthening of our position in the jurisdiction with regards to integrity and a jurisdiction which people want to do business in because of a number of different factors, including legislation and compliance,” said Hope.
She said a BIBA task force met with Mottley, regulators and other stakeholders last week and presented four options to help drive the sector.
“The Prime Minister has indicated her preference for potentially two of those four options. Closer analysis and fiscal impact studies need to now be carried out on an urgent basis,” she said.
While opting not to say what the recommendations were, Hope indicated that they would require enhanced Government policy.
“What I would say is that the proposals that we fielded will work very well and they are quite different and just require a lot more work – changing legislation, improving business facilitation and continuing to collaborate with Government,” she said, insisting that it would be done “in a very short timeframe”.
The BIBA official also noted that with UK companies becoming increasingly worried about the impact of Britain leaving the EU, there was an increasing opportunity for Barbados to get more business from that market.
“So right now that is really what we are looking at. We are working 24/7 trying to sort out what our next steps are from a BEPS perspective. We have a solid plan, we just need to enact it quickly and we have the Government on board and assisting and reviewing the suggestions,” she said. (MM)