Attorney General Dale Marshall is predicting that Barbados will become a hub for regional businesses to establish their headquarters given the ongoing changes to laws governing the international business and financial services sector.
At the same time, he is warning critics of Government’s speed with changing laws that there would be no letting up, since the new administration had found itself in a position where it had to meet various deadlines all in an effort to “save the country”.
“Nobody is going to give us a handout, and what we are looking for other countries are looking out for as well,” said Marshall, as he led off the continuation of debate on the repeal of the International Business Companies Bill in Parliament today.
“There are three other statutes that are here. I know that members, both of this House and the other place, will have some concerns about the speed with which these things are being done, but we have no choice, we have to meet a deadline of December 31,” he said
“And there is more legislation that will come quickly because in terms of our money laundering and anti-terrorism finance measures we have to meet a March 31 timeline. So as soon as we get past this, we will be running at full speed towards trying to deal with those things. The extra effort it takes of us is worth the benefit of saving our country,” he explained.
Lawmakers are in the process of making changes to at least 14 pieces of legislation relating to the international business sector in order to meet a December 31 deadline to comply with the demands of the world’s richest nations.
Government is faced with a situation where it has to dismantle its once lucrative regime that created the international business companies (IBCs), repeal a number of laws, and a range of incentives used to lure IBCs here.
Lawmakers are currently debating 11 of the 14 pieces of legislation, that will make Barbados compliant with a commitment to the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD).
Marshall, who joined his colleagues in being critical of the OECD for “shifting the goal post” from time to time, complained that Barbados’ percentage of global financial activity was so minuscule that “if Barbados went bankrupt tomorrow it would not be a blip on the London or Tokyo or New York stock exchange”.
“But the reality is that we are forced to comply with international standards even though we are not major players in the game,” he said.
However, the Attorney General reasoned that the changes should attract more companies from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish their headquarters in Barbados. He made no mention of the country’s debt ratings, which is often a major factor for countries deciding where to place their headquarters. However, Marshall said should companies move to Barbados because of the changes to the international business laws, the economy would benefit greatly through housing opportunities and more commercial activity.
“This new tax regime will actually make us more attractive across the region for headquartering companies. So I am not alarmed about what we are going to do,” he said.
“When we had a mass exodus of companies from Barbados’ shores under the last administration it was because the last administration failed to do what they had to do. They did not act, they were not proactive. they sat on their hands and did absolutely nothing. If any companies leave now and they are entitled to, but it would be that they are leaving because the Government of Barbados has taken steps to safeguard the larger interest of our economy and our financial services sector,” he said.