The Prime Minister has signalled that Barbados intends to turn sanctions and rules imposed by international organizations and nations to its competitive advantage, even as she insists that rules do not match the region’s reality.
She declared: “That therefore means we have to turn the table on its head and to turn regulation into an asset and into a competitive enterprise.
“If you want to exclude me on the basis of regulation, then let me treat to legislation as an artist would treat and use a paintbrush, and let me paint my painting with the most exquisite and definite, crafted form of legislation, buttressed with a level of engagement that is second to none that reflects an experience.”
Mottley’s comments appeared to be a thinly veiled defence of the Government’s drastic lowering last year of all business tax rates to parity with those for offshore businesses domiciled here, after rich nation’s labelled Barbados an unfair tax haven.
In a speech to an Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) symposium at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Friday, she recalled that shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and “other institutions in the North Atlantic countries” met with Caribbean attorneys general to begin to take action regarding counter-terrorism financing.
Also recalling that the Caribbean had to adjust and add a range of legislation and bureaucratic measures “as we were down to be viewed as being on the front line of the battle as was the rest of the world”, the Prime Minister said at that time she took a “very strong” position that was still relevant today as it was then.
That position, she said, was that “regulation must be appropriate to risk, and that small states do not have the luxury of literally imposing regulations for the sake of them”.
Suggesting that the greatest evidence of money laundering was taking place in the industrialised “North, whether it was left or right of the Atlantic Ocean”, the Prime Minister said: “In spite of that the rigour with which rules are imposed and the consequential decisions that are being taken, its implications for citizens of those to the South are becoming more difficult to bear”.
Recalling the loss of correspondent banking to the Caribbean in recent years, the Prime Minister said many banks did not bother to do research to find out if the region was “a problem” instead of just cutting banking relations.
“That kind of behaviour approximates to the behaviour of communities that did not have the benefit of either knowledge or compassion in dealing with lepers a century ago, and it is inexcusable because a century ago you did not have the UN Declaration of Human Rights or any charter that brought us all together to protect the integrity and agency of each and every one of us as human beings first, and as sovereign states secondly.”
A universal application of rules was not the solution, as cultural differences should matter in how countries conduct business, she suggested.
“An approach that I have found useful, and we as a Government has advocated, is to answer some questions – what is the public interest that we are trying to defend, what is the public mischief that we are trying to fight against, does technology afford us an opportunity to do what we want done in a more effective and efficient want, and is there a group of people who would be either disenfranchised or needs to be enfranchised as we settle the framework as we go forward?”
Mottley said her way of ensuring those questions were answered was through legislation. Using the local gambling industry as an example, she recalled that her administration was putting things in place to ensure they pay their fair share of taxes.
Gaming establishments have until January 1, 2021 to change all of their slot machines to auditable machines, also in an effort to be better regulated and ensuring that the risk of money laundering is minimised.
‘That is that kind of dedicated approach that is needed sector by sector and in some instances across transactions.
“What it does is reinforce in me as the leader of a small country that we have sometimes have to turn things on its head too while we try to put forward the moral and ethical arguments to reflect the moral and ethical leadership that we want to be symbolic of humanity,” Mottley said.