by Marlon Madden
Economist Marla Dukharan is suggesting that countries in the region take diplomatic action against the European Union (EU) when it unjustly blacklists Caribbean jurisdictions for being “non- compliant” with its financial guidelines.
Dukharan revisited the issue recently as she appeared on the discussion forum Territories Talk, while addressing the topic Caribbean Economics and Blacklisting.
Describing the last blacklisting of regional jurisdictions by the EU as “deliberate and strategic”, she argued that some countries in the EU and other places were “well known for their extensive money laundering and tax evading activities” but they did not appear on the EU’s list for non-compliance.
“Not one single country on either of the EU’s list, whether it is the tax blacklist or the anti-money laundering blacklist, not one country is a predominantly white country, not one of those countries is an EU member or an ally of the European Union,” she pointed out.
Dukharan said she believed the move by the EU was driven by competition, racism and discrimination, adding that the EU seems to want to find a way to marginalise small countries and “eliminate us because we are eating part of their pie”.
She said it was disappointing that the region did not come together to provide a strong push back, arguing that although the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat would issue a communiqué condemning the actions of the EU it was simply “not strong enough”.
“I think if all of the countries came together from the Pacific and the Caribbean and agitated and protested, I think that there is a chance. For example, if you appeal to the United Nations, you appeal to the World Trade Organisation, somebody is going to hear you, but when each individual little tiny micro state appeals individually it is just white noise. So, I feel that is the first thing we need to do. We need to come together as a region whether or not we are blacklisted,” Dukharan recommended.
“The second thing I think we need to do is take diplomatic action. Why not expel your EU ambassador and say ‘I am sorry, this is unjustified.
I am doing everything I can and I have satisfied the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and you are not satisfied because you are asking for things that even your own member states don’t do. That is unfair and you need to get out of my country’.
“But we don’t have the courage to do these things because we are small and we are insecure maybe. Maybe it is post-colonial PTSD, I am not sure, but why are we not brave enough to say ‘this is wrong, you cannot treat me like this and have a presence in my country, get out!” said Dukharan.
Other panellists agreed such a move should be the strategy, while also calling for a more unified regional approach in fighting back against the blacklists.
Barbados was one of several regional jurisdictions placed on the EU list for non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.
Bridgetown was required to implement several changes to its tax exchange framework between July 2015 and June 2018 in order to become “fully or largely compliant”.
The changes were completed by December 2019, but that was not done within the stipulated time frame for the review which was completed in March of 2020.
Barbados was deemed “partially compliant” by the EU in March of 2020. By the end of September that year, the Council on EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions said Barbados did not have a rating of at least “largely compliant” by the OECD Global Forum and would therefore remain on its list of non-compliant jurisdictions for tax purposes.
The EU did not remove Barbados from its list until February last year. However, the island remains on the OECD Global Forum’s grey list.
Late last month, Minister of Energy and Business Development Kerrie Symmonds disclosed that he was awaiting the arrival of a team from the OECD’s Global Forum to do an onsite inspection so that the island could be removed from that “grey list”.
The OECD representative missed the January schedule to review the changes made by the Government of Barbados as required by the OECD.
Pointing out that the region accounted for only about two per cent of global economic activity, Dukharan said the EU Parliament has also been critical of the EU’s blacklist and that meant the region “has a legal leg to stand on”.
“So if they themselves recognise that this is unfair, why is it that our countries have not come together, found a law firm that will represent us collectively and taken them to court over this action? Why is it that we are just sitting and waiting for the next grey list and blacklist to then jump up and down, pass regulatory and legislative amendments, comply and get taken off if we are lucky and then they change their requirements and you get blacklisted again, because that is what happens,” she said.