CHESTER COOPER STATEMENT ON OFFICIAL EU BLACKLISTING

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MP for Exuma and Ragged Island I. Chester Cooper.

By Chester Cooper
Exumas and Ragged Island MP, PLP Deputy Leader, Shadow Minister for Finance
March 13, 2018

The Progressive Liberal Party is very concerned at the unfortunate development of the country’s blacklisting by the European Union.

As we previously indicated, we are deeply disappointed by the development.

The Bahamas finds its very survival a target of these huge international organizations that continue to shift the criteria for remaining in their good graces.

The trip taken by the minister of finance and the minister of financial services, trade and immigration’ to Brussels also appears to have been in vain, as the EU Code of Conduct Group appears not to have deigned to meet with them.

The PLP supports the efforts the government has made to avoid the blacklisting, and stands ready to assist in whatever it takes to be removed from the list.

However, we eagerly await a comprehensive report on the Brussels Mission so that we can better understand what happened and why we are where we are.

In addition, the minister of finance must publicly explain what the European Union communicated in its press release regarding the blacklisting this morning.

The EU stated that after giving a reprieve to Caribbean countries hit by hurricanes in September 2017, “The process was restarted in January 2018, when letters were sent requesting commitments to remedy EU concerns.

“The Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis and the US Virgin Islands are added to the list (annex I) as a result of that process. This is because they have failed to make commitments at a high political level in response to all of the EU’s concerns.”

On the face of it, the reasoning given by the EU points to some form of non-responsiveness by the government to the concerns outlined by the EU.

Despite our willingness to work with the government in the national interest, this issue must be fully addressed by the government moving forward. The PLP stands ready to assist.

There’s no question that being blacklisted doesn’t bode well for the future of our financial services industry and our economy generally. Every effort should be made to have The Bahamas delisted as soon as possible.

Now what that means from a EU standpoint is, at times, a little unclear. The former administration complied with FACTA and CRS. We are now complying with minimum standards of BEPS and have passed a myriad of legislation to bolster the compliance of our financial services industry.

They now talk about corporate tax. Is the EU suggesting we radically alter the model that has attracted billions of dollars in honest, fruitful foreign direct investment for fear that it somehow infringes on its ability to regulate the behavior of its citizens? I have foreshadowed that the actions of the EU and OECD will ultimately threaten the way we conduct business with foreign investors, which will be directly scrutinized and attacked.

While doing what it takes to be delisted, we also need to look past delisting at proactively and progressively examining our economic model with the broadest possible bi-partisan collaboration. We must successfully address these existential questions and navigate the machinations of these bodies that seek to control the world economy, whilst they protect their interests.

We must engage all of our stakeholders and collectively do all we can to protect our national interests even as the goal posts shift.