By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A Cabinet Minister yesterday warned that “‘this is not a time for complacency” in efforts to ensure the Bahamas escapes the European Union’s (EU) ‘blacklist’.
Brent Symonette, minister of financial services, told the House of Assembly there was a “high political level commitment” to address the concerns of the EU’s Code of Conduct Group by the end of 2018 and ensure the Bahamas is delisted as soon as possible.
Mr Symonette said that in December 2017 the Bahamas signed the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, and the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement.
The Bahamas also became a member of the Inclusive Framework for the implementation of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative that same month, with all three moves demanded by the EU to avoid being listed as a non-cooperative jurisdiction in the fight against tax avoidance.
“We believe that signing on to these initiatives sends a loud and clear message to our international counterparts that the Bahamas is a cooperative jurisdiction that is very serious in its commitment to adhering to and implementing international standards relative to tax compliance and co-operation,” said Mr Symonette.
“The Bahamas has never refused to co-operate or engage with the EU. In fact, we have been actively engaged and consistently cooperating with their requests and concerns.”
Mr Symonette stressed that this nation must engage in more active discussions with the EU while still maintaining its sovereignty. He, together with Deputy Prime Minister, K Peter Turnquest, and a small delegation of officials recently travelled to Brussels in an effort to engage the Code of Conduct Group and the EU Council directly, in hope they would not ‘blacklist’ the Bahamas.
“We were told that there was not enough time for the Council to review the information we presented before taking their decision. Notwithstanding the positive work already being undertaken, we have made a high political level commitment to discuss and address the concerns of the Code of Conduct Group by the end of 2018, and to ensure the Bahamas is delisted as soon as possible,” Mr Symonette said.
He suggested that the former Christie administration should take some of the blame for the ‘blacklisting’.
“We see that at times during the former administration letters were not answered, action was not taken and we are working against that background. We’re not being critical of this issue. The facts are stubborn, they are what they are and we will move on,” Mr Symonette said.