PM HARRIS SAYS RECENT CARICOM MEETING UNDERSCORED THE LEADERS’ COMMITMENT TO JOINT ADVOCACY AGAINST “EXISTENTIAL THREAT” OF BLACKLISTING

February 21st, 2020
Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris says the recently held 31st CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting underscored the commitment of Member States to pursue joint advocacy against blacklisting, de-risking and the withdrawal of correspondent banking services.

The Communiqué issued after the meeting states that, “Heads of Government view the strategy of blacklisting and de-risking, which lead to the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, as an existential threat to the economic security of CARICOM Member States.”

Delivering remarks near the start of the meeting as Outgoing Chairman of the Caribbean Community, Prime Minister the Honourable Allen Chastanet of Saint Lucia highlighted the stark reality of the situation.

“Our own information indicates that up to the middle of 2018, 25% of the 50 banks operating across CARICOM had reported termination of correspondent banking services, while 75% reported they were facing certain correspondent banking restrictions,” the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia said.

“Other negative consequences have been an increase in operational costs, an extension in the processing time for international payments, as well as increased difficulty in account opening or securing banking services,” the Outgoing Chairman of CARICOM added.

Prime Minister Chastanet of Saint Lucia also noted that Member States “continue to take the necessary steps to comply with the demands of the regulating agencies, but while they do, countries in our region are still being penalized.  Some of us remain on the grey list, while only one Member State remains on the blacklist.  We must continue working until all of us are off the list, but more importantly, we must make every effort to ensure this undemocratic and discriminatory practice of a public blacklist is discontinued.”

The European Council announced this week that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has “managed to implement all the necessary reforms to comply with EU tax good governance principles ahead of the agreed deadline and [is] therefore removed from Annex II.”  Annex II is referred to as the grey list while Annex I is called the blacklist.

The Council’s February 18th, 2020 press release explained that, “Jurisdictions that do not yet comply with all international tax standards but committed to reform are considered cooperative and included in a state of play document (Annex II).  The Council’s code of conduct group on business taxation monitors that jurisdictions enact the necessary reforms by the agreed deadlines.  Once a jurisdiction meets all its commitments, it is removed from Annex II.”

On May 25th, 2018, the European Council announced that it had “removed the Bahamas and Saint Kitts and Nevis from the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions,” moving them from Annex I to Annex II, which cites jurisdictions that have “undertaken sufficient commitments to reform their tax policies.”

St. Kitts and Nevis made commitments at a high political level to remedy the European Union’s concerns, and experts from the EU assessed those commitments, with the Council’s code of conduct group carefully monitoring their implementation.  The implementation of the tax reforms will continue to be monitored closely.

“I really want to especially commend the local team that was put together to ensure that St. Kitts and Nevis satisfies the requirements of the European Union as a cooperative tax jurisdiction,” Prime Minister Harris said Wednesday, February 19th, 2020.

“The team was a multidisciplinary one led by the Financial Secretary [Mrs. Hilary Hazel] and including representatives from the Inland Revenue Department, the Legal Department, the Nevis Island Administration, and a range of other areas of the Government,” the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis added.

Prime Minister Harris continued: “I record the Cabinet’s thanks, appreciation and commendation for their work and to those who would have provided support to them.  We also had the benefit of the expertise of an international consultancy group, and so I think this positive development represents a collective success.  I therefore commend anyone who made a contribution.”

Earlier this week, the European Council announced that, “In addition to the 8 jurisdictions that were already listed, the EU also decided to include the following jurisdictions in its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions: Cayman Islands, Palau, Panama and Seychelles.”

The Council said that, “These jurisdictions did not implement the tax reforms to which they had committed by the agreed deadline.”

The following eight jurisdictions were already on the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions: American Samoa, Fiji, Guam, Samoa, Oman, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and the US Virgin Islands.

The following 15 jurisdictions were removed from Annex II this week, in addition to St. Kitts and Nevis: Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cabo Verde, the Cook Islands, Curaçao, the Marshall Islands, Montenegro, Nauru, Niue and Vietnam.

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