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Gonsalves reiterates call for united Caricom position on EU new tax measures

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) – Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday reiterated a call for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to adopt a united position regarding the European Union's request that regional countries pass legislation to deal with what Europe has termed 'economic substance”.

Gonsalves told a news conference here that St Vincent and the Grenadines has no intention of “rolling over to appease Europe.

“We have looked carefully as how we have crafted these laws and we believe they will pass muster. If they don't we will see, but I assure you St Vincent and the Grenadines will not roll over and play dead. We will not surrender. As I said we will compromise, we will accommodate, but we will resist creatively those politicians in Europe who are allowing persons to do things in their name,” Gonsalves told reporters.

The Bahamas, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines have already passed legislation while other Caribbean countries are contemplating doing so as Europe moves to force countries to adopt measures regarding the establishment of international businesses in the region.

Grenada's Legal Affairs Minister Kindra Maturine-Stewart said last month that in 2017 the island was among a group of 90 countries that the EU selected to be screened against tax transparency, harmful tax practices and base erosion profit shifting.

Maturine-Stewart said the new EU guidelines prohibit new measures that will provide for international companies to benefit but not domiciled in the state.

Last week, The Bahamas said it was developing a new framework aimed at strengthening industry regulations and protecting revenues to the public treasury as it relates to enhancing the financial services sector.

Finance Minister K Peter Turnquest, said the Hubert Minnis Government is working to maintain the country as “a global leader in the financial services industry and ensure that the country's second economic pillar remains vibrant over the medium and long term”.

But he said, “We remain concerned, and have voiced these concerns in international forums, about the appearance of shifting goal posts when it comes to The Bahamas and other international finance centres.”

Gonsalves, who late last month, called for a unified Caricom position on the matter, said countries are already responding differently to the situation “depending on their own circumstances, but I believe we have done reasonable work and I wait”.

He added: “But as I wait I am not losing sleep because if I lose sleep it will dull my effectiveness in responding. So we have done what we are supposed to do and let us hear what's happening now. We are small but we are not without voice.”

Gonsalves said nearly two years ago he had written to individual Caribbean leaders as well as the Caricom Secretariat warning about the serious nature of the EU measure

“And when I wrote in 2017 giving the commitment as to what we will do. I sent it to Caricom, the letter…and to every head of government and indicated to them …the importance for us to act together.

“That did not happen. It may well be because the major countries in Caricom – Jamaica Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana – don't have this issue dealing with, nor indeed Suriname or indeed Haiti, which is 10 million of the 16 million people in Caricom.

“This is a matter which is largely a question for the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) and Barbados as it has panned out, as you have noticed,” Gonsalves said, telling reporters there has not been a common approach.


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