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UK Bahamas Delegation Fights Back at Critics

08 November 1999

A delegation from the Bahamas visiting the UK has warned that the island will fiercely resist any attacks by wealthy nations on the sovereignty of independent financial centres.

The warning comes in light of recent announcements by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other international forums of wealthy industrialised nations of plans to isolate so-called 'rogue offshore centres' suspected of being havens for tax evaders. The Bahamas has served notice on the OECD that its sovereignty is not up for negotiation.

Although the Bahamas has not yet been suggested as a target for such an embargo, its Government is concerned that wealthy nations will use it as an excuse to try and insist that offshore jurisdictions enforce Europe and North America's high tax regimes.

Barry Malcolm, executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board, said that Governments and media in the west are portraying offshore centres as 'lawless, unregulated, undisciplined". He suggested that the OECD was practising a new form of colonialism, the message of which is that, "if you don't have the same kind of tax structure as we do you don't have a right to ply [for business] in the world economy".

But the Bahamas is unrepentant in the face of accusations that it is a tax haven. Mr Malcolm suggested industrialised nations may be better off following the Bahamas tax model, which is entirely reliant on indirect taxation. He pointed out that much of the Bahamas tax structure is over 100 years old and could not possibly have been set up deliberately to attract funds escaping taxation in the west.

Mr Malcolm said that as a small country, the Bahamas was an easy target for the OECD, but that if OECD countries were having difficulties enforcing their tax systems, that was a matter to be solved within the boundaries of those countries and not within the jurisdiction of independent offshore centres such as the Bahamas.

In August this year, the Bahamas finance minister William Allen told the OECD that the regulation and supervision of financial services (which account for one-fifth of GDP in the Bahamas) 'is equal to that in developed OECD countries".


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