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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

The editors over at BBC Caribbean have started a very interesting discussion on whether or not summer Carnivals in Caribbeans should scaled back.

Just earlier this month St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia celebrated Carnival. Now Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada are gearing up for their own celebrations next month.

There’s also Notting Hill carnival, Caribbana and labour day which in the diaspora later down in the year.

And not forgetting our annual World Creole Music Festival, which the organizers have already admitted cash flow problems that’s affecting the staging of this year’s festival.

But with the current global financial crisis should Caribbean countries scale back or postpone these festivities altogether and use the money for social projects? Have your say in the comments below.

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Editors’s note:Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean diplomat.

INTERESTING READ:It is a classic case of “passing the buck”, but Caribbean jurisdictions that offer offshore financial services will be the victims of lax regulation by the OECD countries – the UK and US in particular. 

Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the US Senate and Congress have both now shown their intention to close down offshore financial services which they call “tax havens”.

Speaking on March 4th to the US Congress Brown asked: “’But how much safer would everybody’s savings be if the whole world finally came together to outlaw shadow banking systems and outlaw offshore tax havens?”   Implicit in what he said is that so-called “tax havens” are a threat to people’s savings even though it is poor banking and investment practices and inefficient regulation in the US and UK in particular that led to the present global financial crisis.

So, Mr Brown has passed the buck and has fingered jurisdictions that offer offshore financial services as the culprits. 

Equally, as I predicted some weeks ago, the “Stop the Tax Havens Abuse Act” introduced in the US Senate two years ago by then Senator Barack Obama and Senator Carl Levin, was reintroduced in the US Congress the day before Brown made his statement. I had hoped that the re-introduced Act would have removed the names of countries that were listed as “tax havens”.   No such luck.  Not only did the Act retain all the countries, it added three new very onerous sections for liability.  The intention is clear – if banks and other financial institutions in these jurisdictions are going to continue to operate, they will do so only at great expense.  Few will be able to afford the additional costs of compliance.

The Caribbean jurisdictions named in the US Act are: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & The Grenadines and Turks and Caicos. When Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana begin their international financial services for which they have all legislated, they can expect to join the list.

It seems irrelevant to the US Congress that some of these countries have Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) with the United States under which the US can request – and are obliged to receive information – concerning tax inquiries.  To my certain knowledge Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and the British Virgin Islands have such agreements.  Others may also have.

But, if the US Act is passed in its present form, it seems that TIEA is not enough and the US Treasury Secretary will be given extreme powers to act against jurisdictions that he deems to have “ineffective information exchange practices”.     

The G20 countries – none of which are jurisdictions considered as “tax havens” – will meet in London on April 2nd and on their agenda is the matter of “tax havens”.  The discussion and its conclusions will take place without the benefit of any of the affected jurisdictions at the table.  Among the missing “tax havens” will be all those I have named earlier from the Caribbean plus Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore, Malta, Cyprus, Panama, Hong Kong and a few others in Europe and the Pacific.  

It is a curious kind of international democracy that allows rules and punishment to be created by a few – and imposed on the many – simply because the few have the power to do so.

It is even worse that the few are yet to admit that it is lax supervision and regulation in their own jurisdictions that has caused the present global financial crisis.  They are also yet to demonstrate that they are taking effective action within their own systems to correct and improve their deficiencies. 

In his speech to the US Congress, Brown said, “Let us agree in our G20 summit in London in April rules and standards for proper accountability, transparency, and reward that will mean an end to the excesses and will apply to every bank, everywhere, all the time”.

No one would quarrel with that position.  Indeed, in light of two events in the Caribbean – surrounding CLICO in Trinidad and Tobago and holdings of R Allen Stanford  in Antigua – there would be few who would not agree wholeheartedly with the need to tighten up rules for banks.  But, Mr Brown did not mention regulation which is sorely in need of improvement in Britain and the US.  Instead, he focused on “outlawing” tax havens.

During the week all this was taking place, along with three other persons, I was asked by a publication in Washington, Inter-American Dialogue, whether the civil complaint by the US Securities and Exchange Commission against Stanford “shows a need for stricter regulation of financial services companies in the Caribbean?  The following was my published reply: 

“The matter of the SEC prosecuting a civil suit for alleged fraud against R Allen Stanford points to the absolute need for stricter regulation not only in Antigua and Barbuda but also in the United States.  Court documents about this matter claim that the alleged fraud relates to the sale of products by the Stanford International Bank (SIB) in Antigua and by the Stanford Financial Group in Houston.  The regulators in both jurisdictions are, therefore, culpable.

While the smallness of its resources does not absolve the Antigua regulators of responsibility, the vastness of the resources available to the US regulators condemns their failure to recognise the danger signals in the operations at a much earlier stage. The Stanford allegation should not be used to stain Caribbean regulators while ignoring the fact that deficiencies also existed in the US system.

No Caribbean jurisdiction should wish to remain in the business of hosting companies that offer financial services without strong, relevant and appropriate legislation and supervision that protects the interests of customers.  In this regard, independent statutory bodies that are free of political interference and are overseen by bipartisan committees drawn from the legislature should be established to raise their credibility and give confidence to domestic and international clients”.

My point was that the alleged Stanford fraud occurred as much in the US as it did in Antigua and Barbuda.  So, while there is a need for stricter and fearless regulation of financial services in the Caribbean, there is also such a need in the US.

Unfortunately, while the G20 meets in April to make their pronouncement, the so-called “tax haven” countries have made no attempt to meet to devise an appropriate response.  The countries of the Caribbean Community and Common market (CARICOM) have no excuse for not doing so, and if there any among them who feel that they are capable of stopping this juggernaut alone, they should think again.  Caribbean countries should act on this now and together or see their offshore financial services wither.

What are your views? Are Caribbean countries with off-shore financial services and CARICOM responding effectively? Share your comments and Let’s start the debate.

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bowen couple murder

Editor’s note:This is a guest post from Danielle Edwards – a Literature and History student and an aspiring Journalist.

Weeks after our Caricom leaders’ agreement to market regional destinations as part of a complete ‘One Caribbean’ regional experience instead of individual island territories, we’re faced with the growing challenges of sharing each other’s problems…

In the heat of this summer’s Carnival festivities, the brutal murder of a British couple honeymooning in Antigua has sparked outrage among locals, government officials and foreigners alike.

Only a fortnight after blissfully cutting their wedding cake together, the Mullanys were attacked and shot before sunrise at their secluded luxury cottage in the Cocos Hotel last week. A £66,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of their murderers, and authorities in Antigua & Barbuda are now scrambling to implement ‘extraordinary measures’ and ‘beef up security’ to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Unfortunately, it seems like officials may be trying to play this off as an isolated incident as they are extremely frantic about the country’s tourism image. The Tourism Minister Mr. Harold Lovell has said that ‘This isolated incident has deeply shocked our community and we wish to reassure visitors that Antigua and Barbuda is a safe destination’. This move has not gone unnoticed by the international media. According to a BBC news report, ‘people who live there say…that crime is increasing’.

There have been a whopping 10 murders so far in Antigua for the year in addition to numerous incidents of armed robbery and sexual assault- a big number for a little island. Most of these crimes remain unsolved, but some persons have, unbelievably, found comfort in the fact that the majority of homicides have been committed against locals and not foreigners. However there is no doubt that the crime rate is far too high. In 2006 alone there were 19 killings.

Many Antiguans are upfront about the problem, citing gang war as the underlying menace. There are allegedly more than 10 territorial gangs on the island! In fact, days before the Mullanys were murdered police discovered 100 rounds of .38 ammunition and a gunman’s mask in a local residence.
But while some of us may be inclined to brush this incident off as an Antiguan problem, in reality it has implications for the wider Caribbean. It comes just weeks after our Caricom leaders decided to market the region jointly as part of a ‘One Caribbean’ marketing campaign.

Since, according to Mr. Ralph Gonsalves, ‘We don’t have the resources to be aggressive individually’, our Caribbean nations will no longer be promoted as single islands, but jointly as a regional destination. There will no longer be different places and faces- we will all share one face for the prospective tourist.

While this agreement certainly has potential economic benefits, one of its foreseeable implications is likely to be that the negative impact of crimes such as the Mullanys’ murder on the Antiguan tourism industry would also be shared by other islands such as Dominica and St. Lucia. In other words, one island’s crime would inescapably affect the image of all the islands.

Already, territories like Jamaica, which has one of the highest crime rates in the world, and Trinidad & Tobago are grappling with the suppression of crime at home.

So the question arises- have our leaders prepared themselves adequately for this new tourism strategy? It’s worth wondering whether or not they are all currently aware of the circumstances surrounding this particular crime, which has already prompted several flight cancellations to Antigua, and the fact that its criminal investigations are being impeded by a ‘code of silence’.

We the people know how wonderful life is in the Caribbean, but many tourists can be easily discouraged from visiting the region by atrocious crimes, many of which are never easily solved. And now, our leaders are faced with the challenge of fighting crime all over the Caribbean and not only in their home territories- whether they wish to accept this reality or not.

And they may not be quite ready to deal with this challenge.

Sources: &

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