Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2017 Contents JUNE 15 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG21
The ire of two
On May 29, two former
Prime Ministers and
leaders of opposing
political parties in
Antigua and Barbu-
da presented their
nation's parliament with one of those
rare occasions in which in a fiery debate, they were "singing
from the same hymn sheet" as the saying goes.
The occasion was the introduction in the House of Assembly
of a Bill that sought to make it compulsory for the beneficial
shareholders of vehicles for financial transactions, includ-
ing companies and trusts, to be known and registered, and
for severe penalties to be applied when such information is
withheld from regulatory authorities.
The requirement for the bill did not arise from local circum-
stances; it was a directive (euphemistically called a recommen-
dation) from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the
Global Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD), that are the creations of the rich,
industrialised nations to set global rules in financial matters.
The two former Prime Ministers are Sir Lester Bird of the
Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party and Baldwin Spencer of
the United Progressive Party. Both men have wide experience
of superintending every aspect of their country's affairs. In
addition to being Prime Ministers---except for one brief period
during Spencer's administration---they retained the portfolio
of foreign affairs. In this regard, they both had up-front and
first- hand knowledge of the several, and unending, incur-
sions into the sovereignty of their nation by both the FATF
and the OECD.
Given their experience of growing-up,
resentfully, in a colony, where all the ma-
jor decisions about their country were
made in a distant and alien metropole,
it is not surprising that both men place
a high value on the autonomy that they
consider their country achieved at its
independence from Britain.
So, the introduction of the Bill struck a discordant note with
them. One might even say that the Bill 'stuck in their craw';
they appeared not to be able to swallow it easily, if at all.
In this connection, they joined in a chorus of protest with
Spencer's belting to Bird's timbre. Neither man would have
the Bill passed; both saw it as an imposition by external forces
that would further injure their nation's financial services sec-
tor. Bird pointed to the continuing absence of a level playing
field in the implementation of the FATF and OECD rules. He
named powerful countries that ignored the rules they make
and impose on others.
And, both former Prime Ministers thundered that the present
government should stand-up against the unfairness of the
system and simply refuse to accept dictation from the rich
and powerful governments.
Sir Lester is correct that there is one OECD country in par-
ticular that openly allows company incorporations and Trusts
with no requirement to disclose beneficial owners. The result
is that this business has move there to the detriment of other
jurisdictions, but all are powerless to correct that wrong.
Forlornly, it was suggested by the two former Prime Ministers
that Caricom countries should jointly resist these impositions
that disadvantage them and render them uncompetitive in the
global financial system.
But, the horse has already bolted on all of these matters;
trying to close the stable door now will accomplish nothing
except a black-listing by any jurisdiction courageous enough
to do so. When the opportunity for a solid Caricom resistance
to the FATF and OECD rules was ripe, governments failed to
act in concert.
In beggar-thy-neighbour policies in which government of
Caribbean countries sought to escape the disapproval of the
powerful, they abandoned solidarity for what they thought
was self-preservation. So, they acquiesced to demands and
distanced themselves from each other.
To be fair some Caribbean governments were not involved
at the time; they lingered under the impression that the OECD
was after off-shore banks and international business corpo-
rations. They failed to see the signs that, eventually, off-shore
and on-shore would be blurred.
Wider alliances with countries in similar circumstances
in the Pacific, Africa, the Mediterranean and even Europe,
were not effectively forged. As usual, divide and rule tactics
were employed by the powerful and they were effective. The
consequence is that, by unrelenting policies of intrusion, the
governments that created the OECD and FATF have managed
to impose rules that now ensnare the world. The system is
an effective form of control by the powerful over the weak.
In this connection, the shared ire of Sir Lester Bird and
Baldwin Spencer over yet another demand by the FATF and
the OECD is understandable, but futile.
Nothing short of a movement by many countries to wrest
control of the rules governing the global financial system from
the OECD countries and putting it where it has always properly
belonged---the United Nations---can or will change the present
Such a movement would require trust and confidence among
the governments that initiate the action. It would also require
political courage and non-partisan political support within
countries. And the chances of all that happening are utterly
The present Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston
Browne, was right, therefore, when he pointed to the conse-
quences of non-compliance with the FATF and OECD rules.
Antigua and Barbuda, acting alone, would be blacklisted as
"un-cooperative" and appropriate penalties would be devised.
For example, the current withdrawal of correspondent banking
relations by US and UK banks would intensify and be adopted
by other OECD governments, crippling the country's economy.
Already several countries in the Caribbean (including Bar-
bados, The Bahamas, Belize, the six smaller Eastern Caribbean
countries, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, and T&T) have
lost correspondent banking relations from the US and the UK.
They now have to go as far as China and Turkey to settle their
US and UK transactions. Subsequently, their costs of interna-
tional transactions---with no guarantee of continued service
in the future---has led to a rise of as much as 300 per cent.
The Antigua and Barbuda debate---with its blend of vexed
idealism at impositions on the country's sovereignty and calm
realism of its vulnerability---is probably replicated throughout
the Caribbean. How these small states will survive in a global
society, where power prevails over principle, will increasingly
become the question of this Century for their political leaders,
businessmen, diplomats, academics and journalists.
(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the US and
High Commissioner to Canada. The views expressed are his own)
St Lucia records slight decline in unemployment rate
The St Lucia government says it is encour-
aged by a decrease in the unemployment rate
for the first quarter of 2017 and has renewed its
commitment to help create more employment
opportunities on the island.
"We are currently working on a comprehen-
sive incentives package which will create em-
ployment within the private sector and provide
much needed support to businesses within St
Lucia," said Prime Minister Allan Chastanet.
According to the figures released by the De-
partment of Statistics, the unemployment rate
is 20.1 per cent as compared with 22.1 per cent
for the same three month period last year.
The figures show that youth unemployment
had declined from 1,700 last year to 10,700
According to the latest statistics report, St
Lucia has seen increased activity in the areas
of tourism, accommodation and food service
activities as well as increased employment in
construction, financial services, education and
In his budget presentation last month, Chas-
tanet said his administration, which celebrated
its first year in office in June, was working to-
wards an unemployment rate of no more than
15 per cent by 2021.
St Lucia has not experienced such a low
unemployment rate since 2007.
But even as he welcomed the new unemploy-
ment figures, Prime Minister Chastanet said
his government remains very concerned about
the figures as it relates to youth unemployment
and the issue of under-employment as well as
the employability of the St. Lucia workforce.
"The government is equally concerned about
the latest figures as it relates to young men with
the youth unemployment rate rising among
males in first quarter from 35.3 per cent in 2016
to 41.6 per cent in 2017 as compared to young
women where it decreased for the same quarter
from 39.2 per cent to 35.6 per cent.
"The latest report also tells us that St. Lu-
cia currently has a working age population of
145,000 with the labour force participation
rate of 69.8 per cent," he said.
While addressing some of these issues in
this year's budget, Prime Minister Chastanet
noted that St. Lucia had room to grow.
"Over the past decade our unemployment
rate has increased significantly from 14 per
cent in 2007 to above 20 per cent where it has
stubbornly remained," he added.
Chastanet said he remains optimistic that
in the coming months, more people will be
trained and employed in a variety of sectors
including information technology, tourism,
agriculture and infrastructure.
The government said it is also excited about
the National Apprenticeship Programme and
new agricultural opportunities for generat-
ing income and employment in rural areas by
expanding and diversifying production. CMC
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