#Bahamas, May 28, 2018 – Nassau –
Senator The Hon. Dion A. Foulkes
Minister of Labour
Monday, 28 May, 2018
I rise to move for the second reading and committal of the Multi-National Entities Financial Reporting Bill 2018.
This Bill is the first of a projected series of Bills which are necessary to enable The Bahamas to fully comply with its obligations as a member of the inclusive framework of countries who have decided to join the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (or “BEPS”) project which was launched by the European Union.
The Bahamas agreed to join BEPS in December, 2017 and we were then Blacklisted in March 2018.
As has been announced by The Minister of Finance and DPM the Blacklisting was lifted last week.
The Europeans are using their collective economic and financial strength to compel compliance with their initiatives designed to recover any taxes which might be lost to their Ministries of Finance, due to the operations of tax havens and offshore financial services centres.
Many Bahamians justifiably ask why do we accept such unrestrained exercise of extraterritorial power by the EU; why do we comply? The short answer is that ‘we must comply’.
Just as when the USA implemented the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in 2014, the whole world was forced to implement the automatic exchange of tax information on all US Citizens who held bank accounts either in their own names or in a company registered in a foreign country. The untrammeled power and financial strength of the USA was enough to compel all to comply.
The PLP, who were in government at that time, duly complied, along with the rest of the world, because failure to comply would have resulted in the imposition of harsh “counter-measures” by the US, and the loss of the ability to utilize international wire transferring mechanisms such as the SWIFT system which is controlled by the US.
For any country, the loss of such privileges and the imposition of economic sanctions would have had a disastrous impact, much more so on a small and open economy such as The Bahamas, where more than 90% of our tourists come from the USA.
The Europeans have similar powers as the USA in the financial services arena. Hence, a Blacklisting could easily have resulted in the loss of correspondent banking relations, where banks abroad, and particularly in Europe, could easily have decided to take “de-risking measures” by shutting off commercial relations with banks and financial institutions located in The Bahamas, on the basis that The Bahamas is a “risky jurisdiction”.
If correspondent banks in Europe were to stop taking deposits of money or payments made from The Bahamas, the effect would be exactly the same as if we were cut off from the SWIFT system by the USA; namely, that money could not go out of or come into The Bahamas by a wire transfer.
Business would come to a screeching halt and the economic damage would be devastating and long-lasting for the Bahamian economy.
Madam President, these are the harsh realities of today’s world. It is all about Tax collection. Period.
The BEPS project is a very complex initiative which essentially reflects a surgical and precise stab at the very heart of the established practices and ways of doing business in the offshore financial services sector.
There are five issues which are being tackled by the BEPS initiative, as noted by the EU’s Code of Conduct Group in their called “Agreed Guidelines”, namely:
When assessing whether such measures are harmful, account should be taken of, inter alia:
whether advantages are accorded only to non-residents or in respect of transactions carried out with non-residents, or
- whether advantages are ring-fenced from the domestic market, so they do not affect the national tax base, or
- whether advantages are granted even without any real economic activity and substantial economic presence within the Member State offering such tax advantages, or
- whether the rules for profit determination in respect of activities within a multinational group of companies departs from internationally accepted principles, notably the rules agreed upon within the OECD, or
- whether the tax measures lack transparency, including where legal provisions are relaxed at administrative level in a non-transparent way.
It should be noted that the present Bill only addresses the 4th consideration.
This Bill imposes what is called “Country by Country” reporting requirements on entities registered or incorporated in The Bahamas which are “constituent entities” in a Multi-National Entities (MNE) international business structure. If the head office of the MNE (or “parent”) is a company in The Bahamas then it must report.
Also a Bahamian company which is a part of the MNE can become a “surrogate parent entity” and thus be obligated to make annual country by country reports if designated by the Parent entity to do so, or if the actual Parent entity is registered or incorporated in a non-reporting country (usually a so-called rogue state, or a country that for some reason is “not obligated to make country by country reports.
This Bill enjoys wide support in our financial services sector because it is designed to have a very limited impact, namely it applies only to MNE entities in The Bahamas which are a part of the Companies Structure of a Multinational Corporation (such as IBM, EXXON, Google etc) which earns an Annual Gross Turnover in excess of $850,000,000.
So a Bahamian company or Parent Company which is a part of a MNE or transnational Company which earns a gross turnover of less than $850 Million each year would be entirely unaffected by this Law.
While this providential issue is one where there is a possibility of maximum compliance on this one issue, with minimal disruption to the financial services sector, we must ever be aware that between now, today, and the 31st December, 2018, we must pass laws to address the other four remaining issues in the listing of so-called “harmful measures”.
They are in short, (1) ring-fencing – This issue really encompasses two of the five ‘considerations’, numbers 1 and 2.
Those two issues deal with circumstances where offshore Companies such as IBCs enjoy no taxation (or minimal or only nominal taxes or fees), and where the domestic economy has to bear the overwhelming burden of business licence and other forms of taxation; and, also, while offshore companies are prevented from participating in the domestic economy, or only permitted to do so on special terms;
(2) Substantive requirements – only where an offshore Company or business entity has a substantive presence and “real economic activity” in the jurisdiction will it be allowed to receive or claim any tax benefit from being registered in The Bahamas, and only in such circumstances of “substantive activity” (office rentals, real value-added activities, employment of staff, and so forth) will it be possible for an offshore entity to be eligible for the granting or international recognition of the grant of tax benefits;
(3) Transparency – This is the third issue remaining to be addressed. In short we will have to pass a Law to codify the National Economic and the Bahamianization policies. The National Economic Council will have to be created in Law, while today, it is merely an administrative sub-committee of Cabinet.
Madam President, there is already a fifth lurking issue, and it is the international push towards increasing transparency of beneficial ownership of all offshore business entities.
This issue is only just heating up. More pressures will come, and come soon. The EU Council of Ministers and Parliaments have recently in their 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive (“5th AMLD”) mandated all EU countries to implement greater access to beneficial ownership information of Companies in European Countries. Access to transparent beneficial ownership information of all Companies and IBCs as well as offshore entities by Law Enforcement Agencies is already a specific Mandate by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
As Bahamians, we must be aware of the constantly changing international landscape and be ready to act quickly and decisively to avoid any further reputational damage to The Bahamas and any future Blacklisting.
So Madam President, it is my privilege to recommend this Bill to the approval of the Senate.
As I stated already it is truly “an industry Bill” which has been settled in direct consultation with the financial services sector, and which enjoys widespread support.
I therefore, move that this Bill be read a second time and committed, if I may obtain a seconder.
CARPHA Team undertakes Assessment of Guyana’s National Surveillance System for Non-communicable Diseases
October 14, 2021 – The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) conducted a technical mission to Guyana from September 22nd – 25th, 2021 to undertake site visits as a part of an ongoing assessment of six (6) Member States’ systems for the national surveillance of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors. This activity was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Health Guyana through an Agence Française de Développement (AFD) – funded project.
The aim of the assessment s to provide evidence in support of the development of a Regional Surveillance System for NCDs, a priority under the regional health framework Caribbean Cooperation in Health IV (2016-2025).
During the mission, the CARPHA technical team reviewed the capacity of existing surveillance mechanisms in Guyana to collect, analyse and report on the NCDs and risk factor indicators proposed for the regional surveillance system. These indicators were recommended by a multi-stakeholder meeting series convened in 2020 under the AFD project, which reviewed global, regional, and sub-regional mandates, targets and practices in surveillance for the prevention and control of NCDs.
The CARPHA Team along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health conducted visits to two (2) health centres, the National Cancer Registry, Ministry of Health Surveillance, and Statistics Unit. The results from the overall assessment will be presented to the Ministry of Health Guyana and will also be reviewed alongside results from similar assessments in Anguilla, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname to inform the finalisation of the regional surveillance system design through a regional stakeholder meeting.
The regional NCDs surveillance system would facilitate the reporting and availability of data to inform policy development, planning, and tracking of progress towards meeting for targets NCDs at Regional and National levels.
Through funding from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), CARPHA is leading the Region in Strengthening Strategic Intelligence and Partnership Approaches to prevent and control NCDs and Strengthen Regional Health Security in the Caribbean. This project, signed in 2019 with a value of €1,500,000.00, demonstrates the commitment of the Government of France and the French people to supporting the public health priorities of the Caribbean Community through CARPHA.
More information on the Project can be found at: https://www.carpha.org/Projects/Ongoing-Projects/Strengthening-Strategic-Intelligence-and-Partnership-Approaches-To-Prevent-and-Control-NCDs-and-Strengthen-Regional-Health-Security-In-The-Caribbean
World Sight Day: Love Your Eyes
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. 14 October, 2021. In the Caribbean, the leading causes of blindness are glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes). According to the Vision Atlas, 6.2 million persons in the Caribbean were reported to have vision loss, with an estimated 260,000 persons reported to be blind in 2020.
Information gathered from eighteen (18) Caribbean countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) with a population of 44 million, showed that the crude prevalence of blindness was 0.60%, and the prevalence of all vision loss was 13.20%. Many of the persons affected were females at 52%.
Global statistics reveal that for 2020, a total of 596 million persons had distance vision impairment worldwide, of this number 43 million were blind. Projections for 2050, indicate that an estimated 885 million persons may be affected by distance vision impairment with 61 million expected to experience blindness.
CARPHA’s vision for the Caribbean is a region where the health and wellness of the people are promoted and protected from disease, injury and disability, thereby enabling human development in keeping with the belief that the health of the Region is the wealth of the Region.
Although there are no projects that directly address vision impairment, CARPHA in collaboration with its public health partners is implementing initiatives to address risk factors such as unhealthy diets, use of harmful substances and poor physical activities. This in turn, will help reduce the risk of disability due to complications associated with poor blood sugar and blood pressure management.
Efforts to improve the standards of care for diabetes through the implementation of the CARPHA Guidelines on the Management of Diabetes in Primary Care in the Caribbean, and training of health care workers from the CARPHA Member States will also contribute to the prevention of vision impairment and blindness due to diabetes.
Access to eye care services can reduce visual impairment. CARPHA urges Member States to strengthen health systems to improve eye health services with emphasis on reaching the vulnerable and those most in need. Governments should commit to integrating eye care into the universal health care system.
World Sight Day is celebrated annually on the second Thursday in October. The focus of the day is to bring awareness to blindness and vision impairment as a major public health issue and blindness prevention.
The 2021 commemoration observed on 14th October, seeks to encourage persons to think about the ‘importance of their own eye health.’
Our eyes are working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been indoors, in front of our screens, and probably missed our eye test appointments. Now more than ever, we need to protect and prioritize our eyesight. There are simple things you can do for yourself to prevent the development of serious eye issues:
- Take screen breaks for at least five minutes every hour
- Spend time outside. Increased outdoor time can reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness)
- Get an eye test. A complete eye exam can detect eye conditions such as glaucoma before it has an effect on your sight. The earlier an eye condition is identified, the easier it is to treat.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet and engage in physical activity. These are crucial steps in maintaining a healthy weight, controlling obesity, and preventing diseases such as diabetes, all of which can impact eye health.
- If you have diabetes, you should have your eyes checked every year
Your sight cannot be taken for granted. It is time to LOVE YOUR EYES!
RBDF Congratulates Retired Commander Defence Force on National Honour Award
During a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street, Commodore Smith was presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith. Also in attendance were his daughter, Mrs. Italia Seymour, and the Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King.
Commodore Smith was one of sixteen other deserving individuals recognized on National Heroes Day for the vast contributions they made to the development of the country. The first Bahamian Officer to be appointed as Commander Defence Force, he is the longest-serving Commodore to serve this office from 1983 to 1997.
Throughout his military career, he received numerous awards and accolades, and his career in public life spanned over forty years, and on September 19, 2014, an RBDF Legend Class Vessel bearing his name was commissioned. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is truly grateful for the devoted services of Commodore Smith to the organization and his country.
Commander Defence Force, Commodore Dr. Raymond King extends congratulations on his behalf of the members of his Executive Command, Officers, Senior Enlisted, and Junior Enlisted members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, to Commodore Retired Leon Smith, on his great accomplishment.
Header: Commodore Retired Leon Smith being presented with the Order of Distinction within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, by Governor-General, the Most Honorable Sir Cornelius A. Smith on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.
Insert: Commodore Retired Leon Smith along with recipients of the 2021 National Honours Awards on October 11, 2021, during a ceremony at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, West Bay Street.
(RBDF Photos by Able Seaman Paul Rolle II)
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