EU Blacklists TCI as non-cooperative; DP Saunders says ‘they’re overreacting’
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, March 15, 2023 – The Turks and Caicos has been listed on the EU blacklist again as of February 14th, but E Jay Saunders, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister says this is due to an excessive response from the EU coupled with compliance policies that do not make allowances for smaller economies.
“We’re working with the EU as partners but their language– is disproportionate to what is going on. Their words are disproportionate, and their reaction is disproportionate, we’ve had this conversation and they know it,” he maintained.
He spoke to MM by phone on Monday (March 13) following our queries about why the TCI’s financial services sector was repeatedly making the dreaded ‘Blacklist’.
The DP explained that February’s announcement was based on an October review.
“The European Union doesn’t do their own assessments, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) does them, and in order to cut down the amount of work they don’t review you every month, they review twice a year and one of them is a peer review so other countries will review you,” he continued, “so our chance to get off is basically once a year.”
He maintained that the language used to describe countries like the TCI and The Bahamas was excessive for the perceived infractions.
“The Bahamas said they didn’t meet their requirements around their computer systems, and they called The Bahamas non-cooperative; [that] reaction is disproportionate to the issue that The Bahamas has with their IT system,” he said.
The same issue he says is affecting the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“Our portal was not capturing all the data in the time frame that it should have been and so we had issues with implementation.”
The Finance Minister explained that the systems required to comply with the EU’s expectations were extremely expensive and while countries with more robust financial services sectors like Cayman and Bermuda, who pull in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, could possibly afford it, countries with less revenue in the industry would struggle.
“Smaller nations try to go with something cheap and the cheap systems start to give problems and the EU comes in ‘you didn’t meet the requirements you’re non-cooperative’ and that’s exactly what happened with us,” he said.
The EU listed the Turks and Caicos among 16 jurisdictions that ‘refused to engage with the EU or to address tax good governance shortcomings as of February 14, 2023.’
Only one tax deficiency was attached to the Turks and Caicos in the EU document. It said the TCI “Does not ensure the effective monitoring of company obligations regarding substance requirements in the jurisdiction.”
The only reason the TCI is moving ahead so quickly, Saunders said, is an abundance of cash from the healthy tourism sector bolstering the economy and sheer luck landing them one of the best consultants in the business.
The Turks and Caicos first landed on the blacklist in October 2022 after being put on the grey list six months earlier. The EU claims the overall goal of the list is to ‘improve tax good governance globally, and to ensure its international partners respect the same standards as EU Member States do.’
Despite this, the list has repeatedly come under fire for being skewed. Created by EU members to assess non-EU members, it does not include or punish EU member states for their own tax practices, despite some of them being listed as the most notorious tax havens in the world.
While frustrated with the arbitrary nature of the list, Saunders says the TCI will comply anyway and the country was working swiftly to get off of the list.
“I think there are a lot of countries throwing their hands up but we’re not taking that approach. We’re taking the approach to say we’re gonna partner with the European Union and we’ll help them achieve what they want to.”
A major reason behind this according to Saunders, is the country’s aspirations at having a major financial services sector that can help diversify and increase the country’s revenue, so that in the case of a pandemic, the country still runs like a well-oiled machine.
Other regional countries joining the Turks and Caicos on the list for the time are Anguilla, The Bahamas, The British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago, and The US Virgin Islands.
Caribbean countries on the grey list currently have six months to reassess their tax practices before they are dumped onto the blacklist. Grey listed jurisdictions include Aruba, Belize, Curaçao, Dominica, and Montserrat.
Work of NAECOB critical in ensuring high standards in education, says Minister Hanna-Martin
Bahamas Golden Jubilee Events Announced, Celebrations Across 33 Islands & Cays
#TheBahamas, March 27, 2023 – As the 50th anniversary of our nation’s independence approaches, Bahamians everywhere are teeming with excitement and expectancy around the year-long celebrations set by The National Independence Secretariat.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister joined H.E Leslia Miller Brice, Chair of The National Independence Secretariat to unveil the Calendar of Events for the 50th Independence celebrations.
The calendar comprises a host of events, initiatives and recommendations for celebrations throughout all 33 islands of The Bahamas.
At this jubilant occasion the PM stated, “Celebrating independence is about acknowledging the greatness around us, the greatness within us, and the greatness ahead of us.
We are Bahamians. That identity is special.”
View the newly released calendar of events here:
JAMAICA: 12,362 Seniors Registered Under New Social Pension Programme
#Kingston, March 28, 2023 – There are currently 12,362 seniors registered under the Government’s new Social Pension Programme.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Karl Samuda, made the disclosure during the sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House on March 2, at Gordon House.
The initiative targets all Jamaican citizens 75 years and older who are not currently in receipt of a pension (overseas or local) or any other retirement, old-age or disability benefit or regular income, and are not living in a government institutionalised care facility.
“We are evaluating the manner in which we qualify persons to go on the programme. This is a discussion we will have to have, as some people fall through the cracks simply because they might have a refrigerator, or they might be lucky enough to have a television at home,” Mr. Samuda said.
“The direction in which we are heading, to have those things, does not move you from poverty to prosperity. So, the Government has an obligation to do everything possible to improve their quality of life, and so we will be looking at that,” the Minister added.
Mr. Samuda said between March 2022 and January 2023, the programme disbursed $446 million.
To register for the social pension programme, persons may visit any of the Ministry’s parish offices islandwide.
They will be required to complete a social pension application form, accompanied by their Tax Registration Number (TRN), National Insurance Scheme (NIS) card, and proof of age in the form of a birth certificate or a valid passport.
They should also take along a valid identification (ID), such as a driver’s licence, passport or voter’s ID, proof of bank account and any other document that may be required to process the application, for example, proof of citizenship.
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