By Marlon Madden
One local official in the global business sector has slammed the international intergovernmental, political and economic organisations for trying to constantly change compliance requirements and bullying small states such as Barbados.
Connie Smith, Managing Director of the global business firm Tricor Group (Barbados) said she was “completely OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), FATF (Financial Action Task Force), EU (European Union), …, fatigued”.
At the same time, however, she is urging her fellow global business sector operators to see challenges as opportunities as she called on authorities in Barbados to be more proactive.
“I am completely fatigued with some of the requirements, particularly where we have double standards and hypocrisy and not the same level playing ground from which we can all play,” said Smith.
She said despite limited resources, Barbados has been able in the past, to fight some of the OECD’s decisions to label the island a tax haven, but said, unfortunately, that organisation, like others, continued to shift the goal post.
Smith stressed the need for “a level standard playing field”, while acknowledging that “not all jurisdictions are equal”.
She lamented that Barbados and other small states were trying to “out all of the fires”, diverting incredibly limited resources to respond to all of these “allegations, challenges and changes” to our environment.
“I think that they think we are just going to get to a stage where they are just going to cull the sector by us bowing out and saying ‘you know what, we can’t handle all this anymore, we are no longer going to do this. But I think Barbados is very determined, very resilient and we are not going to allow ourselves to be bullied out of the opportunity we see as one of tremendous growth, economically and otherwise for the people of Barbados,” said Smith.
She suggested that business facilitation was therefore critical along with continuous review to ensure Barbados remained agile, competitive, and as nimble as possible.
Smith was speaking as a member of a panel on Thursday morning during a global business industry update, hosted by the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA).
Reminiscing on the development of the global business sector and BIBA over the years, Smith said coming out of all the experiences her wish was for “a little bit more collaboration”.
She recommended that one of those collaborations should include the rebuilding of relations with the University of the West Indies (UWI) for research and data purposes to help with decision-making and to become more proactive in coming up with solutions to challenges.
She explained that such a collaboration would help the sector to be “a little bit less reactive and a little bit more proactive” in anticipating what the next likely challenge will be given some of the nuggets that are dropped along the path in the discussions with the international associations.
Melanie Jones, an attorney-at-law and managing partner at Lex Caribbean (Barbados), also pointed to the resilience of the global business sector over the years despite “the dark forces”. However, she believed “we will always be resented”.
“If you take Barbados as an example, we are a place where the rule of law obtains, we have a decent legal and regulatory regime, we are transparent, and compared to many other jurisdictions in the world we are extremely clean as a jurisdiction.
“We have been incredibly collaborative and compliant in the global arena regarding addressing the concerns of agencies like the OECD. So all of that is a testament to us as a jurisdiction. But of course, the forces of darkness are disappointed because they thought they would have sent us packing a long time ago,” Jones added.
“What this means is that we are going to be in battle mode forever and we may need to kind of regroup and retool and look around us and see how else and in what way we can add value rather than just spending the whole time training our rifles on our opponents who try to shut us down,” she said. [email protected]