The University of the West Indies has condemned the recent European Union blacklisting of Barbados and four other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) financial centres as tax havens.
Also included on the EU blacklist, which was issued on December 5 following ten months of investigations by EU officials, are Grenada, St Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago.
In a strongly worded statement Thursday, Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles warned the unilateral move by the EU stood to have a deleterious effect on these economies, while accusing the EU of singlehandedly “derailing” and “undermining” the global financial system.
“This latest decision by the EU is based on new, unilaterally-determined and unclear criteria that differ significantly from the currently accepted international standards of tax transparency, anti-money laundering and accountability.
“These universally accepted standards were established by the Financial Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum and demanded by the very EU,” Sir Hilary said, while contending that CARICOM countries had either met or exceeded these accepted international standards and best practices over many years and demonstrated a long-standing, unwavering commitment to adhere to them.
The Barbados-born vice chancellor further said the unilateral EU blacklisting was “de facto a derailing of these standards and undermine the entire process of accountability and fairness in financial matters carefully constructed by the world community,” while warning that this “unfavourable and unfair categorization of certain CARICOM countries is likely to result in reputational damage, encouragement of de-risking, including the withdrawal of correspondent banking services and the imposition of costs in the adjustment to new onerous regulatory requirements.
“Further, whether intentional or accidental, this action is tantamount to creating a competitive advantage for offshore financial centres operating within the national jurisdiction of European Union member states,” Sir Hilary said.
“The UWI stands with the governments of the Caribbean in protesting the recent actions by the EU and calling for a more transparent and equitable regulatory system and joins the call for the EU to enter into a process to resolve the issue.
“To this end The University of the West Indies . . . will continue to put its expertise and research capacity at the service of governments, the private sector and regional organizations to craft appropriate policy responses,” he added.
His comments are the latest in a series of regional condemnations of the EU move.
Just last week, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque voiced strong objection to the move, while urging France to leverage its influence with a view to stopping the EU from taking “arbitrary and punitive actions” against the four blacklisted CARICOM states.
At the same time, Minister of International Business Donville Inniss and his counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia and Grenada continue to express surprise and dismayed over their inclusion on the dreaded list.
However, despite this position there is no indication that EU ministers will back down from their position on the blacklisting, which affects 17 global states in total, or the threat of punitive sanctions, even amid feverish behind-the-scenes efforts to get them to change their minds.