Belize was recently placed on the European Union List of Non-Cooperative Jurisdictions for Tax Purposes. The move came as a blow to the Barrow administration as the PM noted today at the Sitting of the House, his Government had made all the right steps towards meeting agreed upon good governance standards. Prime Minister Barrow brought amendments to the legislation that would put us back in line with the EU and hopefully become de-listed. However, while the PM expressed his discontent with the listing, the Leader of the Opposition said that we should take time with the amendments rather than rush them through the House to appease the EU.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow: “This forum on harmful tax practices after reviewing the action taken by Belize reached a new conclusion that Belize’s IBC regime was no longer harmful. That Madam Speaker was the end of the matter or so we thought because low and behold in a parallel assessment and subsequent conclusion the European Union’s code of conduct found that the IBC regimes which we had amended following to the letter the requirements of the OECD. Now the Europeans code of conduct comes along and says no they are still harmful. They demanded under pain of blacklisting us more action. Now I want to explain something to the House and to the Nation. This European Code of Conduct group is a central part of the OECD and they were there when the assessment of our regimes was made by the OECD participated fully and signed on to the recommendations which we complied and then they turned around and went off on their own and said that it is still harmful. On the face of it Madam Speaker this is outrageous but you know power, disparity in international relations and I have to say the EU treats with rank contempt in these matters but there is no point in troubling deaf heavy without bootless cries so we are once again forced to eat injustice and perform the usual contortions to satisfy their new set of unconscionable dictates. We will therefore be introducing at this sitting of the house further amendments to the IBC and IFSC Act to try to bring them in compliance with the new moving targets. You know a little bit more on this but we are going to be asking to pass these new amendments all at once because why this code of conduct was sent to us at the same time? or right after they said you various regimes are still as far as we are concerned in violation of the harmful tax practices and in addition we want you to do something about the International Business Act and the International Financial Service Act to make sure that all international business companies must have a physical premises in Belize, fine they never said that before but… They said they were meeting on the 26th of February. We wrote to them to say listen, we will do this. We are going to the House on the 15th of March and we will pass the amendments. We need this little time because we have to consult with the stakeholders but we will give you our word. They turned around and blacklisted us on the 27th.”
Leader of the Opposition John Bricenio: “We have tried to do things last minute. When we were told we were to change our laws it was from early 2017 and just to the end of last year we quickly tried to do this amendment and obviously when you do the amendments you believe you are meeting what is asked of you and then you find out you are going to be blacklisted. I do agree with the Prime Minister on this one that I believe that these developed countries are taking advantage of us. Here we have a competitive advantage where we can set up certain tax advantages to form companies and individuals so that they can save their taxes and we can benefit and then they changed the rules on us. Why don’t they EU blacklist the Americans, the Americans are the ones that have one of the biggest tax havens but they don’t go after the United States they come at small countries like us so on this one I am with the Prime Minister that they are taking advantage of small economies or small countries like Belize but what I would wish to say is that today we are going to try to do some amendments but why hurry? They have already blacklisted us and it won’t make a difference right now or pass the law in one month or three months. Let’s look at what the EU has sent to us, let’s study to make sure that one we are meeting the requirements but secondly that we can maintain a competitive advantage.”
Other Caribbean countries were also cited on the EU blacklist.