PM Barrow Speaks At Summit of the Americas
CNN reported a while ago that Raul Castro, the president of Cuba, has landed in Panama where the Seventh Summit of the Americas is taking place. The hemispheric meeting is being attended by thirty-five leaders of the region, but this is the first time that Cuba is sitting around the table along with the U.S. President. The summit is set to see economic, energy, climate change and security issues discussed. One of the side events is the Second C.E.O. Summit of the Americas, which was addressed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow today. The PM took on the US saying that current US policy is damaging to the Caribbean because it classifies countries in the region as harmful tax havens, which threatens to put the offshore sector out of business. In the case of Belize, it is causing a crisis. Here’s a portion of his speech about bridging the Americas: Productive Integration for Inclusive Development.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I want to close by flagging a last issue that I hope will not strike too sour a note. One of the development areas our topic highlights is finance. And on that subject this Summit of the Americas demands that we speak frankly and urgently to the global superpower in our midst. The fact is that there are ways in which current US policy is proving existentially damaging certainly to the CARICOM sub-region of which Belize is a member. For one, there are the continuing statements classifying our jurisdictions as harmful tax havens. This is designed to put our offshore sector out of business, denying us one of our few diversification opportunities. Then, despite the fact that we make every effort to comply scrupulously with the plethora of legislative and enforcement measures required of us by big country edicts, there are annual declarations designating even our onshore financial services as vulnerable to money laundering. It is a kind of damnation by innuendo since no bill of indictment listing any specific instances of violation is ever offered. But the implication that doing business with us is fraught with risk, is crippling our jurisdictions. So that even as we speak there is a crisis in my own country and in several others in the Eastern Caribbean, where the big US banks are ‘de-risking’ by terminating their correspondent relationships with our domestic banks. Indeed, even our Central Banks are being cut off; and our financial and trade architecture cannot survive this phenomenon. It is a reality that therefore threatens to make a mockery of the soaring rhetoric about stability, security and prosperity, sure to be employed at tomorrow’s Summit. I do not exaggerate when I say that all our noble goals, all our aspirational imperatives, will be rubbished if this noose continues to be tightened around the necks of our smallest and poorest economies. That, unfortunately, is the note on which I conclude. But I do ask you to see it as cautionary rather than contentious. And I certainly do not leave off from my belief that the current constructs governing our integration movement are the correct ones, if only they can be adapted so as not to exacerbate power disequilibria, so as not to constrict and degrade the weakest among us. That our economics must not lose sight of our humanity, is a central caveat. But once that is accepted it allows us to declare in all conscience that our manner of proceeding is not just a good way, but the best way.”