PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, November 21, 2018 (CMC) – Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar, today, accused the Trinidad and Tobago government of “failing to take its international commitments seriously”, as the opposition distanced itself from any blame, regarding the island being blacklisted for its failure to pass legislation to comply with multi-lateral tax regulations.
“The Rowley government is responsible for Trinidad and Tobago being blacklisted, and they came, in haste, to the Parliament to push through a problematic, sloppy Bill, which will not even be enough to get the nation removed from the blacklist,” Persad Bissessar said in a lengthy statement.
She said that the opposition is maintaining its position that the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018 “lacks clarity, is ambiguous and flawed”, and that she had received correspondence from Finance Minister, Colm Imbert, on the matter.
“The Opposition has received a letter from the Minister of Finance and is currently reviewing its contents, and will respond, in due course,” she said.
In the November 12 letter, Imbert said “it remains imperative that Trinidad and Tobago achieve compliance with these global regimes,” warning that “failure to comply will have increasingly catastrophic consequences for all citizens of our country”.
Imbert added that Trinidad and Tobago remains “the only country rated as non-compliant by the Global Forum”, recalling that the other stakeholders, including the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) and the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce, called for opposition support “for this critical legislation, as continued non-compliance has dire consequences for the economy of our country”.
He said he was calling on the Opposition to “urgently furnish us with its written response, with immediacy”.
The government requires a special majority in Parliament to pass the legislation, and Persad Bissessar has said that the Rowley administration should consider sending it to a Joint Select Committee of Parliament “to properly ventilate the issues therein”.
Meanwhile, BATT president, Nigel Baptiste, has confirmed statements by the government, that local banks have started to lose correspondent international partnerships because of the country’s failure to comply with multi-lateral tax regulations.
“There is no denying, that all of the local banks have been facing increased due diligence from our correspondent banks, so I can endorse the Attorney General’s comments,” Baptiste told Newsday newspaper.
He said the pressure is most definitely there and that the BATT has released its own statement, emphasising the importance of passing this legislation.
“It is not the sum total of what needs to be done, but it is a step in the right direction,” he said.