Public Servants Undergo Training On ESW
Trade facilitation within Barbados is expected to be transformed with the implementation of the Electronic Single Window (ESW). That was the message of Deputy Project Coordinator of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme (BCP), Delano Scantlebury, to nearly 25 participants in the two-day ESW’s Train-the-Trainer Session for some government agencies. The training ended today and participants included employees of Plant Quarantine, Veterinary Services, Food Safety and the Department of Commerce. Mr. Scantlebury told the participants that their continued partnership was critical to ensuring the successful implementation of “this truly transformational project”. Reminding the participants that the ESW belonged to them and they must therefore take the knowledge back to their work colleagues, he urged them to play their part in Barbados’ trade facilitation renaissance which would benefit all. He continued: “Government’s overall plan is to address competitiveness matters in Barbados. The ESW facility is expected by all stakeholders to profoundly transform the nature of private/public sector relations and interface, and should therefore be seen fundamentally as a tool for promoting good e-governance in the country. “However, the most immediate and direct benefits of the facility will accrue to traders, who stand to gain significantly from the anticipated improvements within the trade in goods supply chain.” An electronic single window is an environment that facilitates the electronic submission of standardised international trade and transport-related documents to a single point. The Barbados Electronic Single Window is being implemented by A-T Solutions, at a cost of US$4.7 million. A-T Solutions is a US-based firm owned by the PAE conglomerate. Giving the background to the ESW, he said a loan was signed in 2010 between the Inter-American Development Bank and Government to jointly finance the implementation of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme. Its cost is US$11.8 million, of which, the IDB is providing loan funds of up to US$10.0 million and Government US$1.8 million. Mr. Scantlebury explained that the objective of the BCP was to improve the island’s competitiveness by way of addressing key bottlenecks affecting the efficient movement of goods in Barbados, and by supporting other trade and investment promotion activities, with a view of promoting export development and increasing private investment. Article compliments BGIS.
US cautions Caribbean countries offering economic citizenship
The United States Government has cautioned Caribbean countries offering a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) to be extra cautious about who they give their passports to, and ensure that recipients have no terrorist or crime links. It gave the advice, in a statement issued by the US Embassy in Barbados yesterday, even as it made it that it was not advising regional countries on whether or not they should offer economic citizenship. Under the CIP offered by countries like Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica, foreign nationals are granted citizenship in exchange for a substantial investment in the country. “The United States does not approve or disapprove individual aspects of citizenship by investment programmes,” the US statement said. “The United States strongly believes that all countries have an inherent responsibility to their citizens and the international community to review fully all applicants who seek a nation’s citizenship.” “While the United States Government is willing to consult with governments on their citizenship investment programmes, the ultimate decisions to offer and how to operate such a programme, including the issuance of citizenship and related identifying documents, such as passports to applicants, lie with each individual government and not with the United States.” But, the statement added, the US Government encourages and expects governments to be confident, beyond a reasonable doubt, that applicants are bona fide and their identities have been fully validated, and they have no ties to transnational criminal or terrorist organizations, before handing over citizenship. The US Embassy did not identify any specific country in its statement. However, there has been concern in Antigua and Barbuda about the government’s recent decision to remove Iraq from the list of countries whose nationals are barred from obtaining citizenship under the twin-island nation’s CIP. The main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) is strongly against it. Political leader Harold Lovell said late last month that given the entrenchment of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle Eastern country, that move and the decision by the Gaston Browne administration to establish a presence in Iraq, expose Antigua & Barbuda to danger and compromise the integrity of the country’s passport. Last November, the St. Kitts and Nevis Government announced an immediate suspension of the processing of new CBI applications from citizens and residents of Syria. The announcement came less than two weeks after ISIS carried out attacks in Paris, and also followed the arrest of Syrian nationals with fake passports in Honduras and St. Maarten, although the government did not publicly identify those developments as contributing to its decision. Article compliments Caribbean360.com
Scandals deal blow to Panama’s image as financial hub
Panama’s reputation as a world-class financial hub is being torn apart from the double scandals of the Panama Papers and now the US designating one of its most prominent families as top money launderers for drug cartels, reports The Daily Star. “This is like a magnitude-10 earthquake for Panama’s economic system and society, but it shouldn’t be a surprise,” said Miguel Antonio Bernal, a professor in constitutional law at the University of Panama. “The country’s image has been damaged by these scandals,” said Francisco Bustamante, who used to work for the Inter-American Development Bank. They and other analysts believe that, far from putting the scandals behind it, Panama could see them grow in the weeks and months ahead, subjecting the Central American nation to further international scrutiny and spooking investors. The US announcement this week declaring members and associates of the Wakeds, a prominent family of Lebanese descent, to be among “the world’s most significant drug money launderers and criminal facilitators” was a bad blow on top of the Panama Papers revelations that emerged a month ago. The US Treasury Department froze the US assets of Nidal Ahmed Waked Hatum and Abdul Mohamed Waked Fares and those of many of their businesses, which span real estate, luxury shops, hotels, a bank, media and duty-free outlets. Colombia arrested Waked Hatum on Wednesday and said it would extradite him to the United States, where he faces money laundering and bank fraud charges. Meanwhile, the Panama Papers revelations about how many of the world’s wealthy shoved assets into offshore entities look set to deepen. A US-based journalists’ collective that has been poring over the 11.5 million documents plundered from the servers of a secretive Panamanian law firm is to release many of them online on Monday. And the US government and European countries are stepping up measures against countries seen to be “havens” for tax avoiders and money-launderers. Panama’s authorities have been trying to emphasize that they are committed to “transparency” and stamping out illegal activity. But there is little doubt that its financial services sector — a nexus of banks and law firms catering to clients around the world — has been hit hard, and will struggle to recover. As a sign of its seriousness, Panama has created a committee of international experts, headed by Joseph Stiglitz, an American economist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2011, to recommend further reforms to the sector. In the last couple of years, it has already cracked down on bearer shares and other instruments that helped obscure ownership of companies. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela last month also announced that his government was willing to adopt OECD standards on sharing tax information it had long resisted. But last week he said Panama still needed “a little more time” to comply. The financial scandals will hang heavy over the country as it finally inaugurates next month a costly and behind-schedule expansion of the lucrative Panama Canal. Varela has invited 70 heads of state and government to the ceremony, which will see a Chinese superfreighter be the first to navigate through the bigger waterway. The canal, along with free economic zones, ports, tourism and recognized logistics and banking sectors have underpinned economic growth of more than six percent annually in recent years — one of the highest in the region. Nevertheless, Panama has found it hard to shake a perception that it is a shady nest of illicit transactions. “We can’t go on as if we are privateers or pirates of the 18th century,” Bernal said. The professor agreed that Panama needed to bring in changes to stop money laundering. “But the government can’t do it because most of the people in it have interests in these types of operations,” he said. Analysts said the scandals could instead provide impetus for officials to ensure new reforms fall in line with international transparency standards. “This is a golden opportunity for Panama,” Bustamante said. “No need for it to talk, it just needs to show that the law exists, that it works, and that’s that,” he said. Article compliments IFC Review.