Byer Suckoo: No Pay Difference In Public Service
There is no disparity between the salaries of male and female workers across Barbados’ public sector. Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo disclosed this finding yesterday, while speaking at the media launch of the 2016 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report, at United Nations House. According to data trends from the report’s Human Development Index, it was recorded that on average, “women globally are paid 23 percent less than their male counterparts.” However, based on localised research, the island’s Labour Minister revealed that this trend was not occurring in Barbados’ public sector. “We’ve heard the figures about women being paid less than men… I must say that since I’ve heard these figures I have been looking for the evidence [locally]; and I have not been able to find it at our Statistical Service or in the Ministry of Labour…. “We have not been able to find that job for job, where all other things are equal, men and women are paid differently. We know across the Civil Service men and women at the same grade are paid the exact same amount,” she verified. While maintaining that there was no gender-related pay difference within the “formal sector”, Senator Byer Suckoo cautioned against such a practice which might occur within the “informal sector”. The Minister told those gathered: “If this is happening in smaller agencies which may not come under the collective agreements…then that is something that we would be very concerned about…because our legislation does not allow for this disparity of wages job for job…,” she stressed. In supporting the development of disadvantaged groups, which were identified in the UNDP Report as women, children, victims of forced labour, impoverished persons and the disabled; the Senator called on other Ministries to remain “vigilant” and ensure that these trends did not permeate the Barbadian society. Minister Byer Suckoo stated: “The Barbados National Employment Policy and the Human Resource Development Strategy have prioritised the empowerment of the vulnerable groups in our labour market. My Ministry is administering targeted programmes in employment and training for these vulnerable persons… “We are also now partnering with the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development on the Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados Programme to eradicate poverty.” The media launch culminated with a panel discussion featuring Minister Byer Suckoo; Stephen O’Malley, Resident Representative of the UNDP Barbados and the OECS; Sean Cooke, Representative for the Barbados National Organisation of the Disabled; and Neisha Cave, Youth Economist. Article compliments BGIS.
Caribbean: CARICOM seeks FATCA delay, but law may prove irrelevant
The Caribbean Community is looking at spending nearly quarter of a million dollars on a Washington-based consultant to lobby the Trump administration about the Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act, reports Cayman Compass. Cayman appears unlikely, however, to be affected by any lobbying – or even FATCA repeal – in the wake of last year’s enactment of Common Reporting Standards by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In mid-February, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley announced moves by the 15-member CARICOM bloc to spend $240,000 countering a FATCA threat to correspondent banking in the region. As reported by the island state’s Daily Express on Feb. 18, Mr. Rowley said the organization would jointly contribute the sum, employing lobbyists to ensure Caribbean banks did not suffer censure or loss of correspondent banking access. “It is only for a short period as it is a specific assignment,” he said in an address. I think it’s US$40,000 for the period for which the lobbyist would be hired to carry out this specific exercise,” he said after returning from a two-day Guyana meeting of CARICOM heads of government. They had agreed, he said, “that cost should be incurred and the lobbyists should be hired and put to work to join the efforts made by CARICOM to ensure that we stave off any further de-risking or loss of correspondent banking access.” Calling it “a threat to our banking system,” the prime minister worried about a “collapse of the banking [system] in the region if in fact we are to find ourselves regarded as a high-risk area and lose correspondent banking facilities.” The move, however, appears to be less than a push for FATCA repeal as an effort to avoid penalties should Trinidad and other CARICOM members delay acceptance of the U.S. tax legislation. CARICOM needed to ensure its banking system was not denied access to corresponding banks and, therefore “not denied access to our trade,” he said. “We are at great risk,” Mr. Rowley said, urging countries “to ensure that we pass the necessary legislations, that we are compliant with the international standard that is demanded of us and that we ensure that we make every effort that we lobby in the relevant quarters that we are not treated adversely,” he said. In late November 2013, Cayman’s Tax Authority agreed to provide details to Washington’s Internal Revenue Service of all Cayman’s U.S.-resident and U.S.-affiliated account holders at 28,559 locally based “Foreign Financial Institutions.” The move, affecting nearly 6,000 local residents, has generated intense opposition, as some have called FATCA “unfair and outrageous,” demanding “the USA [come] into line with every other country in the world and stop taxing its citizens on citizenship, but [instead] on residence.” Director of Cayman’s Tax Information Authority Duncan Nicol was unavailable for comment, attending an OECD meeting in Europe, but it is unlikely his office will seek FATCA repeal. Experts have described 2010’s FATCA legislation as the first global tax-information legislation of its kind, forcing it to “come out with guns blazing in a sense,” one analyst said. FATCA has since been augmented, however, by 2013’s multilateral Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which Cayman joined in 2014, and is now among 108 signatories, and the same-year introduction by the OECD of global Common Reporting Standards, which Cayman signed only this year. The standards call on jurisdictions to gather information about account holders at local financial institutions, reporting it globally. “This new standard on automatic exchange of information will ramp up international tax cooperation, putting governments back on a more even footing as they seek to protect the integrity of their tax systems and fight tax evasion,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said at the time. In a footnote to the 100-jurisdiction listing, the OECD says the U.S. is “undertaking automatic information exchanges pursuant to FATCA from 2015” and “has entered into intergovernmental agreements with other jurisdictions to do so.” Those agreements, the footnote says, “acknowledge the need for the United States to achieve equivalent levels of reciprocal automatic information exchange with partner jurisdictions,” accompanied by “a political commitment to … advocate and support relevant legislation to achieve such equivalent levels of reciprocal automatic exchange.” Growing global regulation makes FATCA just one tax-reporting scheme among many. The Mutual Administrative Assistance convention alone “means certain information will go back to your home jurisdiction, and your tax man will give you a call if you haven’t reported it,” one legal expert said. And even if FATCA goes away, he said, “the Common Reporting Standards will kick in.” Article compliments IFC Review.
Rich Chinese Race to Apply for a U.S. Golden Visa
As members of Congress in Washington debate raising the minimum required to obtain a U.S. immigrant investor visa from $500,000 to $1.35 million, concern about the hike has set off a scramble among wealthy would-be participants in China, reports Bloomberg. “Some clients are demanding that we make sure their applications are submitted before April 28,” the date the program expires unless extended or amended by Congress, said Judy Gao, director of the U.S. program at Can-Reach (Pacific), a Beijing-based agency that facilitates so-called EB-5 Immigrant Investor visas. “We’re working overtime to do that.” China’s wealthy, using not-always-legal means to skirt capital controls to get their money out and at the same time gain residency in the U.S., are continuing to dwarf all others as the largest participants in the EB-5 program, despite heightened measures by the Chinese government. The initiative channels money to high-profile U.S. real estate projects from New York to Miami to California — including those by the family of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. A current plan by the Kushner family to refinance and reconstruct its New York office building at 666 Fifth Avenue is seeking $850 million in EB-5 funding, as well as cash from Anbang Insurance Group and other investors, according to terms of the proposal reported by Bloomberg News. A spokesman for Kushner Cos. declined to comment. 200,000 Jobs At stake if the EB-5 is curtailed is a program estimated to have played a role in creating at least 200,000 U.S. jobs and drawing as much as $14 billion from Chinese investors alone, based on data provided by Rosen Consulting Group and the Asia Society. Past projects taking advantage of EB-5 include New York’s Hudson Yards, Hunter’s Point Shipyard in San Francisco, and a Trump-branded tower in Jersey City. New projects recently doing the rounds in China’s chat rooms, web forums and hotel-ballroom investor seminars include a 5-star hotel complex in Palm Springs, California, and what’s touted as “the world’s tallest residential building,” on New York’s 57th Street, known as Billionaires’ Row. Because Chinese individuals are limited to exchanging $50,000 worth of yuan a year, a 10th of what the EB-5 program requires, some agents are advising clients who don’t already have assets offshore to use a means nicknamed “smurfing” to move their money. “Our suggestion to the client is to open three to four personal accounts in the U.S. or line up three to four friends’ accounts, so they can split the money and wire it to different personal accounts without being put on a blacklist by the Chinese authorities,” said a Shanghai-based real estate agent who gave the surname Dong. “It may require a trip to the States to do so to facilitate the process.” Chinese Dominate the EB-5 Investor Visa Program While the government in Beijing spent much of 2016 working to stop its citizens sending money abroad in order to stabilize its declining currency and foreign reserves, Chinese investors’ use of EB-5 continued anyway, totaling $3.8 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to data from the U.S. State Department. EB-5 started decades ago as a way to create jobs in needy U.S. neighborhoods by attracting foreign investment. But it has run into political opposition amid charges the program is benefiting billionaire developers and being dominated by wealthy Chinese. “EB-5 has been a key program for capital flight that has been abused by Americans and Chinese people seeking to game the system,” said Andrew Collier, an independent analyst in Hong Kong and former president of Bank of China International USA. While there’s no suggestion of wrongdoing by developers that receive funding from EB-5, a series of Securities and Exchange Commission cases against EB-5-linked immigrant investor centers led the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to announce last week that they would audit the centers amid concern about fraud. Dwarfing Others Chinese investors, several thousand a year, have made up as much as 85 percent of the annual EB-5 investor total, according to U.S. data provided by Rosen Consulting and the Asia Society. In 2015, China overtook Canada as the biggest foreign buyer of U.S. homes. Changes to the EB-5 minimum would affect property developers who rely on the program as a funding channel, said Michael Shaoul, chief executive officer at Marketfield Asset Management in New York. “Any interruption of the program or reduction in Chinese participation would have a meaningful effect on a development cycle that is already showing signs of strain in certain key U.S. cities,” he said by email. Investment in an EB-5 project in New York, a hotel near Central Park, allowed Shanghai resident Kevin Tai to move to the U.S. this month. He applied with his family for the investor visa at the end of 2013. Transferring more than $50,000 abroad every year was also prohibited then, so to pony up the cash, Tai used his Shanghai home as collateral to secure a $500,000 loan from Hang Seng Bank in Hong Kong, a faster route to getting cash than trying to get yuan over the border in batches. That route is now closed as well. “I don’t recall what return rate they promoted, because that doesn’t matter,” he said just before his departure. “For most EB-5 applicants like us, the purpose is to get a permanent Green Card.” Palm Springs The project in Palm Springs being promoted via messaging app WeChat by Dong’s firm seeks Chinese EB-5 investors for a $155 million hotel. It offers an unusually high expected annual return of 12 percent. By fronting a minimum of $500,000 for the 26-villa development, prospective investors become eligible to apply for a Green Card, the promotion says. The majority of EB-5 investments offer very low returns in the range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent, said Can-Reach’s Gao. The Central Park Tower project, now under construction by the New York-based luxury condo builder Extell Development Co., will reach 1,550 feet (472 meters) and house a Nordstrom department store as well as “ultra-luxury” residences, according to the architect’s website. A previous downtown New York condo project by Extell, One Manhattan Square, also received funds from EB-5 and initially targeted Asian buyers. The latest Extell tower was pitched last year to packed rooms of investors in four Chinese cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Nanjing. Packed Rooms About 900 firms in China are registered to handle emigration, and most of them offer EB-5 services. To be sure, the overall volume of money leaving China through the EB-5 channel is small — just half a percent of the $728 billion estimated by Standard Chartered Plc to have flowed out in 2016. While capital outflows have fallen sharply in recent months as regulators increase scrutiny and the yuan holds steady, analysts say there’s pent up pressure to move money out of China. That’s why the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, the currency regulator, has been closing loopholes that allow money to be illegally channeled overseas by seeking extra disclosure. Outflows moderated in February as foreign exchange reserves rose, reversing a seven-month losing streak. Restrictions include limits on overseas investments and acquisitions, seeking more details from citizens looking to use their $50,000 quota and limits on purchases of investment-linked insurance products in Hong Kong. Another Rush A slew of external risks could trigger another rush to get money out. If the Federal Reserve lifts interest rates quicker than anticipated, it could drive up the dollar, prompting outflows. “Demand is strong to get money out,” said Pauline Loong, managing director at research firm Asia-Analytica Pte. in Hong Kong. The problem, though, will likely remain how to bypass authorities seeking to rigidly enforce currency rules, said Dong, the Shanghai agent. “The biggest obstacle now is how to get $500,000 out,” he said. And especially so if the U.S. Congress acts next month to more than double the minimum EB-5 investment. Article compliments IFC Review.