Efforts on to improve business and trade facilitation
GOVERNMENT has officially launched the promised Barbados Electronic Single Window (BESW), which should see an improvement in the movement of goods into this country. According to Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler, through the BESW, persons should expect to see a move towards a paperless trading environment, reduced duplication, shorter application and processing times, and a lower incidence of human error. He revealed that at present the BESW is more than 90 per cent complete, as there are some additional forms that need to be integrated into the system. Nevertheless, he said 100 per cent of the system’s basic functionalities are completed and as such, he revealed that full integration of the remaining forms should be completed soon. Addressing those attending the launch at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre recently, Sinckler explained that the BESW will provide a single online interface for the exchange of trade-related documents between the trading community and relevant government agencies. He added that this online interface, which was six years in the making, is one of the deliverables of the US$11.8 million Barbados Competitiveness Programme, jointly funded by the InterAmerican Development Bank and the Government to improve the country’s competitiveness. That programme, he said, sought to address the “key bottlenecks” that affect efficiency of the movement of goods in this country and to shore up other trade and investment promotion activities to promote export development and increase private investment. Speaking more to the BESW, he said that it will allow all transacting parties to fulfil their obligations online from anywhere in the world, and its introduction, the Minister boasted, is to be commended as it is only the second such system in the Caribbean, with Trinidad having the other one. Moreover, he said Barbados is also one of only two countries in the world, smaller than 300 square miles, to have an ESW. “You may recall that less than four years ago, the World Bank in its ‘Doing Business 2012’ Report revealed that only 49 countries and regions worldwide had introduced a single window by 2010. The successful implementation therefore of our single window, four years after the World Bank’s revelation, is therefore a tremendous achievement for the country, and of course a country our size,” he said. The Finance Minister added that with the ESW coming on stream, entries will only have to be submitted once, and will be facilitated by a built-in Trade Document Management System (TDMS). This TDMS, he explained, will also track, manage and store the digital version of all paper-based documents that were previously submitted manually by traders. He added that the system will function as a repository for more than 190 different forms, certificates and licences, which traders expect to eventually retrieve from the ESW. Meanwhile, referring to Barbados’ ranking in the Global Competitiveness Index published annually by the World Economic Forum; and the Ease of Doing Business also published annually by the World Bank in its Doing Business Report, he acknowledged that in each respect the country’s position has slipped over the years, and there is need to remedy that. Sinckler told the audience that as a country heavily dependent on international trade, with over BDS$3 billion spent on imports since 2010 for domestic consumption and production, it is imperative that we commit to simplifying and streamlining existing regulations, behaviours and practices that impact business and trade facilitation. “For example, the Doing Business 2012-2013 Report cited the simplification of customs procedures and the implementation of systems that accommodate the electronic submission of trade-related documents, as “good practices around the world in making it easy to trade across borders”. In this regard, the Electronic Single Window represents one dimension of the response of the Government of Barbados to improve business and trade facilitation,” he stated. Article compliments the Barbados Advocate.
International business sector seeing increases
Statistics show an increase in the number of licensed entities operating in the International Business and Financial Services Sector in 2016 over the previous year. That is according to Industry Minister Donville Inniss, as he gave a snapshot of his Ministry and this sector which he said has been facing recent criticism and condemnation. Speaking on the Notaries Public Bill in the Lower Chamber on Tuesday morning, Inniss, while assuring that he will give a full report on this sector in short order said, “There was almost a six per cent increase in the number of licensed entities operating in the international business sector in 2016 over 2015; In terms of the cumulative total number of licensed entities operating in Barbados in 2016 over 2015, there was almost a ten per cent increase.” Saying that the aim is to facilitate rather than frustrate business, he suggested that the use of technology is one such way to achieve greater efficiency. “Barbados is number three when it comes to access to the Internet and mobile phones in the Western world after the USA and Canada, but I don’t know that the apps are available, or that we are challenging our young people enough to create the apps that can make Barbados a more mobile economy. This is part of the ecosystem that we have to wrap our minds around,” he challenged. “How do we inspire to design; development sustain the level of apps that makes Barbados a more mobile economy. There is a lot more that we need to be able to sit in our comfort zones at home and do online. We should not be asking for this to be done. It must become our raison d’être in this society and economy,” he said. Highlighting the dynamic environment within which businesses must operate, he said the Ministry cannot afford to rest on its laurels, nor lose sight off its goals, in order to ensure Barbados becomes known as the domicile of choice in the western world. As such, he alluded to the five-year strategic plan for the International Business and Financial Services sector as well as the just laid National Policy Framework for Micro Small and Medium enterprises in parliament. Article compliments The Barbados Advocate.
More notaries to improve the ease of doing business
The number of public officers who can perform the function of notaries public in Barbados could potentially jump to 21. At present 13 persons perform this task, but eight persons should be added to the list once the Notaries Public Bill, 2017 which was passed in the Lower House just before noon today, is passed in the Upper House. The Bill was brought by Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, to ease the overburdening of the current notaries public who must carry out their regular functions, as well as their duties as notaries public. He said, “We expect now, that once formalised, stakeholders will recognise that you should get a faster turn-around for the service.” He explained to the Lower House that the move is to ensure from the State’s end “that we provide the right quantity of officers to perform the functions and make it a little easier.” He urged that he believes that this action “would result in an ease of doing business to some extent, albeit not the magnitude that we want across the broader spectrum – but certainly will make it a little easier.” Currently, the notaries public reside in the Registration Department – one Registrar, two Deputy Registrars and an Assistant Registrar; in the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office – one Registrar, three Deputy Registrars, one Assistant Registrar; and in the Land Registry – one Registrar, one Deputy Registrar and two Assistant Registrars. The move would see added to the list the Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries in the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry responsible for International Business, and the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Supervisor of Insolvency who currently sits in the Ministry of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development. Inniss reiterated that this is one way by which the government is seeking to improve business efficiency and ensure that those who go to the state agencies have their business addressed in “a timely and cost-effective manner.” Previously, applicants who wished to have certain documents notarised would have had to schedule appointments to get documents notarised, or spend an “inordinate” amount of time waiting for documents to be prepared and then be notarised. And he added that this move is to the benefit of stakeholders and not the State because it has never been a cost issue in terms of how much it costs Government and applicants. He said that Government receives less than $30,000 per year as a result of the functions, but deems the function as critical for persons to complete certain business transactions in this jurisdiction and further abroad. Additionally, he disclosed that with the process becoming more cost-effective, it will also “enhance our reputation as a domicile of serious business given the fact that a lot of these documents are required for transactions outside of Barbados.” The Minister took the time to outline some of the functions of notaries public in the context of Barbados. He said that they administer oaths of affirmations, the protesting bills of exchange for non-acceptance and non-payment; receiving and entering protests in mercantile matters and taking depositions in writing thereto; witnessing the execution of certain classes of documents such as deeds and other conveyances; witnessing the execution of documents relating to property situated outside of Barbados such as conveyances and transfers; witnessing the execution of documents such as applications for passports from foreign governments; job application witnessing and a whole other range of functions. Article compliments LOOP News Barbados.
Easier import/export for Barbados with new online platform
Members of the public who will be conducting import and export transactions using the Barbados Electronic Single Window (BESW) are reminded that registration on the system has commenced. To register, persons should immediately log on to https://esw.gov.bb. Coordinator of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme, Terry Bascombe, said the BESW is for any person or business in Barbados involved in the import or export of goods, including handling and transportation. He explained that this would include importers, exporters, brokers, transporters, de-consolidators and vessel operators. The BESW will make trade-related business transactions with Government more effective and efficient by providing a single, online point of contact between the trading community and government agencies to electronically obtain the required licences, permits, certificates or other documents to import or export products. According to Mr. Bascombe, the facility should ultimately eliminate the need for parties to manually handle an average of 36,000 such documents on an annual basis. “This means that those persons will reduce their commuting time since they do not have to physically visit government offices. Businesses will also be able to research Harmonised System (HS) Codes and duty rates for commodities, as well as check on the status of an application, all online,” Mr Bascombe further explained. He noted that the ability to handle data efficiently had become a key element in international competitiveness and the BESW, therefore, would be of great assistance to businesses in that regard. He added that it would also support compliance management and trade facilitation to promote the growth of Barbados’ economy. Government and the Inter-American Development Bank entered into a loan contract in 2010, to cooperate in the execution of the Barbados Competitiveness Programme. It is designed to improve Barbados’ competitiveness by addressing the key blockages to the efficient movement of goods, and supporting other trade and investment activities to promote export development and increase private investment. The BESW is a major deliverable of this Programme, and will facilitate the participation of approximately 28 government departments and agencies. (Source: Barbados Government Information Service) Article compliments LOOP News Barbados.
Barbados & Italy Looking To Deepen Ties
Barbados and Italy are looking to deepen relations by collaborating on a number of projects. This was one of the points discussed when Italy’s Special Envoy for the Caribbean, Paolo Serpi, paid a courtesy call recently on Industry Minister, Donville Inniss, at his Reef Road office. During the wide-ranging discussions, both officials identified the fashion industry, namely marketing and design, as one of the avenues for cooperation. Mr. Inniss stated that Barbados could learn from Italy as that country was considered “the fashion capital of the world” and noted that Barbados had the potential to easily becoming the fashion hub of the Caribbean. Another area of focus was the Blackbelly Sheep project, and both parties noted the benefits to be derived from the animal’s leather and the potential for export. The Minister also discussed with the Special Envoy his concerns over the European Union creating another tax blacklist, and stressed that Barbados would continue to “use its voice” over this “unfair” practice. Additionally, the possibility of Barbados and Italy entering into a Bilateral Investment Treaty; Barbados’ financial services sector; and trade relations between the two countries, also came in for discussion. Article compliments BGIS.
St Lucia Planning Further Tax Cuts
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned Saint Lucia of the impact of recent tax reforms, which it says may impact tourist numbers and dent economic growth, reports Tax News. The IMF welcomed the new administration’s plans to lower the tax burden, enhance the efficiency of the tax system, and cut tax compliance costs. However, the IMF said that the decision to cut the value-added tax rate to 12.5 percent from 15 percent from February 1 makes the territory vulnerable to fiscal shocks, and the new airport tax may impact visitor numbers. In its annual report for the territory, the IMF said the territory should focus on lowering barriers to international trade and broadening the tax base. Article compliments IFC Review.
Link-Caribbean Awards US$125,000 To Five Caribbean Firms
Five Caribbean businesses are at a stage closer to securing private investment having each received US$25,000 through the LINK-Caribbean Investment Readiness Grant programme. The five firms are Carepoint and Caribbean Transit Solutions from Barbados; Bluedot Media and Innovative Menu Solutions Ltd from Jamaica and SystemIz Incorporated from Trinidad and Tobago. According to Chris McNair, Manager for Competitiveness and Innovation at Caribbean Export, the grants will be used to assist firms in making the necessary improvements to their businesses with the aim of attracting greater investment from private investors, such as Business Angels within the next six months. The firms were selected from a slate of 134 applicants from across the region, 7 of which were afforded the opportunity to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges in the hope of securing an investment readiness grant. LINK-Caribbean, a programme of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) supports the development of an early stage Investor eco-system within the region. Launched last September, it is funded by the World Bank and sponsored by Canada. “For many years Caribbean entrepreneurs were disadvantaged because of a lack of funding opportunities in comparison to our first world counterparts, with the LINK Caribbean grant we now have an opportunity to show the world that great, disruptive companies can be borne from here,” expressed Larren Peart of Bluedot Media. Barbadian recipient Shannon Clarke from Carepoint expressed his humility for his selection and spoke of looking forward to the guidance from Business Angels and importantly “their assistance to help push the adoption of ICT in the delivery of healthcare throughout the Caribbean”. Khalil Bryan of Caribbean Transport Solutions, also from Barbados, highlighted some of the key initiatives hosted by World Bank and Caribbean Export. “Starting from 2015, their team hosted entrepreneur sessions to sensitize us to key items that would prepare us to raise capital to providing support as we deploy capital from the IR grant. They have truly been a catalyst to improve the investment climate in the region – from building angel groups to disbursing grant funding to prepare us for investment. We appreciate the role that they have played and would encourage them to continue in this vein as entrepreneurship will truly be a catalyst to impact the economies of our region,“ he said. Aun Rahman, Financial Sector Specialist for the World Bank who also has responsibility for EPIC’s Access to Finance programme, stated that the Bank is encouraged with the initial response to LINK-Caribbean’s first grant cycle. “We are looking forward to building a stronger pipeline of more applicants who will be eligible to become beneficiaries under the programme in future grant cycles,” Rahman said. In addition to these grants, LINK-Caribbean provides other support activities to stimulate early stage investing in the region. It facilitates the development of deal-flow for early-stage investors through the Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN). “We strongly encourage entrepreneurs and investors to join RAIN to uncover new investment opportunities throughout the Caribbean,” added McNair. Article compliments Caribbean360.com
Cuba Can Help Strengthen Region
The most fitting testament of solidarity between Cuba and the Caribbean would be their active collaboration to strengthen the region’s domestic, regional and global agendas. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, expressed this view while addressing a cocktail reception on Tuesday at the Grande Salle, to mark the 58th Anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Senator McClean explained that while the official date of January 1 had passed, the global impact of the Cuban Revolution and its contribution to modern history for the country of Cuba and the region must be celebrated. “Today, Cuba stands poised to fully capitalise on its significant advances in healthcare, science and technology; its world-class cultural exponents and resilient people,” she stated. The Foreign Affairs Minister said that the people of Cuba could proudly celebrate its 58 years of revolution, “confident that the country’s reputation for global leadership and international solidarity will long be remembered and appreciated”. She added that Barbados joined with Cubans and the rest of the world in mourning the passing, last November 25, of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro. “Any commemoration of the 58 years of celebration is also one that recognises the vision, the tenacity and the courage of Fidel Castro. His focus was not only on Cuba, but covered of course the entire developing world,” she remarked. Barbados and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1972. Article compliments BGIS.
EU to ramp up action on harmful global tax practices
The EU has signalled plans to ramp up its work to tackle harmful tax practices internationally, with the Council working group that oversees implementation of the EU’s code of conduct on business taxation finalising a list of jurisdictions that are considered non-cooperative in tax matters to be published shortly, reports CCH Daily. The code of conduct on business taxation sets out criteria for assessing tax measures that potentially encourage harmful tax competition. It is implemented through a voluntary commitment by member states to peer-reviewed ‘standstill’ (refraining from introducing harmful new tax measures) and ‘rollback’ (abolishing existing harmful tax measures). On 1 February the working group sent letters to 92 third country jurisdictions, requesting information for a screening process which will result in the production of the list ‘in the near future’. In addition, the group has appointed a new chairperson Fabrizia Lapecorella, director general of finance at the Italian ministry of economy and finance. It has also expanded its work to new areas, including anti-abuse measures; transparency and the exchange of information in the area of transfer pricing; administrative practices; links to third countries. The working group says that in these areas, several ‘soft law’ initiatives (ie, rules that are neither strictly binding nor lacking legal significance) have been agreed, whereas it wants to ensure they are covered by its code of conduct.
Ireland: Finance Minister Michael Noonan hammers EU tax plan for hurting ‘consensus’
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has stepped up the Government’s campaign against Brussels’ plan for a new common corporate tax regime saying the proposal will endanger the international “consensus” on ways to tax multinationals, reports Irish Examiner. Speaking at a Government-commissioned conference on developing countries, called Corporate Tax: Fairness, Responsibility and Leadership, Mr Noonan said the Commission’s plan for a common consolidated corporate tax base would insist on public reporting of tax on a country basis which countries outside the EU oppose. He said Ireland had signed up to and supported the initiative called Beps — base erosion and profit sharing — driven by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The EU plan could stall the implementation of the OECD initiative around the world, Mr Noonan said. Current proposals would reveal where multinationals are paying tax. “The Commission’s proposal for public country-by-country reporting goes against the Beps consensus that the value of these reports is enabling tax authorities to see what is really happening and carry out more informed audits and assessments. “Other non-EU countries have suggested any public reporting requirement could result in them no longer sharing the country-by-country reports filed with their tax authorities,” the minister said. The Commission over two years ago tasked economics and tax commissioner Pierre Moscovici with the job of striking a new common tax regime for allocating the spoils of corporate tax around the EU. Mr Moscovici has repeatedly said the Brussels’ plan would not affect the country’s 12.5% corporate tax rate. Successive Irish governments have opposed the notion of a European common tax base ever since Brussels proposed an original version of the tax plan over 12 years ago. Separately, a report by Davy Stockbrokers published yesterday said Ireland will likely be a net winner from Brexit because it will help it build on the success of the country in attracting foreign investment at the expense of Britain which will be outside the single market. According to the report, changes to the US corporate tax code and tax amnesty by President Donald Trump “will have a limited impact” here, while the Brussels’ new corporate tax plan will be stillborn. President Trump’s pledge for US import taxes “risk retaliation from the EU and other countries”, while the Commission’s tax plan “would lead to winners and losers among EU countries, [which is] precisely why it will not be adopted”. Article compliments IFC Review.
Colombia’s OTT tax reform may lead the way internationally, says Ovum
Ari Lopez, principal Latin American analyst at Ovum, the reform of Colombia’s tax regulation at the end of 2016 may affect the OTT industry worldwide, reports Rapid TV News. “Colombia has become one of the first countries to tax OTT players, and Ovum believes that more countries will start imposing taxes on Internet companies,” said the analyst’s note. The debate around how to tax Internet services isn’t new, but Colombia’s approach its quite innovative. “A key question is how to tax companies that are based abroad. The new Colombian law states that banks processing payments for OTTs on credit, debit and prepaid cards must collect the tax due before sending out the proceeds, overcoming the challenge of collecting taxes from companies that don’t have a company established in Colombia,” says the analysis. However, Colombia’s tax reform has also been seen as a way to make conditions equal for all players, as OTT companies established abroad have previously paid no taxes. Although it’s not the same percentage, every media and telecom service will have to pay around 20% in taxes from now on. “Typically, tax authorities struggle to apply VAT and similar taxes on services when they do not have an office established in a country. Colombia solved this issue by targeting the institutions processing payments for these services,” said the analyst. “Ovum believes that such a move will be considered by other countries, not only to level the playing field for all players, but also to increase tax revenues in a fast-growing industry.” Article compliments IFC Review.
Save the Date: BIBA Networking Mingle (June 24th, 2016)
The Barbados International Business Association will be hosting its third Networking Mingle on June 26th, 2016. Further details to come closer to the event.
Save the Date: BIBA Networking Mingle (April 22nd, 2016)
The Barbados International Business Association will be hosting its second Networking Mingle of the year on April 22nd, 2016. Further details to come closer to the event.
Save the Date: BIBA Networking Mingle (June 24th, 2016)
The Barbados International Business Association will be hosting its third Networking Mingle on June 26th, 2016. Further details to come closer to the event.
Mr. Gregory McConnie – President’s Address BIBA Luncheon Seminar July 22, 2016
President’s Address BIBA Luncheon Seminar July 22, 2016 by Mr. Gregory McConnie BIBA President Protocol having being established, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and thank you for joining us for our luncheon seminar. It gives me great pleasure to greet all of you this afternoon. I must truly thank Senator the Hon. Darcy Boyce for taking the time out to engage and inform us about the function of his new role, the approaches he intends to employ, as well as receive feedback on the very serious issues affecting the way business is done in Barbados. The topic is a timely one as business facilitation is in our view the most pressing issue to be addressed. We see two main elements to business facilitation, certainty of process and agility. All users of services provided by both the private and public sectors require consistency and certainty of process in order to be able to effectively manage their affairs. This means having timeframes within which transactions are processed and delivering on them, every time. This is particularly important for the international investor where Barbados is competing against other jurisdictions for their business. Barbados must demonstrate that it can meet the high standards of service expected by international business investors and practitioners, and that it can do so consistently if it is to continue to be perceived as a high quality jurisdiction. Agility, the other aspect of business facilitation that is vital to being able to compete effectively for international business, includes initiating and implementing legislative changes and effecting the relevant business process changes in relatively short timeframes after new legislation is passed. While other jurisdictions have been able to implement new initiatives quickly, like the new LLC legislation recently passed in the Cayman Islands and similar legislation planned for Bermuda, in Barbados the Private Trust Companies and Foundations vehicles legislation have been passed but still cannot be utilized and the implementation of Incorporated Cell Company legislation has not been smooth. Our timeframes for execution must be measured in days and weeks rather than months and years. Wherever there is adversity there is generally also opportunity, and amongst the externally imposed challenges arising from BEPS, the Panama Papers and “de-risking” opportunity lies. There is no doubt in my mind that the IB Sector in Barbados can take advantage of these to expand and grow exponentially under the right conditions. However, we need to step up our game if we are to really take advantage of the opportunities available. Just this week the Central Bank of Barbados released its review of Barbados’ economic performance for the first six months of 2016. Part of the review stated that there was a 3 percent decline in the number of international business and financial services (IBFS) licenses granted during the first half of the year. Of course we know that this statistic by itself is not cause for alarm because many new companies doing international business are opting to operate as regular Barbados companies to take advantage of our tax treaties, rather than as licensed entities. However, one of the main statements made by Central Bank Governor Dr DeLisle Worrell which stood out was that Barbados’ foreign exchange reserves fell by a further $43 million to $884 million. It has fallen consistently over the past 5 years by about 40% from the 2011 levels of $1.4 billion. It should be known by now that the international business sector is the most reliable and consistent earner of foreign exchange for Barbados. This sector contributes has been $1billion to Barbados Gross Domestic Product annually. That is all foreign exchange because this sector earns no revenue from Barbados. Again, there is potential but we need to address business facilitation issues first and we need to address them immediately. Therefore, BIBA welcomes the recent appointment of Senator Boyce to provide that dedicated effort towards reducing, if not eliminating, the difficulties currently being experienced in doing business on this island. In support of Senator Boyce’s business facilitation role, BIBA intends to work collaboratively with the key Government departments to ensure that everyone involved understands the potential that the IB sector holds for Barbados’s growth, while we seek to understand the challenges those departments face when interacting with the private sector and share with them the challenges the private sector encounters, with the intention of working together to develop solutions to the issues identified. As a nation celebrating 50 years of independence we need to commit ourselves to making Barbados the easiest place for doing business in the world. This is not just the responsibility of the government but it should be a national commitment so that every man and woman sees himself or herself as having a responsibility for making this a reality and will approach their work whether it be in the private or public sector with a mindset that says I am helping to generate business activity in my country that will lead to the creation of jobs, and the generation of government revenues that will go towards financing healthcare, education and other social programmes. Thank you for your time and interest.
MR ANDREW ALLEYNE – PRESENTATION AT 2016 IBFS CONFERENCE
International Business and Financial Services Conference Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 WELCOME REMARKS Mr Andrew Alleyne, President of BIBA It gives me great pleasure to join Dr. Worrell and the Hon. Donville Inniss in welcoming you to this year’s International Business and Financial Services Conference. Each year, BIBA is pleased to support the Central Bank of Barbados in its efforts to bring together representatives from both the public and private sectors that are key to the success of this sector, to dialogue and share views on how to further advance our collective goals. The theme for this year’s conference Reflecting on the Past: Planning for the Future, is a timely topic in light of the ongoing celebrations of 50 years of Independence. It is important for us to reflect on the history of the international business and financial services sector and its immense economic and social contribution to the Barbados economy. We will hear more about the sector’s contribution from Mr. Downes later. It is this sector’s level of importance that should drive each and every one of us to continuously examine the business environment, highlight the challenges faced, and work together to find workable solutions. The issue of banks “de-risking” was raised at last year’s conference and has since developed into a major concern for the Caribbean region. The origin of this problem lies within the enacting of new international regulations intended to address money laundering and the financing of terrorism. It also requires international correspondent banks to be satisfied that their “front line” banks are also undertaking the same level of due diligence and that they know their customers. As recently as last week, the United States Comptroller of the Currency (Thomas Curry) announced that OCC may create new guidance to deal with de-risking. In his March 7th speech he said the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is collecting data on banks de-risking decision-making processes. He said “Our goal is to identify current practices and possible gaps in existing policies and procedures for conducting periodic client risk evaluations and for making account termination decisions”. While it is too early to speculate if the OCC’s involvement will improve the decision making process, the Agency might require banks to conduct enhanced due diligence tests that require input from Senior Management before breaking ties with a foreign correspondent. To further add fuel to the fire, the Caribbean has been unfairly branded as “high risk” and as a result some of these banks have started to withdraw their correspondent relations to the Caribbean. Look at Belize! The larger banks have already severed relationships with banks there, the first being the Belize Bank, and subsequently other indigenous banks. This forced a closure of several indigenous banks leaving many businesses and individuals without a means to receive or make international payments. Western Union has withdrawn its services in the Bahamas, Cayman and the Turks and Caicos. As a result Fidelity Bank has closed its Western Union accounts in the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands. Closer to home an Antigua bank, CUB recently lost its correspondent banking support when a US correspondent bank terminated its relationship. In Jamaica, Barclays has advised the Jamaica National Building Society that it will be terminating its correspondent relationship on April 1st. In some instances the decision to withdraw correspondent banking services is based on low business volumes or low revenues. However, the focus on the Caribbean is not based on an objective assessment of the region’s risk, but reflects a lack of understanding of the region by risk managers who are largely unfamiliar with the Caribbean’s high regulatory and compliance standards. Last December, BIBA’s First Vice President, Gregory McConnie, and I attended a roundtable discussion hosted by the Financial Stability Board, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Central Bank of Barbados. The discussion focused on global initiatives to lower the risks associated with correspondent banking. These included the work international standard setters are undertaking to better measure, understand and address the challenges presented by the reduction of these important banking services. Another issue of concern to all of us is business facilitation. Unlike the withdrawal of correspondent banking services, this is an issue that is within our power to fix. There is now a greater need to improve our country’s ranking in the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index, especially given that the international business sector is losing some of its competitiveness due to new and expanding tax transparency laws and regulations in North America and Europe. On a more positive note, the TMF Complexity Index recently ranked Barbados 7th, in terms of “Ease of doing business” a significant improvement from the precious year when we were ranked 22nd. Within the Americas, Barbados was ranked an impressive 4th as a location to conduct business. Ease of doing business is critical for the sector to grow. We must continue to find ways of improving efficiency within our public and private sectors in order to enhance the attractiveness of Barbados as a jurisdiction from which to conduct business. It is hoped that through this conference, we can find a workable plan of action. Thank you for your attention.
Ms Connie Smith – Presentation at 2015 IBFS Conference
Protocol having been established, it gives me great pleasure to join Dr. Worrell and the Hon. Donville Inniss in welcoming you to this year’s International Business and Financial Services (IBFS) Conference. Each year, BIBA is pleased to support the Central Bank of Barbados in its efforts to bring together representatives from the public sector agencies key to the success of this sector, to dialogue with and share views with BIBA and other private sector representatives on how to further advance our collective goals. It is interesting to note that the Bank has identified the opening up of the Cuban market as one of the potential growth areas for the Barbados IBFS sector. The shift in United States policy that has created this potentiality could likely lead to more multinational companies targeting Cuba and, with a long-standing bilateral investment treaty and double taxation agreement between Barbados and Cuba already in place, I believe that we are well poised to capitalize on this interest. Ironically, as we sit and meet today to learn more Cuba, right at this very moment, history is being created in Panama at the convening of the Seventh Annual Summit of the Americas – for the first time in history, Cuba has a seat at the table for this Summit. I therefore look forward to the first panel presentation unlocking this potential for us. It is well recognized that Barbados has all of the factors necessary to continue to grow the international business sector. Indeed, we continue to show year-on-year growth in new entrants to the sector, even during the height of the international economic turbulence within the last seven years. The most recent figures show that Barbados continues to attract new IBC registrations in excess of 400 annually since 2007, and at an average rate of 458 new registrations annually over that period. In relation to international insurance, we continue to maintain our number at just over 240 active entities, and while on record our international banks have dwindled from 40 at the end of 2013, to 32 at the end of 2014, we should note that much of the business that was being carried on by companies holding banking licences, is now being conducted within IBCs, ISRLs, or just regular Barbados companies. However, we must remain ever cognizant of the challenges that threaten to undermine our growth potential. And unfortunately some of the more major challenges are not of our own making. The changes made to the domestic taxing environment in Canada last year have had a significant effect on a market segment that we have historically enjoyed. This is reflected in the number of entities currently holding banking licenses as I referenced earlier – another reason that I am keen to hear the presentations from the panel in a few minutes. Increasingly, some members of BIBA have been raising concerns with us about the hurdles they and their clients are facing as clients of local commercial banks. As was ventilated during our first BIBA luncheon seminar for this year, the strict requirements being imposed on international business clients by commercial banks is as a result of the risk profile with which Barbados is viewed by the international correspondent banks that mediate between the local commercial banks and the global financial community. This is an extremely untenable situation as Barbados seeks to fulfil the mandate of its sector’s strategic plan and become the International Business and Wealth Management Centre of choice in this hemisphere. It also does not bode well for our attempts to expand our treaty network into Africa and Latin America and attract more business from those source markets. I think that it is time that we refreshed our strategy in terms of expanding the correspondent banking relationships within our commercial banking sector and I am offering BIBA’s support to the Central Bank of Barbados in leading the development of a new strategy to attract new players into this arena. However, I must reiterate, as I always do, that if we are to keep the new businesses that we attract, and hold on to the ones that are already here, we must improve the ease with which we conduct business in Barbados. We need to put service level agreements in place that guarantee clients in the public and private sector certainty of process when they engage with a business facilitation agency. I would say that the recent implementation of guidelines for all public sector employees by the Office of Public Sector Reform is a step in the right direction and I would encourage that Office to undertake as its next project, to produce benchmarking guidelines for government agencies, especially the client-facing ones, so that there are standards to which they can be held accountable. Our judicial, business incorporation and immigration systems are the first places that I would recommend we start. On that note, we have a stimulating day ahead of us and far be it for me to delay the Minister in delivering his keynote presentation. I look forward to hearing from the presenters and yourselves on some of the key issues that I have raised, as well as the other topics under consideration, during the course of today. Thank you for your time and attention.
BPSA on social partnership
THE full utilisation of the social partnership can help solve several of the economic and social issues facing this island. The Barbados Private Sector Association highlighted that a major area where the island was falling down was that it was not tapping into the intellectual potential of its people, both at home and abroad. Stressing that the island was now facing the most prolonged socio-economic crisis since its Independence, the BSPA said that the resolution of present issues would require everyone to make some sacrifice, a fact that was not beyond the country’s capability. “If we change nothing, then we shall have a situation that invites everyone to break for themselves. This is a recipe for disaster,” the association said in a statement. In addition, it highlighted that now was not the time for divide. “It goes without saying that this is no time for partisan political thinking or advantage seeking by the private sector and the trade unions. This is a time to analyse and tackle all our difficulties objectively and collectively and to do so in that same spirit of cooperation which served us well in not dissimilar circumstances 25 years ago when we correctly rejected devaluation, and fixed our foreign exchange and deficit problems,” it added. Underlining several of the issues affecting the economy including: a lack of confidence of investors, lenders and entrepreneurs, the printing of money and an unsustainable fiscal deficit, low levels of productivity across all sectors of the economy and the costs associated with inordinate delays and processes in the judicial system, to name a few, the BPSA made several suggestions both for the short and long term. Claiming an underutilization of the social partnership, it stated that government should initiate discussion on each of the major issues besetting the economy, debate the policy options, and thus derive the benefit of making use of that facility before embarking upon any further or additional fiscal policies and infrastructural priorities. “Any policies and proposed changes once determined by Government should then be explained to the Social Partnership in sufficient clarity so that the success in implementation can be assisted at that level. In addition, the rationale of what has been decided should be made known to the public,” it added. While advocating for the establishment of a broadly constituted Oversight Committee, with the purpose of monitoring the fiscal, monetary and quantitative targets set by the government to ensure they are met and to advise on any necessary remedial action, the BPSA also called for the implementation of the Efficiency Committees of the Social Partnership to monitor public sector reform with the goal of producing a more efficient and delivery-focussed civil service. Article compliments the Barbados Advocate.
SMS wins BIBA’s National Secondary School Quiz Competition
The Winning Team (from left) Reshan Barrow , Destinee Taylor, Rayshon Chassang, Zhane Francis and Nia Belgrave. Families, friends, fellow students and alumni witnessed history on Friday, December 2nd as The St Michael School copped first place at the Barbados International Business Association’s (BIBA) inaugural National Secondary Schools Quiz Tournament! Sponsored by the Barbados Public Workers’ Credit Union Limited, St Michael School and Harrison College went into the finals at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre neck and neck with 143 points and 141 points, respectively. Even up to the end of Round 3, Harrison College was leading by just 2 points over St Michael School. It was the final round – the Speech Off, that secured St Michael School the prestigious title and prizes including five Apple iPads, five Thrift Club Accounts ($125) and $5,000 in equipment for their school compliments BPWCCUL. The teacher of the winning team also received a prize of a staycation for two at Mango Bay Hotel. Naturally, Harrison College placed second, while Deighton Griffith and the Lodge School placed third and fourth, respectively. The school, participants and teachers also received prizes including tablets, lunches and gift vouchers. Chair of BIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee and Director, Tara Frater, said that the main focus of the quiz was “to create an enjoyable atmosphere for learning and acquiring knowledge about the International Business Sector, and its value and significance to Barbados’ economy”. Over the last two months, students were encouraged to stay abreast of affairs and issues impacting their community at a national, regional and international level. “We are very happy to have the support of the Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, the Hon. Donville Inniss and the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harcourt Husbands,” said Frater. During the breaks, attendees were treated to performances by OAN Dance Company and Honey Jam’s talented singer, Chantal Griffith. The BIBA Quiz Tournament is an annual event open to all Secondary School 4th, 5th and 6th Form students.
Insight into getting started in the international business sector
International Business Week featured a career showcase which was held at the University Of The West Indies’ Guild Lawn. Loop News caught up with past president of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), Connie Smith, as well as Executive Director, Henderson Holmes. Watch the video to see some of the highlights from the career showcase and hear of the opportunities in the international business sector. Article compliments LOOP News Barbados.
BIBA’s Charity Walk/Run fun for all
BIBA’s International Business Week culminated with a bang, as they held a Charity Fun Walk/Run on Saturday. A successful week of activities in celebration of Barbados International Business Association’s (BIBA) International Business Week, came to an end yesterday with a Charity Fun Walk/Run. The annual event designed to help Barbadians recognise the contribution the international business sector makes to the local economy, took place from October 16th to 22nd. Events included a Church Service at Mount of Praise Wesleyan Holiness Church, which started the week of celebrations last Sunday; a Secondary Schools Symposium at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on October 18th, where fifth and sixth form students were able to learn more about opportunities in the sector; a Public Discussion Forum at the Tom Adams Financial Centre on the same date, where the topic “International Business: Breaking Down Barriers”, was up for debate; that was followed by a Careers Showcase at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus on October 19th, where some students flipped the script on Loop News reporters and took the lead in front of the camera. The October 20th and 21st were dedicated the 2016 edition of the International Business Conference, where “Weathering the Perfect Storm: Explore, Evolve and Adapt” was the theme. It all culminated on Saturday, when the 5 KM Fun Walk/Run took off from Bay Street. Take a look at the photos to see persons of all ages enjoying the event. Articles compliments LOOP News Barbados.