By Alexis R. Milan
Belize along with other Caribbean nations raised concerns about restrictive US policies toward the Caribbean banking sector at the Summit of the Americas and was given assurance by US President Barack Obama that there would be a complete review of their policy.
According to Belize Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington, the issue was one of the hot topics at this past weekend’s Summit of the Americas with even Belize’s own Prime Minister, calling for a shift in US attitude as the policy has already started to affect Belize’s financial institutions. Leaders of Caribbean nations are concerned that the negative US listings may damage their already small financial sectors.
“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. 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,” Prime Minister Dean Barrow revealed in his presentation at the Summit.
Caribbean leaders at the Summit were very adamant that their institutions, who handle a very small sum of money in comparison to larger international banks, are in no way engaged in any form of laundering and that the designation of the region as a harmful tax haven is unfair.
Elrington confirmed that several offshore banks in Belize have already been informed by institutions in the US that their corresponding relations would be severed in certain areas, and while it is a serious concern it is not something that has happened overnight so banks have been working stringently to ensure that it does not negatively impact their business or their services.
Obama, according to Elrington, was sympathetic toward the position of Caribbean leaders and promised to have a review of the policy done and see to what extent they can help to ameliorate the situation and its negative impact on the region. The US policy is designed to prevent US citizens from evading tax payments.