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Bird wants harmonised Caribbean position on banking regulations

Published:Wednesday | March 30, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Former Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Lester Bird Tuesday called on the Caribbean Community (CARI-COM) to adopt a harmonised approach as it deals with the issue of corresponding banking.

Bird, who is now a senior minister in the Gaston Brown administration, told legislators that the region should unite to challenge the United States on the issue.

"We cannot unilaterally go forward and confront the Americans. We have the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) ... . We have to get together and work out a common position on all of these things because what usually happens is that you have one upmanship that goes on within the Caribbean and CARICOM," he said.

"Each one trying to outdo the other," said Bird, as he made his contribution to the debate on the International Banking Act.

He said Antigua and Barbuda must not be afraid to confront Washington on the corresponding banking issue, recalling that St John's, in the past, had to send a delegation to the United States when Washington was imple-menting policies that affected the country's socio-economic development.

"I get so impassioned with this thing because we allowing the Americans to trample on us once again and they don't have no locus to do that," he said, adding that he saw nothing wrong with tax avoidance.

Bird told legislators that

there were already several mechanisms in place to ensure that people do not get involved in tax evasion and questioned whether or not Antigua and Barbuda is "going to relinquish our right to assist people who want to avoid taxes. We are going to do that, nah," he said.

Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer said, however, that America's insistence on stricter international banking regulations is troublesome but necessary.

"I would not be surprised that in the next six months or so we may be required to come back (here) to do something else in relation to this," he said.

"But that's the environment in which we have to operate, and the fact is we are a small developing state and [we] have to find our place and our niche in an international community that is not easy," he added.

- CMC