Barbados has introduced and maintained high standards in its international business and financial services sector, and given the need to successfully attract increased international investment flows, the country will continually implement initiatives to improve its competitiveness and facilitate foreign business.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told this to a meeting of the Toronto Board of Trade yesterday. Mr. Stuart, who is on a weekend-end official promotional tour of the Canadian city, was speaking to members of the Board which represents several thousand business and individual members across Canada,

He noted that that by deliberate choice, "we will seek to improve the ease of doing business in and with Barbados; and we are preparing ourselves to be even more responsive and more agile to the needs of clients and stakeholders."

Alluding to the regulations that are in place to ensure the highest propriety in the industry, the Prime Minister pointed out that "in fact, Barbados’ legislative and regulatory framework for the exchange of tax information has been endorsed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Global Forum Peer Review process, and the country continues to be recognized as meeting the international standard for tax transparency and information exchange.

"I say continue, because it is no secret that Barbados was the only independent Caribbean nation on the original white list issued in April 2009 and has remained on all such subsequent lists issued by the OECD."

Mr. Stuart said the country also had to contemplate potentially game changing strategies, as some competing offshore jurisdictions, particularly those in the Caribbean, had become recent beneficiaries of a Canadian strategy aimed at reducing tax secrecy.

"That inadvertently gave them a competitive edge on us, and it is imperative that I address this issue particularly, since it could impact our success in Canada – one of our key markets for financial services, and for whose international investors we have been such a good partner.?? I refer, of course, to Canada’s "TIEAs for exempt surplus generation status" policy that has allowed former tax secrecy and zero tax havens to have exempt surplus generation status," he explained.

Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, takes a photo with the staff of the Barbados High Commission in Canada, during his visit last weekend. (photo courtesy of the Barbados High Commission in Canada)

The Prime Minister also spoke to the modernization of several government departments, and the ongoing efforts to improve and enhance the country’s e-governance capacity. These entailed "the implementation of online tax filing, as well as the upgrade of government departments central to international business – the Immigration Department and the Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property Office. For example, those departments have moved sections of their operations online to serve their publics better."

He observed that collectively, the initiatives were designed to ensure that Barbados offered international best practice standards and remained a globally competitive location for international business.

He said: "My government’s vision for Barbados embraces the important role which innovation and entrepreneurship must play in achieving sustainable economic development. Barbados is working towards becoming the #1 entrepreneurial hub in the world by 2020.?? This goal is being fuelled primarily by private sector efforts.?? One of the milestones in this project is free Wi-Fi access island-wide.?? At present, coverage is available across over 70% of the island," he revealed.

In addition, the Prime Minister told the Canadians that Barbados was aiming to ensure that it continued to facilitate access to high quality and globally competitive services. "To this end, we have recently attracted a new telecommunications investor that will offer even faster broadband internet access on a fibre optic backbone, as well as VOIP landline options, as they roll out their service to cover the entire island over the next two years," he promised.

Mr. Stuart in vowing that his government is committed to the continued development of the country as a sophisticated domicile characterised by excellence in service delivery, declared that he would spare no effort in safeguarding Barbados’ good name and recognition as a well-regulated, low tax domicile of choice.

In relation to the way forward for the Barbados economy, he indicated a quasi-paradigm shift that would see government focusing on transitioning Barbados to a green economy, since, as he put it, "we believe that this will offer us the opportunity to further diversify our economy, increase resource efficiency and support our poverty reduction and sustainable development goals.

"In effect, this not only means that we will seek out and attract those investors that uphold the rule of national and international law, as well as those who take pride in engaging in transparent business practices, but those who exercise good corporate, social and environmental responsibility."??

Prime Minister Stuart stressed to the gathering of business officials that Barbados is a responsible nation, and would, therefore, continue to welcome responsible business partners.?? "We see ourselves as providing a base for investors seeking, with proper advice, to structure their businesses as tax efficiently as possible, while observing the applicable domestic and international laws. That concept of responsibility and of doing the right thing, in essence, is part of our blue print for business and economic development; it is pivotal to the kind of business we facilitate, and it is the fundamental reason we chose to develop our international business sector as a treaty-based low tax jurisdiction, instead of a secrecy based zero tax jurisdiction," he clarified.

(Please see full speech under "Speeches" then "Prime Minister’s Speeches")

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