Government has placed ???high priority??? on ensuring the sustainability of the International Business and Financial Services Sector, and is seeking new ways to improve the value offered to those who view Barbados as the international financial centre of choice.

This assurance came from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart today while delivering the feature address at the International Forum on International Financial Centres (IFCs) in a Borderless Digital Economy, at Hilton Barbados.

Mr. Stuart told his audience that over the years, progressive legislative changes had been made to provide investors with the tools needed to do business.

???This has meant, in many cases, upgrading existing products and introducing new ones. In recent times, the moves to allow for Private Trust Companies and Foundations bear witness to our recognition of the need for evolution and adaptation,??? he stated.

He said the term ???International Financial Centre??? now appears to focus mainly on the small developing countries providing business and financial services, and some have been labelled as ???offshore financial centres???, tax havens, or ???sunny places for shady people???, as a well-known magazine recently proclaimed.

The Prime Minister continued: ???In every area of economic endeavour where developing countries have managed, through a spirit of independence, and by dint of hard work and investment in the development of their human and other resources, to perform as well as or better than developed countries, the playing field ceases to be level, and new and creative obstacles are placed in their way.

???There are, therefore, increasingly robust debates, discussions and empirical studies on the contribution of IFCs to the global financial system, focused in particular on the contribution provided by developing countries. IFCs offer competitive tax rates and other concessions which attract business, and this raises concerns about tax evasion, and more recently about money laundering. In spite of adverse public comment fuelled by vocal critics, however, an increasing body of research contradicts this negative narrative.???

Mr. Stuart noted that a number of world-renowned academics had rejected the notion that IFCs were locations of choice for secret accounts and other vehicles for international tax evasion. He added that some findings point to this being the reality in larger, more developed countries, rather than in small developing countries.

He pointed out that Barbados??? strong regulatory framework gave assurance of its commitment to operate according to global standards. According to him, the sector is of great benefit to the international partners, as well as the Barbados economy.

The Prime Minister said it not only generates taxes and salaries for employees, but also revenue in the areas of real estate, tourism, health and education services.

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