No matter what century it is we are living in, the Caribbean always turns out to exist for, and acquiesce to, the wishes of others. After Columbus decimated the Indian population (not really Indian — Columbus was way off in thinking he had found India) of the region and wrought never-before-seen violence, including mutilations, in his ruthless quest for gold, someone, a priest no less, suggested that there existed on the continent of Africa a hardy race of black people who would make excellent slaves that could be put to work in the Caribbean sun to reap enormous profits for Spain and Europe.
Profiteers and business men of every description caught on to the idea and African slavery and the slave trade was born in the Americas and the Caribbean. The Caribbean got next to nothing from this shameful enterprise but Europe and America enjoyed a glow of wealth and prosperity the likes of which they had never seen before and, in many ways, have never seen since.
Once the era of slavery ended what followed was the period of colonialism, which continued to translate into enormous prosperity for Europe. One system that exemplified this prosperity was the mercantile system in the British colonies. This system, in place during slavery, required that the colonial territory could only trade its products with its colonial masters, in this case the British, even if other countries desired to buy those products at far higher prices. It further required that the colony in question could only buy finished products from them. This was more than market domination. It was market enslavement, which was geared to ensuring continued financial nirvana for the colonial power at the expense of the colony.
Later on, as humanity progressed to a point of two savage world wars, we entered into the Cold War era. This was a war of deterrence, known for its posturing, sabre-rattling, and muscle-flexing. Here once again the United States, and by extension Western Europe, got to maintain its military and security edge by looking to, and relying on, the Caribbean. This was in the form of US military bases in Puerto Rico, Chaguaramas in Trinidad, an important naval base in the Bahamas, the famous Guantanamo base in Cuba, and in Turks & Caicos a Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard base, all at the same time, in a World War II deal with their overseers, the British.
This military privilege, afforded the US in the Caribbean, most definitely translated into wealth for that country and its Western allies, because it extended their global reach and their ability to guarantee shipping and all the commerce connected with it. For those who might not know, the Turks & Caicos bases for the American military were an important asset to the US in the Cold War era. So much so that in the frantic race for dominance in outer space by America and the Soviet Union, astronaut John Glenn and his space capsule splashed down in the waters of those islands and was retrieved by his military and brought ashore on Grand Turk. For those too young or too doubting-Thomas in their thinking, I have photos from my Grandpa’s house of the media circus surrounding that event.
There is more. In this dismal world economy there is one American company that is posting huge profits. It is Boeing, the airline manufacturer in Seattle that makes the planes we fly all over the world for business and leisure. These planes are made from aluminium. But aluminium is made from bauxite. Anyone want to venture a guess as to where the huge rich deposits of bauxite come from that allow North American companies to make that alumina that becomes aluminium, that becomes the planes we conveniently fly on? It is from Jamaica and Guyana.
In that same vein, I was watching a news report this winter about heating energy for the American east coast. The bulk of the energy that keeps east coast Americans from freezing to death comes from natural gas, which is pumped out of the ground from fields in Trinidad. Imagine that!
Now, one would think that with all of these privileges afforded America and the West by the Caribbean throughout the centuries up to the present, it would have allowed them a special place in the hearts and mind of these beneficiaries. Not a chance! As of right now the US and Europe, in the form of the OECD, are behaving like selfish and cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooges, making outrageous demands of Caribbean tax haven territories, including those they continue to benefit from to this day. What hypocrisy and ungratefulness!
This is outlined in a recent Reuters piece by an Alistair Macdonald titled: ‘No hiding place for Caribbean tax havens as world re-regulates.’ What a joke. The article describes an ongoing International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO, a body for tighter global regulation) meeting taking place in Tel Aviv, Israel, where financial and economic experts from the Caribbean are in attendance discussing the situation.
In the meeting the Caribbean representatives are using terms like ‘compliance,’ ‘oblige,’ and ‘abide by.’ The use of such terms by these Caribbean representatives makes them appear powerless and suspect as they accede to those who have benefited from them for centuries.
Why should CARICOM and the Caribbean take such an apologetic and accommodating position when they are guilty of nothing more than not having the burdensome taxes that are the hallmarks of these developed countries? Did not some people in an earlier century throw tea into the Boston harbour to voice discontent about this? Now they simply register and locate their businesses and finances in the Caribbean to avoid this same burden. So how is the Caribbean at fault in this scenario?
As stated earlier, the hypocrisy in this instance is breathtaking. It is absolutely ironic that this meeting is taking place in Tel Aviv, Israel. Since its inception in 1949 that country has received a total of one hundred and thirty three billion dollars in aid from the United States. It is unclear what the US receives in return for this huge outlay of financial resources.
We know about the continuous benefits and privileges they and Europe have enjoyed from the Caribbean. Yet they are taking the Caribbean to task for the financial crumbs they receive from offshore banking operations; A region from which they have always benefited immensely.
On another similar point, the American pharmaceutical industry does essentially all of its production operations offshore in Puerto Rico. That Caribbean island is saturated with these enterprises. They do this to avoid the American taxman and enjoy a gold mine of cheap labour. This is a huge drain on the US economy, but you do not hear anything about it. That is because the drug industry lobby is quite large and they heavily fund elected officials and their political parties. So this issue is hands-off.
It is much better for such officials to rake the Caribbean over the coals for a few piddling offshore banking dollars than accost the powerful drug industry in their own country for the billions lost by the American people from this practice. Hypocrisy of the highest order.
The Caribbean and CARICOM need to revamp their approach in dealing with this assault by the developed countries on their financial establishments. No apology is needed for the more appealing incentives for doing business in their territories, and they do not need to comply with any list, whether it be ‘grey,’ ‘green,’ or ‘purple.’ They should begin by changing the designation ‘tax haven.’ This term makes them sound as if they are harbouring criminals and malcontents. Like the famous Port Royal in the heyday of pirates.
They should re-brand their enterprises as providing ‘tax sanctuary.’ Yes, because their clients are seeking sanctuary and relief from burdensome taxes. The Caribbean has to stop being a doormat for the rest of the world, where all is well as long as the other party enjoys all the benefits of an arrangement, but as soon as they garner even a crumb it is a disaster. This very issue is a good place to start that revamping.
Do you agree with this view? please feel free to post your comments below.
Reprinted from Caribbean Net News