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The European Union flag flies in the wind in front of the economic bloc's office in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: The Daily Observer)

St Vincent PM criticizes EU blacklisting of Dominica amid COVID-19 pandemic

The European Union flag flies in the wind in front of the economic bloc's office in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: The Daily Observer)

 Outgoing Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairman Dr Ralph Gonsalves on Wednesday called on regional leaders to speak out against the “awful” decision by the European Union (EU) to blacklist Dominica as a non-cooperative jurisdiction for tax purposes, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Outgoing Caribbean Community Chairman Dr Ralph Gonsalves (File photo)

On Monday, the Council of the EU removed Barbados from the blacklist. However, it said Dominica had found itself in the same position as Barbados when it was added to the list in October last year, having received a ‘partially compliant’ rating from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forum for Transparency and Exchange of Information.

Time to speak up

Speaking at the opening of the 32nd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom, being held virtually, Dr Gonsalves said he was “distressed” to hear about the placement of Dominica on the list, and he complained about regional countries being left out of the process of determining who is on the list.

“It is a terrible thing during this time. Barbados has had to endure that… But we have to say something about this matter at this Conference,” the St Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister said.

“We are not involved at all. There’s no inclusive process with the European Commission and yet they simply use their power to declare another country a non-cooperative jurisdiction, even if that country satisfies all-inclusive processes of the OECD or the FATF [Financial Action Task Force]. And for it to be done at the time of the pandemic is just really awful. We see them as we are friends, but yet they behave like this towards us. I think we have to say something about this.”

Caricom focusing on jobs

Dr Gonsalves said that at this junction of the COVID-19 pandemic, “it’s really about two things fundamentally — jabs and jobs”.

“The jobs will come from the uptake of the economy, to the extent that we get any of it going, and there are proposals before us for strengthening the CSME (Caricom Single Market and Economy) — proposals in relation to the Caricom Commission on the Economy and the initiatives in tourism and in agriculture,” he said.

“But immediately we have to address this issue of jobs. But jobs are really going to come back in a large sense when all the countries in the world – our source markets particularly for tourism – are vaccinated and we are also vaccinated, and other countries across the world.”

Dr. Gonsalves added: “Basically, what we are about is what Prime Minister [Keith] Rowley had said at the very beginning of this whole pandemic —that strengthening Caricom is really the best antidote to COVID-19. It was so then when he proclaimed it. It is still so today.”