Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Imbert sends out 'Belize warning'

NO OPPOSITION: Finance Minister Colm Imbert makes a contribution to empty Opposition benches during yesterday's sitting in the Lower House of Parliament, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said yesterday the Opposition had only to look to neighbouring Belize if it wanted evidence of what could happen to Trinidad and Tobago, should this country fail to become compliant with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Imbert, who yesterday lambasted the Opposition bench for failing to show in the Lower House for debate on FATCA, has warned that the population will suffer if T&T does not become FATCA compliant and the local banking sector will collapse.

Government has secured a second extension from the United States to become compliant, and Imbert said while the deadline for the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) to report was September 30, 2017, Government has told the US that it was working toward February 2017 compliance.

The BIR currently reports on request and has discretion, Imbert said, but the passing of FATCA will make disclosure of information automatic.

The Parliament has been adjourned to January and the bill must be passed by a three-fifths majority.

Clear evidence


Imbert deemed the Opposition's withholding of support to be irresponsible and he could not foresee Government being afforded another extension.

He said the second extension was “pushing it”, as is and T&T risks not being seen as a “serious” country.

Speaking to reporters after the adjournment of the Lower House yesterday, Imbert was told by members of the media that the Opposition wanted Government to provide proof that the local economy will collapse without the passage of FATCA.

Imbert said the evidence was clear in Belize, where banks had lost their foreign correspondences and citizens could no longer make simple transactions like cash wire transfers.

He said without FATCA compliance, banks abroad will find it too costly and dangerous to do business with T&T banks and so, they will simply stop being business with local institutions.

Before moving to adjourn the House, Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis made a brief statement in which she too criticised the actions of the Opposition.

Robinson-Regis said the Opposition had been grossly disrespectful to the Parliament and to the people of T&T, and Government would not accept it.

She questioned the Oppostion's position that the bill should go before a Joint Select Committee (JSC), saying that such a JSC would still give Government a majority presence, while diminishing the presence of the Independent bench.

Robinson-Regis questioned what it was that the Opposition wanted to the say behind closed doors that could not be said to the public.