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Daily Nation (Barbados)

January 10, 2001

Watchdogs kept out of tax talks

by Bernard Babb

If it were left to delegates of the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), members of the United States-based Centre for Freedom and Prosperity would not have been allowed in Sherbourne Conference Centre.

As a result of strenuous objections from the OECD, Americans Andrew Quinlan, Bruce Zagaris and Dan Mitchell - all members of Centre for Freedom and Prosperity - were kept out of the closed-door talks on the controversial issue of "harmful tax competition".

The members of the centre were originally included among the Antigua and Barbuda delegation as advisors but stern objections meant they were forced to monitor the two days of the conference from the corridors.

According to sources at the high-level conference, the OECD exerted pressure on some regional territories in order to keep out the advocates.

The advisors make an appearance at the post-lunch session of the conference on Monday but were later persuaded by senior Barbados and CARICOM delegates to miss the sessions in keeping with the wishes of the OECD.

"Because the OECD continued to vehemently oppose our inclusion we told them (regional territories) that we would stand back as we didn't want to do anything that wouldn't be in their best interest," said Zagaris, an international tax attorney.

The Centre for Freedom and Prosperity, which has the support of the Heritage Foundation, has been harshly critical of the OECD. It has described the rich-nations club as a bully in its efforts to wipe our competition from offshore centres in poorer countries.

Mitchell, the chairman of the centre and a senior economist with the foundation, said they were committed to working with Caribbean territories to ensure the OECD was stopped in its tracks on the issue of offshore financial services.

"The OECD is a bully.  They have decided to pick on the small powerless countries to begin with and in part we are down here fighting on behalf of low-tax nations," he said.

He added that apart from fighting the case of low-tax nations they were also looking out for the long-term economic interest of the United States.


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