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Govt bows to Opposition

CLINT CHAN TACK Saturday, January 7 2017

GOVERNMENT and the Opposition yesterday continued to cross swords in the House of Representatives, even as the former bowed to the latter’s call to send the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) legislation to a joint select committee (JSC).

Finance Minister Colm Imbert declared the Opposition now has no excuse not to pass legislation when the JSC reports back to the House on February 3.

However, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar maintained that Government had reneged on its promise to send the Tax Information Exchange Agreement Bill 2016 to a JSC.

She reiterated that all special majority provisions in the bill should be removed so it could be passed with a simple majority. Imbert, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young, Port-of- Spain South MP Marlene McDonald, Caroni East MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Caroni Central Dr Bhoe Tewarie are the MPs selected to be members of the FATCA JSC.

The Senate is expected to nominate its six members for the JSC when it sits next week. Opposition MPs thumped their desks as Imbert invoked Standing Order 68 (3) to remove the bill from the Committee of the House, which was deliberating on it on December 12, 2016.

On that date, Opposition MPs blanked the sitting. Opposition MPs previously walked out on the FATCA debate on September 23 and December 9, 2016.

As he reminded MPs the JSC will report to the House on February 3, Imbert declared, “I want to signal to the members opposite...

it still has to go to the Senate afterwards..

so in order to meet our February deadline...we will be taking the vote when the report of the JSC returns to this Parliament.” As Government MPs thumped their desks, Imbert quipped, “We are not playing.

You (Opposition) want a joint select (committee)? There is absolutely no reason for it. They want it...They are blackmailing the country and holding the country to ransom...that is how they play politics...

You want your joint select...

You’re getting your joint select!” He added, “We will come back here in the public interest...in the national interest within 21 days...by the 3rd of February and putting the matter to the vote!” IMBERT SLAMS OPP Imbert said the behavior of the Opposition since last September was the reason why the bill was going to a JSC. Referring to a statement issued on Thursday by his ministry explaining all of the amendments to the bill done by the Government in the absence of any offered by the Opposition, Imbert declared, “Every single matter that they have raised has been addressed...comprehensively addressed.” The minister said the only issues needing to be addressed relate to sovereignty and operation of the Executive of TT.

Imbert slammed Persad-Bissessar’s “timerity” to write Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to ask incoming United States President Donald Trump repeal the US FATCA legislation. Saying Persad- Bissessar did not understand that FATCA was passed by the Republican controlled Senate and Congress. “Did you ever hear more absurdity?” Imbert asked. He continued, “You really think that the President of the United States has time with this? What they have time with is to see whether we are going to be compliant. Whether TT is a serious country.

He said if Government acts on this suggestion by Persad-Bissessar, correspondent banks in the US will, “just dump us and sever all communications with TT and plunge our financial situation into chaos.” Declaring the removal of special majority provisions in the bill is not an option for TT, Imbert explained, “The reason why we need a special majority is that FATCA requires automatic transmission to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) in the United States.” Imbert said the Opposition was well aware that, “if we take that out...we’re right back to square one...we would have achieved nothing...

we would be in breach.”Reminding MPs that both the bill and the inter-governmental agreement (IGA) are the same ones which the former Persad-Bissessar administration had, Imbert said it was an “absurdity” for Persad-Bissessar to be unable to confirm this after three months of both documents being available for the Opposition to scrutinise. Reminding MPs that the Global Forum is also seeking similar tax information sharing arrangements with TT, Imbert said he had to ensure TT dodged that bullet because the former government failed to comply with the Global Forum.

He declared that all stakeholders with an interest in FATCA such as the Bankers Association and the American Chamber of Commerce have spoken “loudly” that the bill did not require a JSC. The Association yesterday said it was pleased to see “a middle ground” has been reached between Government and Opposition. However it reminded Government and Opposition that, “time is not on our side” and the JSC must meet its February 3 reporting deadline, “in order to have the Bill passed to meet the country’s FATCA obligations. The Association said it is available to assist the JSC with any information in its deliberations.



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