REMARKS BY AMBASSADOR ODEEN ISHMAEL AT THE MEETING OF THE OAS PERMANENT COUNCIL ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2000 DURING DISCUSSIONS ON THE HARMFUL TAX COMPETITION OF THE ORGANIZATION OF ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT.
Posted May 25th. 2001 (Transcript)
El PRESIDENTE: Passo a palavra ao Senhor Embaixador da Guiana.
El REPRESENTANTE PERMANENTE DE GUYANA: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman...
Mr. Chairman, I also take this opportunity to express my solidarity with the statement made by my distinguished friend, the Ambassador of Barbados, about the pressures by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Barbados and other smaller countries within CARICOM.
When sugar began to take a beating in the Caribbean in the I 970s and I 980s-and it is still taking a beating-a number of OECD member countries advised Caribbean countries to diversify their economies. Most CARICOM countries have been doing so over the years. However, as they diversify, somehow they seem to be stepping on the feet of some of these large economic powers.
We see the problems affecting the banana industry. Countries diversify and begin to grow bananas, and then bananas seem somehow to stick in the throats of some of these big economic powers, so that the industry is now facing a severe problem within the region.
Prices of sugar are determined by the big economic powers, and so you find that some CARICOM countries that have been major sugar producers for centuries are no longer able to do so. Now we see pressures on the offshore financial institutions, an industry that has been very beneficial to the small Caribbean countries.
With this pressure being built up, the economies of these small countries are being severely affected. Maybe this is a selfish notion, Mr. Chairman, because my country does not yet have-an offshore banking industry, but when the economies of other countries within CARICOM are affected, we in Guyana are also affected. We depend upon marketing many of our products, especially' our agricultural products, to the other countries of the Caribbean. When their economy goes into depression, we will naturally feel the effects on intraregional trade, because a smaller proportion of our products will find markets in our sister countries.
Mr. Chairman, I mentioned that pressure was placed on our sugar industry. I should also mention that our bauxite industries in Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica have also felt the squeeze. Now offshore banking is targeted. If these pressures are going to continue, we have to ask: What next? Will our tourism industry begin to feel the pressures in the years to come?
Mr. Chairman, I mention all of these to show why it is important that we give solidarity to the position expressed here by Ambassador Blackman. I agree that we in this Permanent Council can do very little about this matter. Through the mere fact that it is being aired here today, our respective governments can become more aware of the problems facing the smaller economies of the smaller countries in particular, as they are being buffeted by pressures from the OECD.
Mr. Chairman, all of these small Caribbean countries that form part of what we call the smaller economies of this hemisphere will become part of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), hopefully within a few years. If these smaller economies are being pressured today at this level, it means that it will be very difficult for them to readjust their economies to face the-challenges of the FTAA.
This is a warning to all of us that we are responsible for assisting our weaker brothers and sisters. In other words, the stronger economies within this region have to show that ability to assist the smaller economies within this region. They must also show solidarity with them to ensure that the pressures that they are facing now from the OECD will be withdrawn and that their economies will be put back on a level standing so that they can move forward to economic development.
Mr. Chairman, I close by referring to the fact that 225 years ago, in the city of Boston, the people there firmly objected to what they called "unfair taxation"-well, I may stretch it to say "harmful taxation". We know the historical effect of that decision of 225 years ago. People rose up and demanded fairness. That is all the countries of the Caribbean region are asking for. They're demanding fairness, and we hope that the OECD will respond positively in the near future.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.