A correspondent told me that last week’s column on Caribbean response to the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) was puzzling.
Why didn’t the column expose those wimps – Caribbean ministers of finance and governments? How could they accept this bullying US imposition?
My response was that I expressed no opinion on the morality, legality – according to international law or human rights – efficacy, cost-benefit or otherwise of the law, neither as written, nor its probable impact. Additionally, mine was an opinion pragmatically based: in practice there was nothing Caribbean governments could immediately do to avoid the clearly negative consequences of non-compliance, in face of these developments.
The Caribbean certainly didn’t possess David’s slingshot to do battle with the US; never did, currently doesn’t.
I guess my explanation was accepted, but not fully. Fact is, my correspondent would have preferred me to deal substantively with entirely different aspects of the law – its overreach, inequitable and negative impacts upon US citizens.
What about the big corporations and Wall Street bandits? Here’s the email comment I subsequently received.
“OK, so what you are saying is this: sorry all the migrants who contribute to the Jamaican economy, who save and sacrifice so that they and their children will have a better life – they are f#@%$#! There’s nothing that we can do because all these countries have signed on to the FATWA (FATCA). That amazingly, all the international banks and their reps in countries in the world have bowed and acquiesced to this agreement; rather than coming together and dealing with it – with the many legal issues … the gross violation of sovereignty … nobody is willing to challenge this in a human-rights court or any other international court.
“Don’t developing countries see what this will do to their economies? The same people who are sending home remittances are the same people who are going to be destroyed by this.
“You are not explaining the implications of all this for ordinary Jamaicans, all Caribbean people, most migrants with residency across the whole world, including Europeans! Who have contributed significantly to the US economy and who are entitled to receive the same benefits as US citizens and residents who live within the 50 states.
“This is an issue which should go to the Human Rights court – and even if the US tries to do a number re tax evasion, the other very serious issues would have a hearing and then stakeholders, ordinary people and their NGOs, the banks and all kinds of people could weigh in. The media exposure alone would make the US look exactly like the anti-people government it is – what was supposed to go after tax evaders of the highest order, is now going after poor ordinary citizens – great story and should arouse a response. There are many other movements that have accomplished the same. I do believe that this can be challenged on a number of fronts, and has to be. Despite what you say, the US is also vulnerable on many fronts and if countries from the South as well as Europe and China would find common cause against this most despicable bullying, supposedly to deal with US tax evaders but actually dealing with our ordinary citizens, annihilating our sovereign rights, etc, then they would have to back down – Republican caucus notwithstanding – because the US is very vulnerable right now.”
My correspondent is a US citizen living in the Caribbean, and is most upset at the fact that this law shall wreak havoc with ordinary persons in this situation. To renounce citizenship is to give up, among other things, Social Security, etc; an awful choice with which to be faced. I can, however, offer this: the procedures your comment identifies and suggests have not only been previously contemplated, indeed some have been actioned. Groups of affected US citizens like American Citizens Abroad have by no means been inactive; see for instance ‘RepealFatca.com‘.
So yes, my correspondent does have a point, indeed many points. It’s just that my focus was what the Caribbean needed to do to protect a fragile but important jobs- and revenue-contributing industry; one that did not rely on trade preferences now evaporated, one that still possesses the potential for growth if properly nurtured.
Credit: Jamaica Gleaner