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Chair of the CARICOM Commission on the Economy Professor Avinash Persaud has called for urgent reform on the way countries are blacklisted.
Speaking during today’s opening session of the Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable, Persaud said small countries in the Caribbean were being unfairly blacklisted. In fact, Professor Persaud said the current structure was actually encouraging money laundering as opposed to fighting it.
“For the first time in our history the numbers of unbanked are increasing and they are increasing as a result of the perception of riskiness that is caused by the arbitrary listing of Caribbean countries. It’s about focusing on process rather than outcome and when you focus on process rather than outcome you discriminate against the small, you discriminate against the people with the least resources, especially when they happen to be the ones that are not really where the source of the problem is,” Professor Persaud said.
“If any of us was given the job of tracing Russian money after the tragic events of earlier this year would we have started in the list of countries that are currently listed? Would we have started with Burkina Faso, would we have started with Haiti, with Barbados? No, we would not. We would have started and focused on a range of countries that are not listed.
“…Countries are being listed in an arbitrary way and they are listed when they have very limited actual international, financial impact, or where the money laundering is…and the money launderers like it so. This process is increasing money laundering, it is telling the money launderers where to go. It’s telling them don’t go in these small states and the problem is that our financial inclusiveness is now going backward for the first time,” he added.
Professor Persaud said small countries like Barbados were spending excessive amounts of money in an effort not to be blacklisted, which was further halting economic growth.
“We currently spend more per cent of GDP on AML [Anti-Money Laundering] processes than any of the countries which are the centers of money laundering. We are spending more money as a per cent of GDP and getting listed and we are spending more money than those countries that should be listed. So should we spend even more money when we have very limited budgets, very limited balance sheets? The senior people in Government are spending their time dealing with a phantom problem when they could be dealing with the real problem of poverty and inequality and climate change,” Professor Persaud insisted.
“…These lists are a ‘mock sport’ and they create the problem. They are making the problem worse…so let us try and raise the standard where international lists cannot sanction countries merely on the basis of subjective, arbitrary processes. It must be backed up with evidence of money laundering.”