The OECD acknowledged progress of Panama, but called for more commitment. At home, positions on how to proceed are still found.
One of the great challenges facing Panama in economic matters and international reputation happens to meet international standards of transparency and exchange of information, while the competitiveness of the financial platform and services in the country is maintained.
Following the international financial crisis, the major economies of the world more aggressively combat tax evasion and are demanding greater cooperation from all the territories, especially those that are financial centers of some significance.
To that end, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) promotes since 2014 an agreement for automatic information exchange on a multilateral basis, a generalized version of the FATCA law, devised by the United States for the same purpose of reducing evasion tax.
About 100 countries have adhered to this agreement in the OECD and, therefore, agree to exchange financial information automatically from 2017 to 2018.
Panama is one of the few countries that has not been committed to the automatic exchange of information multilaterally. The President, Juan Carlos Varela, said in September during the United Nations General Assembly that the country would share information on a bilateral basis.
The Panamanian Executive argument, in the words of Minister of Economy and Finance Dulcidio De La Guardia, is that Panama will only share information with those countries to ensure the confidentiality of information, which is not going to be used for other purposes than the tax and guarantee due process to citizens.
The OECD has acknowledged the steps taken by Panama on transparency and it is very likely that the country moves to phase two of the Global Forum peer review, which means that the body considers the legal framework is suitable for exchange information. The effectiveness of the legal framework will be discussed in the second phase of the review, which will take place next year
The OECD admits that Panama has made progress, but a conversation with the officers of this organization is enough to see that they do not consider that all the work is done. Instead, they continue placing Panama among the students behind the room.
“Panama should understand that the world has changed. Switzerland is committed and will be implementing automatic information exchange in 2018. Switzerland, which is the historic land of banking secrecy, has signed the multilateral agreement. Like Singapore, Luxembourg, Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other financial centers in the world … Other countries think that the situation is very unfair, because Panama is receiving money they have lost because they moved forward looking transparency. The perception in Panama is really different from the perception out, “said Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration of the OECD, in a recent interview with this newspaper.
In Panama, the positions on how to address this challenge are found. Rolando De Leon, a member of the board of the Banking Association of Panama and manager of the National Bank of Panama, said “we are adhering to practices that are more suitable to the country. OECD wants a faster and more accurate movement, but Panama has to move toward standards without affecting their own conviction. At the end is only a difference in the mechanism, but want to achieve the same goal, “said De Leon.
The international banking center of Panama was the end of July $ 83 000 361 million in deposits, of which almost $ 36 billion from abroad. Asked about a possible capital flight if Panama take the steps which calls the OECD, De Leon denied this possibility and hoped that the strategy implemented by Panama generate positive results. “We are going to maintain and protect the financial system,” he said.
A more critical position with the OECD maintains the lawyer Adolfo Linares, for whom Saint-Amans statements show “that neither the OECD nor the Global Forum intend to respect the most elementary rules of public international law, which clearly state that taxation and economy are internal matters and therefore every country has the right to design them as best suited to their national interests. “
The lawyer believes that Saint-Amans know the principles of public international law and demands that Panama continues not participating in the Global Forum and the OECD on issues of information exchange. “The OECD and Pascal Saint-Amans must understand that public international law is not governed by international standards, much less when they are tailored for organizations whose only interest benefit competitive, economically and fiscally its member countries, as in the case of the OECD. “For the economist Carlos Arauz, the financial sector should not be affected by the steps taken by the Government, and in recent years has taken the necessary actions.
The banker also demands a change in the traditional model the country should start with the elimination of bearer shares, although affecting the firms that have benefited from the creation of structures that represent an “archaic concept that only contributes to ambient lack of transparency “, he said.
To Arauz, “Panama must commit to full transparency. This will force us to seek efficient, fast, creative, free and fair choices. And when we do, we will be the financial center is not only known for his versatility, but for its beauty and commitment to doing things right. And this has real potential and incalculable value. “
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