Today’s Editorial for January 21: Hoping for the best

Hope for a nation and a world took centre stage Tuesday when the United States inaugurated its 44th president.

Barack Obama, in accepting his new role as the leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries, told US citizens that through hope and inspiration they can overcome the difficult domestic challenges facing that country.

He also touched on foreign policy and America’s image abroad.

While Mr. Obama didn’t address any specific policy goals during his speech, we can be pretty certain that part of his foreign policy will take a dead aim at offshore financial centres such as those in the Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands.

We applaud Mr. Obama for becoming the first African-American president of the United States. Indeed, all people throughout our region can take pride that a man with African roots is at the helm.

But at the end of the day it is not the colour of a man’s skin that makes him a good leader; it is his character.

So far Mr. Obama appears more than capable of doing the job for which he was elected.

Unfortunately for the Cayman Islands he may consider it part of his new job to tighten the screws on the US-based businesses that move their money through our financial sector.

He’s already threatened us when he was a senator.

On 22 September in a speech in Wisconsin Mr. Obama said, ‘we lose $100Bn every year because corporations get to set up mailboxes offshore so that they can avoid paying a dime of taxes in America. Imagine if you got to do that…I will shut down those offshore tax havens and corporate loopholes as president, because you shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes because some big corporations cut corners to avoid paying theirs.’

Now that he is president, Mr. Obama could push for the passage of the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Bill, which was introduced on 17 February, 2007.

At least one Caribbean leader is so concerned about this possibility that he has called for early dialogue with the new president.

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas wants a one-on-one with Mr. Obama to find out first-hand exactly what kind of a threat his ideas are to the Caribbean.

Throw the Bernard Madoff scandal into the mix and it’s easy to see why Mr. Obama’s threats could be taken seriously.

Madoff, 70, a former Nasdaq stock market chairman, is accused of running a giant pyramid scheme, paying returns to certain investors out of the principal received from others. It could make for uncomfortable reading if a significant portion of the alleged missing Madoff billions is traced to the Caribbean.

Instead of passing legislation in the US that could destabilise the Caribbean region, we would hope that Mr. Obama and other Washington leaders would find a way to work with us to increase cross-border cooperation.

The swearing in of Mr. Obama Tuesday is an offer of hope for the US and the world. We hope it holds true for the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean, too.

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