Engagement made Cayman stronger, financial services minister says

Minister of Financial Services Wayne Panton has defended government’s engagement with proponents of tax transparency, stating it has made Cayman stronger.

Speaking at the conclusion of a tax transparency conference hosted by his ministry last week, Mr. Panton said, “The Cayman Islands financial services industry overall is in a strong position – perhaps our strongest position ever – and we have achieved this while complying with global regulatory standards that are consistently improving tax transparency, for the benefit of all countries.”

The goal of the conference titled “Tax Transparency in the Global Financial Services Ecosystem” was to put the global tax system under a microscope and to challenge assumptions about its nature and functioning.

The event, which featured guest speaker Pascal Saint-Amans, the director of the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD, and panelists including Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network, stretched delegates “beyond our comfort zones,” the minister said.

But listening, engaging and taking action should not be mistaken as a sign of weakness. “It’s a sign of strength. The growth and stability of our financial services industry proves this. It’s proven by Cayman’s boldness in announcing, on a global stage, that we are ready to engage in tax transparency with any country that also adheres to the global standard.”

It is also proven, Mr. Panton said, by the ministry’s interaction with EU officials and the Tax Justice Network and the passing of more than 40 financial services-related commercial and regulatory bills in the past four years.

Mr. Saint-Amans, the head of the OECD’s tax initiatives, said the quality of the exchange at the conference showed a degree of maturity. “The fact that the Tax Justice Network is here, that we are here, that we can exchange freely in this group is pretty telling.”

If Cayman moves away from the narrative used 20 years ago and ensures the availability and accessibility of information on the true owners of Cayman-based entities, “you can remain one of the leaders in the industry,” Mr. Saint-Amans said.

“Being a global leader is not incompatible with being a small island in the Caribbean. Whatever we can do to help you with that we will do because we strongly appreciate and support all the efforts that have been made so far,” he added.

Mr. Panton said it had been his ministry’s modus operandi “to engage with those who agree, and even more so with those who don’t agree, with our positions.”

Instead of considering it as a negative, constructive disagreement should be regarded as necessary for progress.

“Amidst all of the terribly outdated boilerplate comments about certain countries, I remind us that no country has perfected the delicate balance of tax transparency in relation to sovereign and global responsibilities,” he said. “However, there are many countries that have made strong efforts and have achieved notable successes. I believe the Cayman Islands is one of these countries, and I believe others would come to this understanding if they also are open to hearing other views, as we increasingly have been.”

The ministry will therefore continue to seek “more engagement, not less” because “it makes us stronger, it makes us better,” Minister Panton said.

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