In a rare show of agreement in Saint Lucia’s House of Parliament, the Government of Saint Lucia and the Opposition have raised concerns over stringent demands set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—an international money laundering and financial watchdog.
During a debate on the United Nations Sanctions Amendment and the Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bills on July 19, both sides agreed that regulations being imposed on small nation states are onerous, and leaves no option but to comply.
Prime Minister Hon. Phillip J. Pierre said non-compliance can lead to the country being “black- listed.”
One area of concern for the prime minister was a demand that citizens disclose to local banks the source of their foreign currency.
The prime minister explained the difficulty with such a demand within the local traditional context.
“It is intimidating. For example, say a single mother from Choiseul goes to the bank with money she’s saved, because her children are working abroad in the US and they send her money that she saved over time. She goes to the bank with US$2000 and the bank tells her to fill out a source of funds. She may not even understand the meaning of source of funds.”
He said the legislation is necessary, but expressed frustration with the constant demand for banking and financial regulations. He said small states are being placed in positions where they can’t win.
“When the credit unions make it easier, we now want to regulate credit unions. How can we develop our people if everything we try, we are facing impediments—impediments on bananas; impediments on sugar cane; and for tourism you get warnings.”
The prime minister observed that regulations for small states do not apply to developed countries. He cited the once flourishing financial services sector in Barbados which is now almost dormant, adding: “meanwhile financial services are flourishing in Delaware, in the United States.”
Opposition parliamentarian, Hon. Bradley Felix, acknowledged the seriousness of increasing pressure on small states, warning that there is more to come.
Referencing an ultimatum given to Jamaica over a diplomatic spat with the US, Felix said we are all heading there.
He called for a united effort by Caribbean countries to combat increasing international demands.
“This is a discussion that we need to start early,” he said.
The United Nations Sanctions (Counter-Proliferation Financing) Amendment strengthens measures against money laundering and the Proceeds of Crime Amendment authorizes the confiscation of assets obtained through criminal activity.
Headline photo: Stock image.