The Bahamian debate about how to respond to FATCA is well underway. An article published yesterday in The Bahamas Tribune discusses some of the objections to the idea of an inter-governmental agreement. Former Attorney-General John Delaney points out that the implementation of such an agreement would fall to the already-overworked Ministry of Finance, requiring it to design and set up a completely new system for information collection. In contrast, Annie Chinafat of KPMG (who is also a member of the Bahamas Financial Services Board) is more optimistic, describing the IGA as “a starting point”.
But there’s one humourous aspect of this situation which the article doesn’t mention: Minister of Finance Ryan Pinder used to be a U.S. citizen. As far as I can tell, he’s an “accidental”, born in the Bahamas to a local father and an American mother. Nevertheless, his citizenship turned into a big issue a couple of years back when he was running for Parliament. To quote this Bahamas B2B article:
Ryan Pinder, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate for the Elizabeth by-election, renounced his U.S. citizenship before he was nominated to run for election on January 29. A letter shown to BahamasB2B, allegedly from the U.S. Embassy, indicates that Mr Pinder renounced his citizenship on January 20, 2010, nine days before he was nominated to run in the Elizabeth by-election. “The government of the United States no longer considers Mr Pinder to be a US citizen.” the letter states. “His US passport is no longer valid and has been forwarded to the issuing agency within the US government.”
During and after the campaign, Mr Pinder was under pressure to prove that he had renounced his US citizenship, despite his claiming to do so. At one point, when asked to provide documentation, Mr Pinder seemed agitated and responded by saying his word was his bond. Yesterday, he seemed relieved that the controversy was over.
“It is troubling that certain people would not believe me and hold me to my word. I am happy that the issue is now put to bed. It is unfortunate that the FNM has used this as a political football to confuse the good people of Elizabeth. But as I have maintained from day one, I am a politician above the fray. I am a politician who will not roll in the mud, and I am a politician concerned about the issues that are important to the Bahamian people.”
Pinder’s name can be found in the Q1 2010 Federal Register list. He emerged victorious in the 2010 election, and just a couple of months ago was sworn in as Finance Minister. He stated that he would focus on the financial sector’s ease of doing business, job creation, and entrepreneurship. This is oddly similar to the situation here in Hong Kong. Our Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury K.C. Chan may be a former U.S. Person as well: he spent nearly two decades in the U.S. as a professor before returning to Hong Kong in the early 1990s.
Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but hopefully Pinder, as a recent renunciant, can bring a fresh perspective to the debate on FATCA not just in the Bahamas but throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas — a debate which unfortunately is dominated by the interests of financial services and cross-border tax consulting firms. Bank customers who will be negatively affected by all of this nonsense deserve a voice too, but right now we are rarely represented or even acknowledged as legitimate stakeholders in the discussion.