The most popular discussion around the water cooler, lunch rooms, talk shows and in the blogosphere is the Barack Obama run for President of the United States of America. Many Barbadians are in awe that a Black man in the year 2008 could be challenging for the presidency. Last week, we heard talk show host David Ellis admonished callers who dared to doubt that the Black Obama has a legitimate shot at going all the way. We understand the generalization offered by David Ellis to support his argument at the time that Barbadians are a doubting people. However, the surreal experience which has overwhelmed Barbadians, and dare we say, Black people around the world is a phenomenon to behold. Unlike David Ellis, we can understand why Barbadians could be lulled into thinking that a Black man who is running for the presidency of the USA in 2008 on a anti-Washington and anti-insider platform would doubt a positive outcome.
Our friends over at Barbados Free Press (BFP) wrote a blog last week with the headline, President Barack Obama Would Destroy Barbados Offshore Banking Industry – He Said So!. We understand the thrust of their argument but we don’t agree. To understand why Obama co-sponsored legislation in the US Senate:
Obama and Levin identified us here in Barbados as an “Offshore Secrecy Jurisdiction.” And they were adamant that their law will shut down our international business program. Obama wants all that business done in the United States where he can collect taxes. Mr. Obama’s called us an oasis for abusive tax havens and tax shelters and the emphasis of his bill was to shut down the services, banking and businesses that we provide to offshore investors. He wants to declare these activities illegal and put a stop to them.
We should accept that Obama is an American first who is working to rollout legislation which protect the interest of Americans. The recognition that the United States of America has now become a debtor nation in the world has heightened concern in their legislature about the need to curb the outflow of capital to places they have termed ‘tax havens’. The excess capital which the USA government would have ignored in the old days when they were sitting on a thriving economy is long gone. Of course the mind-set of Obama and other legislators in the USA is also being influenced by the strategy of the 30 richest countries dubbed the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of which the USA is a member. It is no secret that the OECD has embraced a strategy of ‘combating international tax evasion by promoting transparency and exchange of information both within and outside the OECD’. The fact that the Barbados authority feels that its offshore legislation does not encourage tax avoidance by US companies is of little comfort to US legislators, who are reacting to stem the flow of capital outflows rather than the plight of politically insignificant states like Barbados.
Getting back to the doubting Barbadians. Obama is currently being compared to a former President of the United States, John F Kennedy. He was assassinated. He is also being compared to the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King. He was assassinated also. The fear by many is that Obama is currently walking a path which extremists in the USA have shown that they are prepared to resist. The big question is whether the landscape of the USA has changed enough to stomach a Black man running for President. The reality is that Obama like Tiger Woods cannot hide from his Black heritage. However, the ability of Obama to capture the Presidency of the United States can only be accomplished by a broad based support from Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and others.
The quiet hope by countries like Barbados is that Obama will co-op the existing political machinery to go all the way. Then and only then will he respond to the expectations of the developed world by departing from the traditional foreign policy of the United States. The problem with this thinking maybe that the USA has developed visible and invisible institutions which exercise more influence on the governance system in the USA than one man ever can.