Independent Senator says NGOs will be impacted by Financial Transparency Bill

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Independent Senator says NGOs will be impacted by Financial Transparency Bill

The charitable work of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) is likely to be negativelky impacted by the Financial Transparency Bill.

This according to Independent Senator Dr Paul Richards.

During a Senate debate on the Bill on Friday, he lamented that this new law, which will identify the beneficial owners of businesses, had also sucked in NGOs, whose voluntary work was likely to be impacted by new requirements to report their affairs.

Richards said the bill and its requirements on NGOs came after the Government had passed a law to regulate the functioning of Non Profit Organisations (NPOs).

“We updated NGO laws a couple years ago which instituted significant new requirements for NGO ownership.” He said the NGO sector in TT has done and continues to do amazing work.

“Many of those NGOs have reported the difficulty in their resources and capacity to keep up with the new onerous requirements…And we are adding more now!”

“If we continue with this for two more cycles more now, we are going to run three-quarters of the NGOs out of business in this country!”

He said that would be “a sad day in this country.”

Richards quoted the Non Profit Organisation Act 2019 – although it is not listed on Office of the Attorney General’s List of Revised Laws of TT – to say a “beneficial owner” was defined as one who “owns or controls more than ten per cent of the membership interest in a NPO.”

He asked, “What is ten per cent of an NGO? It’s an NGO.

“I racked my brain to figure out what that means in the context of an NGO.”

Richards remarked, “You could imagine if I’m confused, how many of the NGOs are more confused?

“It just becomes more and more difficult to exist in this space, because of the strings being pulled by the European Union (EU).

“I’m really concerned that the more these requirements become more and more onerous, the more people will just say ‘This doesn’t make no sense any more’, and good work will fall by the wayside, because they just don’t have the resources to continue to be compliant.

“Or they don’t have the legal expertise or other resources that may not be available to the particular NGO and I really think that would be a shame, if we continue to dance to this foreign beat, this non-regional beat, to remain in compliance in one area while other areas are being detrimentally affected.”

He named the worst tax havens in order as: British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Jersey, Singapore, Bahamas, Hong Kong, Ireland, UAE, UK, followed by others. Countries losing the most to tax abuse were Ireland (22 per cent of GDP), Colombia (18 per cent of GDP), Singapore (ten per cent), etcetera. The worst loss by international tax evasion occurred in Malta, Cyprus and Latvia.

Richards said countries like TT had to fall in line with large countries in order not to be black or grey listed such as by loss of correspondent banking.

He urged Caricom to do more to address this.