On the occasion of the biennial session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Australia on March 2-5, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham participated in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia.

Australia backed The Bahamas on its position on the OECD tax initiative. Namely, that standards and timelines applicable to non-OECD offshore financial centres should be no more onerous than those applicable to OECD member states.

Similar support was received from the Commonwealth Heads of Government at large, in considering the “Report of the Ministerial Group on Small States”, at which time the OECD Harmful Tax Initiative was addressed. They welcomed adjustments being made to the OECD initiative. Supporting language to this effect was incorporated within The Coolum Declaration, the official Communique of the meeting.

Paragraph 32, under “Strengthening Financial Systems”, states:

*”Heads of Government reaffirmed the right of sovereign nations to determine their own tax and fiscal policies and welcomed the proposed adjustments being made to the OECD Harmful Tax Competition Initiative and hoped that the dialogue, promoted by the Commonwealth, would ensure that the process continued to be inclusive.

They reiterated that the standards and timelines for non-OECD jurisdictions should be no more onerous than those for OECD members. They requested the Secretariat to support the affected jurisdictions to mobilise assistance to meet international standards, strengthen and deepen their financial sectors and diversify their economies.”*

The Declaration is viewable on the CHOGM website.

While in Australia, Prime Minister Ingraham participated in a meeting of the CARICOM Bureau of Heads of Government and in a UK-CARICOM meeting of Heads of Government with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mr. Blair likewise indicated support for a level playing field with regard to the application of standards and timelines in the OECD Harmful Tax Initiative.

Heads of Government also received the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Terrorism and the Plan of Action growing out of a statement they issued on terrorism on Oct. 25, 2001. Sir William Allen, Minister of Finance of The Bahamas, who accompanied the Prime Minister to CHOGM, is a member of the Commonwealth Committee on Terrorism. There was general agreement among Commonwealth states that all should join the fight against terrorism, which has significantly disrupted the world economy with serious fallout for all, but with especially serious implications for smaller economies.