Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister in Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Finance and Transport at the Opening of the 2nd Meeting of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes29 Sep 2010
Distinguished Finance Ministers,
Mr Mike Rawstron
Chair of the Global Forum,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. A very good morning to all of you and I warmly welcome you to Singapore. I am pleased to join you at the second meeting of the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. Singapore is privileged to host the Forum's first meeting since its inauguration as a self-standing body in Mexico last September.
Progress over the past year
2. Just one year into its three-year mandate approved last year, the Global Forum has already made good progress in many areas. First, we have seen it become a more inclusive and representative body, arising from its expanded membership and greater level of engagement with the other non-member jurisdictions. The Global Forum now comprises 95 member jurisdictions, compared to 87 a year ago. This is testimony to the commitment of the international community as a whole to the internationally agreed Standard for Exchange of Information upon request.
3. Second, the peer review process, which was developed to monitor and review the progress of jurisdictions in implementing the internationally agreed Standard, commenced on schedule in March this year. To date, more than 30 peer reviews have been launched, and the first eight reports will be presented later today for your endorsement.
4. I would therefore like to commend both the Secretariat and the Forum members for these achievements in such a short span of time.
5. The Global Forum allows all members, whether big or small, developed or developing, to participate on an equal footing. Members are held to a consistent set of expectations with regard to the implementation of a common and internationally agreed Standard for the Exchange of Information.
6. Indeed, while cross-border tax evasion is not new, the Global Forum represents the first truly global concerted effort to address this issue. In promoting and coordinating the implementation of the internationally agreed Standard, the Forum ensures that jurisdictions can better enforce their domestic tax regimes, and investigate into errant practices of their taxpayers across jurisdictions.
7. I urge all members of the Global Forum to continue their good work in promulgating the internationally agreed Standard, so that the Standard is well-implemented and locked in across all participating jurisdictions.
The work ahead
8. The work of the Global Forum is a long-term one. Many jurisdictions are new to the Standard, and are still in the process of updating their treaty networks, or amending their legislation and administrative systems to give effect to the Standard.
9. Much work remains to be done. First, the peer review process should be anchored as the main vehicle to drive improvements in the implementation of the Standard. This Global Forum meeting will endorse the first batch of peer review reports. Observers will be watching to see the robustness of the peer review process and how it can lead to improvements in the implementation of the Standard across jurisdictions. The peer review should thus be a constructive and systematic process to aid effective implementation of the Standard and to identify areas for improvement.
10. Second, the Global Forum can help the international business community understand the requirements of the Standard. Arising from the global financial crisis, financial regulation and standards have been in a state of flux in the past year.
In this regard, it is necessary for the Global Forum to ensure that the internationally agreed Standard and peer review criteria continue to be articulated in a clear, consistent and objective fashion. The goalpost should not be shifted arbitrarily. This will help businesses navigate the new emerging environment with certainty and clarity.
11. Allow me to now share what Singapore has done to implement the Standard. We take our role as a responsible and trusted global citizen seriously. Since endorsing the internationally agreed Standard in March last year, we have amended our laws to implement the Standard, and the legislative amendments entered into force in February this year. We have also been re-negotiating treaties to incorporate the Standard. To date, the Standard has been incorporated into 21 tax treaties. Eight of these treaties are now in force, and we are ready to bring the remaining 13 into force when our treaty partners are ready to do so. We will continue to incorporate the Standard into the rest of our tax treaties.
12. Singapore is also committed to working with fellow Global Forum members to drive the implementation of the Standard on a global scale. We will continue to play our part as a Vice-Chair of the Peer Review Group and a member of the Steering Group and contribute actively to efforts to advance the Global Forum's mandate.
Conclusion: The Global Forum must remain fair and objective
13. One year since its inception as a self-standing body, the Global Forum is now at a critical phase. Its mandate is to ensure effective global implementation of the internationally agreed Standard, for the exchange of information for tax purposes, through peer review and monitoring. The international community will want to see that as the Global Forum works towards this objective, it has been able to establish a transparent, inclusive and objective process that puts all jurisdictions on a level footing.
14. The Global Forum today is a product of all its member jurisdictions. Its legitimacy and standing depend on our continued support. I am heartened to see that all of you have expressed your commitment to the Global Forum by being at this meeting in Singapore. I welcome all of you to participate actively in the discussions over these two days.
15. With that, I wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable stay in Singapore. Thank you.