I have had a few weeks now to reflect on our recent visit to India and the UAE, where amongst other things we officially launched our representation in Mumbai and Abu Dhabi. In ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, Charles Dickens once wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and I have to say that this summed up the experience of our two-centre trip. On one hand, we arrived in India during a fever pitch of political turmoil. The 2G scandal surrounding second-generation mobile licences broke, regarding corruption, culminating in the tragic suicide of the alleged accomplice to the minister facing charges. Understandably, intense parliamentary debates ensued, before another crisis arrived in the form of the WikiLeaks allegations about bribery for votes. To us, the visiting team, with our experience of UK politics, and things like the recent UK government expenses scandal, we understood and sympathised with the situation all too well, and in some ways, the atmosphere and mood actually served to emphasise why Jersey is such an ideal partner for India.
As a country, India now has a driving focus on the proceeds of financial crime, and Jersey’s excellent standards with regards to anti-money laundering are considered extremely valuable. Tax evasion is a crime in Jersey, unlike some jurisdictions, and Jersey’s track record of repatriating funds, and signing TIEAs on a voluntary basis are the sort of qualities that are sought after by Indian officials and businesses. With respect to Jersey’s TIEA with India, it was unfortunate we were unable to sign it during our trip, but I am sure this will happen in due course, and provide the opportunity for more positive engagement.
India is a country that is modernising, and because Jersey already occupies the space they are aiming for, in terms of international standards, it is a logical convergence for us to work together. India needs capital via international partners to develop, connect, and distribute their wealth more widely and mitigate poverty. And Jersey, with its trusted courts and cross border experience provides a means to attract capital into India that they would not attract normally. We headed towards Abu Dhabi, feeling excited about the prospects for India and Jersey.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of course political concerns of a different nature are currently a big issue in the region. The current instability, fear of the unknown, and speed with which unrest can gather momentum, coupled with the UN intervention in Libya all provided a backdrop. It was clear that the stable Arab countries welcomed the concept of humanitarian intervention, but were in some respects less convinced about the political steps being taken by ‘the West’.
In this context, the benefit of working with Jersey is very much our ability to facilitate wealth flows in a stable, certain and safe environment. As a result of the instability, I believe Jersey will do more business from the region, acting as a safe haven, rather than a ‘tax haven’ as some would say. It strikes me how fortunate we are, to live and operate from a place that provides certainty and stability, and how this is something we can so easily take for granted. In places that face turmoil and unrest, providing a means to protect wealth is an essential tool for countries to stabilise and move forward – in this way, Jersey has a key role to play.