What does the future hold for international finance centres?

By Simon Harding

‘Little else is required to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism,’  claimed Adam Smith, ‘than peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice.’

Viewed from the Isle of Man, one might quibble as to whether bucket-and-spade tourism counts as barbarism. Or, for that matter, whether soya lattes and artisan food shops constitute the highest degree of opulence. But consistent gains in GDP per capita show that the principle holds, and it is a formula that has stood the world’s international financial centres (IFCs) in good stead for nigh on 50 years.

Nevertheless, the years since the global financial crisis have seen a level of opprobrium cast upon IFCs that is unprecedented in its sustained nature and its breadth of political support at the highest level; across nations, political parties and supra-national bodies. Few would have foreseen the day when a Conservative British prime minister would be calling for the G8 group of large capitalist economies to take urgent action against global businesses for complying with their own tax laws…

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