by Bill Piker
It is important to keep in mind that offshore financial centers were originally established by offshore banks and corporations. Why? Because (they) felt hemmed-in by archaic laws, regulations and statutes. For example, Citicorp (the largest American-owned bank in the United States) was one of the first to set-up offshore operations. It wasn't too long before 64 percent of its net income was being generated by offshore sources.
Some of the pioneering centers have evolved into world-class financial and economic headquarters. Since the early 1970s, these centers have initiated policies deliberately designed to attract international trade by minimizing tax obligations and reducing (or entirely eliminating) other restrictions on business operations. The result is that economic activity within these centers is specifically geared to the special global needs of outside businesses and investors.
Typically, these centers are small states with tiny populations. To date more than 75 of these tax havens exist throughout the world. Each one of them is a unique offshore haven of sorts deliberately intended to attract very particular investors with very specific needs.
For example, a center like Aruba was set up primarily for economic development. Formerly dependent on oil refineries for its revenue, it has now implemented an investment policy that gives it entree to the global economic system. Becoming an offshore money haven was the answer. By "renting" its laws regarding taxation, incorporation and other related legal matters, Aruba has begun a much needed process of economic development and diversification.
Singapore, on the other hand, was designed to serve the Asian dollar market. Today it's one of the most prosperous money havens in the world on a per capita basis. And Bahrain was developed to process the Middle East's offshore financial needs, especially Saudi Arabia's.
All these offshore havens were made possible by the electronic revolution in fund transfer mechanisms which occurred early on in the 1970s. That single technological development made it suddenly possible and affordable to establish banks, corporations and holding companies in relatively remote locations. It also made inter and intra time-zone business a viable alternative to home-based operations. In turn, this gave rise to the creation of international wholesale banking, where large deposits could be maintained in a variety of currencies, transferred via a worldwide network of corporations, banks, governments and individuals, and lent to interested borrowers. This, in turn, led to new transnational business practices and the development of the international subcontracting of loans and other financial transactions.
Basically, international havens have become an established part of the international intermediate economy. They stand as "brokers" of a sort for global business and finance. It's important to keep in mind that all of this was initiated by large banks, corporations and even government agencies from around the world. Keep in mind that every government from the Soviet Union to Japan, China and the United States needs to obtain money on the international market. They, too, use money havens as convenient transaction points. The Bahamas became one of the biggest offshore havens because it serves the purposes of various government entities from finance ministries to intelligence agencies.
Offshore havens are, today, an accepted financial fact. Even more important, they are seen as legitimate vehicles through which individual investors can take advantage of the offshore option. If is simply a matter of applying the basic financial principles of profit, tax protection and privacy. They were developed over the centuries by Florentine merchants, royal treasurers and brilliant bankers. The mechanisms and strategies change continuously, but the goals always remain the same.
Note from The Digital Nomad - Of interest as of the reposting of this article, the United States is a large debtor nation, China is one of the world's largest creditor nations, and Russia is debt free. Additionally, the EURO (EUR) has replaced the dollar (USD) as the preferred base currency in many international trading markets.