Alleged refusal by Panama to make public a panel's future anti-corruption report has prompted the resignation of its chairman, renowned US economist Joseph Stiglitz. Panama has cited only "internal differences."
Stiglitz, whose seven-member committee was due to recommend transparency reforms late this year in the wake of the"Panama Papers" scandal, said Saturday members were "shocked" by the Panama government's backtracking.
"How could you have a committee on transparency that itself was not going to be transparent?," the Nobel prize winner of 2001 (pictured above) told the news agency AFP.
Another member who resigned, Mark Pieth, a law professor at Basel University, accused Panama of failing to implement its promise made in June to publish the panel's intended report.
"The government of Panama is under pressure from the business world - it's pulling back," Pieth saidd.
Stiglitz and Pieth in their joint statement said the committee "should disband."
'Deeper changes' needed
They commended Panama for implementing some measures, such as signing a deal with the US to swap bank data about depositors and applying tax information standards of the Organization of Economic Development (OECD) from 2018.
But, they warned that Panama needed "deeper changes." If it failed to keep pace, it risked "substantial" damage to its reputation.
Stiglitz said global standards had to be applied in tax havens such as Panama to overcome secrecy that was fostering "socially destructive" activities.
"If there was more transparency, it would be much easier to suppress it," they said.
'Big names' exposed
The "Panama Papers" published by media outlets in April detailed murky offshore financial dealings gleaned from leaked papers of a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.
Those leaks exposed assets in tax havens held by a host of high-profile politicians, celebrities and sports stars.
Responding to the resignations from its reform panel, Panama's government gave no further details, citing only "internal differences."
Last month, Transparency International said multi-national corporations colluding with corrupt officials were engaged in unscrupulous practices that were exacerbating poverty.
ipj/bw (AFP, AP)