Mr Bell addressed a full house of more than 150 people at Scoill Ree Gorree in Ramsey on Wednesday evening during the latest Community Meeting to be hosted by the Council of Ministers.
Responding to a question about the US and UK FATCA agreements, he said:
‘The nature of tax co-operation is changing and the Isle of Man recognises that automatic exchange is becoming the global standard. By clarifying our intentions early, the Isle of Man is seeking to give the business community confidence about our direction of travel and support efforts to build a sustainable future for the Manx economy. This is a long-term strategic decision to ensure the Isle of Man is positioned where it needs to be in the future.’
Mr Bell, who chaired the meeting, also highlighted the fiscal challenge facing Government – a theme expanded upon by Treasury Minister Eddie Teare MHK during an update on the Budget rebalancing programme.
Mr Teare said tough decisions would be needed to address Government spending and staffing levels, and to meet the rising costs of benefits. However, he added that the Isle of Man was approaching these challenges from a position of relative strength with a diverse and growing economy and a record number of people in employment.
Education Minister Tim Crookall MHK also gave a short presentation to explain the detail around the proposed introduction of tuition fees for Isle of Man university students. The meeting was then opened up to questions from the audience. There were robust discussions on a number of topics including university education and student loans, environmental sustainability, planning, healthcare, tourism, employment opportunities and training, renewable energy, and the damage caused to upland tracks by off-road bikers.
Wednesday’s meeting in the north of the Island brought the initial run to a conclusion following similar events in the east (Douglas), west (Peel) and south (Port Erin) over the past year. However, the Chief Minister said the programme of public engagement is set to be extended in response to an enthusiastic reception from local residents.
‘There was another good turnout and some lively exchanges in Ramsey which demonstrates the public’s appetite for this type of event. My Ministerial colleagues and I welcome these opportunities to engage directly with the local community and will continue to do so, provided there is continued public support.’
The next Community Meeting is scheduled to take place in Douglas in April.