* Photo by Kageaki Smith. Success: Paula Cox, Finance Minister and Deputy Premier, is now a vice chair of the OECD Global Forum steering committee.
* Photo by Kageaki Smith. Success: Paula Cox, Finance Minister and Deputy Premier, is now a vice chair of the OECD Global Forum steering committee.
What a difference a year makes.

Paula Cox and her team at the Ministry of Finance felt sandbagged when the grey list was released in April 2009, months earlier than it was supposed to.

They quickly put pen to paper as they got countries to sign off on tax information exchange agreements (TIEA) and helped Bermuda become the first country to move from the grey List to the white list.

By the end of 2009, Bermuda's esteem in the international community had risen so much that Ms Cox was appointed the vice chair of the OECD Global Forum and from there to Bermuda hosting the Global Forum in 2011.

Minister Cox said: "Last year was a rollercoaster. We had a lot of ups and downs. Bermuda has certainly reverberated from the effects of the economic downturn."

Starting the year on the grey list was not the best way for Bermuda to begin 2009 but the island now has much to be proud of.

Minister Cox praised Wayne Brown, assistant financial secretary, and Laura Semos, treaty advisor, for helping get us on the white list.

She said Mr. Brown and Ms Semos "have done the work of what an army could have achieved and for that I am proud".

She added: "I'm very proud of the team for what they have helped us as a country deliver on.

"TIEAs are very important in complementing what we do on the international business side. They are key in terms of protecting Bermuda's reputation and in terms of focus in international business on tax issues. Countries and companies are very sensitive in terms of tax benefits."

Minister Cox, who is also Deputy Premier, revealed 18 TIEAs have been signed - far exceeding the OECD standard - and more are to come this year.

An agreement with Japan should be completed next month and deals with Canada, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Bahrain should be finalised by the end of the year.

Minister Cox said: "These are just the ones we have concluded negotiations with. There are others who have indicated they would like to negotiate a TIEA with us."

Bermuda's success saw Ms Cox appointed a vice chair of the steering committee for the OECD Global Forum. The island was then chosen as host of the prestigious Global Forum in 2011.

Numerous Bermuda firms have contacted the Ministry of Finance to offer congratulations.

Minister Cox said: "They have offered their services for event management for the OECD Global Forum and want to be part of helping make it a success.

"We have received letters and commendations from people who see it can have real economic benefit for them - 200 delegates and 70 jurisdictions are coming to Bermuda in 2011.

"We're pleased but we can't be complacent."

But Minister Cox added: "We are giants, not grasshoppers, despite our small geographic size. I'm talking about the reach Bermuda can have.

"We're not even an OECD member and for a jurisdiction that wasn't on the right list in the initial stages, to be elected in September as the vice chair and now to be chosen as host of the Global Forum, that is quite a coup.

"What is even more important is it will be the first meeting in which they will review the effectiveness of the peer review process."

The process will look at the signed TIEAs between countries to ensure they are working properly.

Ms Cox believes that as well as the Global Forum, Bermuda could host smaller niche world groups such as WHO and UNESCO forums here.

She said the impact of hosting the Global Forum will be "immeasurable".

Ms Cox added: "Imagine having all those delegates who are powerbrokers and influence makers, who shape the impact and the impression of Bermuda being here.

"We have to put our best foot forward. We have a real opportunity.

"We have our times when we can do better but we also have a lot of the raisins in the muffin. This is going to be a gigantic raisin." Ms Cox believes it is important for Bermuda's long-term health that we have a voice among the world's biggest players.

Ms Cox said: "We now have a seat at the table and it's a seat at a very important table where we can seek to influence outcomes. Policy makers must always seek to be at the table."

Wayne Brown, assistant financial secretary, revealed President Barack Obama told G20 leaders the U.S. was looking to the Global Forum to set the agenda for establishing transparency and the exchange of information.

Mr. Brown added: "It's an important body for Bermuda to be a vice chair of, and will put us in the mind of these world leaders at this crucial time."

Treaty advisor Laura Semos said Bermuda is using its position of vice chair to make our voice heard.

She added: "We are now able to represent other small jurisdictions and other non-OECD countries.

"Not only do we take that very seriously but we get regular feedback from those countries at the meeting themselves.

"We also get feedback from the OECD countries, who say to us, 'We understand you are the representative of this certain type of jurisdiction' and they take seriously comments made by Bermuda at the table."

Minister Cox believes this success is good for everyone in Bermuda.

She believes TIEAs should be thought of as agreements "which encourage and act as a magnet to attract business to Bermuda".

Minister Cox added: "If business comes to Bermuda, it's our job as Government to make it work. Making it work means that every man has to benefit from it.

"The challenge with finance is it can be too heady and heavy for people.

"A good friend of mine tells me that finance makes people's eyes glaze over. It's like watching cement harden. Yet when I go on the talk shows you'd be surprised by how many people call with informed comment and difficult questions that show they have been listening.

"It can seem out of reach but when you break it down and show that it actually affects lives, it helps take the blinders off of people."

In the forthcoming agreement with Spain, there are more than 50 benefits for Bermuda.

Mr. Brown said: "With some of these countries, there are some of these benefits you may not be immediately aware of but they become known as the business community begin to trade and uncover these additional benefits."