The Financial Stability Forum, the Financial Action Task Force, the U.S. Treasury Department (FinCen Advisory), the OECD and other international agencies and initiatives have raised a range of issues that challenge the status of The Bahamas as a financial services centre. During August, the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) established a Strategic Development Committee to evaluate these issues and, more importantly, to develop industry responses. The Committee formalised a BFSB working group which had been working for some time to define a strategy that would best assure a strong future for the financial services industry of The Bahamas, i.e. one that would ensure the industry’s long term competitiveness.

While developing a comprehensive plan with both short and long term recommendations, an immediate focus of the Committee has been to define action steps needed to be taken by the industry now to assure elimination of current advisories. Anticipated changes in the international marketplace also reinforce the importance of strategic planning for ongoing development of the financial services sector.

Over the last 4 weeks, the Strategic Development Committee has worked diligently – and in close cooperation with the Bahamas Government — towards its objective of positioning The Bahamas to compete in the global financial services marketplace. Multiple discussions have been held with the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of The Bahamas. In addition, the Committee met recently with the UK-based international counsel to the Bahamas Government. This interaction with Government has been positive and extremely productive, and BFSB continues to receive commendation from the international community for the high degree of receptivity afforded its various recommendations. The joint and closely co-ordinated effort between the public and private sectors has been viewed as extremely encouraging.

With respect to the vulnerabilities cited by various international agencies, the Committee has been assisting Government with proposed legislative changes, working also with the Bahamas Bar Association. Detailed views on the International Business Company (IBC) Act have been submitted, and the Committee has assisted with amendments to the Evidence (Proceedings in other Jurisdictions) Act. It will continue in its consultative capacity to advise government on a package of new and amended legislation considered crucial to the future prosperity of the industry. The development of new products and initiatives is also considered to be critical and is a prime focus of the Committee at this stage of its strategic analysis. Consideration is being given to engaging the services of a panel of international experts to assist the Committee.

Representation on BFSB’s Strategic Development Committee comprises a cross section of the financial services industry — accountants, attorneys, banking and trust professionals, fund and investment managers, and insurance professionals. Additionally, the Bahamas Ambassador for Trade and Investment serves on the group.