Bahamas Minister of Finance Sir William was one of the featured presenters at Bahamas Business Outlook 2001, addressing the subject of “Global Challenges Facing the Bahamian Economy”.

The Minister defined globalization, identified as a significant challenge, as a force creating greater interdependence between national states. The Minister pointed out that “..the challenges now facing international financial services are driven by issues very much related to globalization and, further, that many of the items with which The Bahamas is grappling in its financial services sector “..are in great measure a consequence of the solutions which the industrialized countries have prescribed for some challenges which they now face.”

Some of the difficulties caused by globalisation were seen as the speed and anonymity of capital movements across national boundaries and the difficulties of measuring and monitoring business conducted in cyberspace.

Sir William felt that “an effective, transparent, non-discriminative machinery” to address these challenges needs to be agreed upon worldwide.

Major financial institutions of the world, many of which are hosted in The Bahamas, may be unable to reside in a jurisdiction which does not meet emerging international standards. The Minister recognised that “the imposition of these supervisory and regulatory standards would not be welcomed by all”, but added that even if it is not possible to accommodate the diversity of interest groups in the financial sector as before, it is possible to establish a centre which is more highly regarded and not subject to the “constant suspicion of the traditional financial centres that they are somehow worthy of more respect than the so-called offshore centres.”

Coming out of a 2-day consultative process in Barbados last week, representatives from the Commonwealth, CARICOM, the Pacific Islands Forum and OECD countries and territories agreed to establish a joint working group. A report on the forum indicated that there is much common ground between participants on the substantive issues, although there remain some divergences on process. The broad principles discussed – transparency, non-discrimination, effective exchange of information – gained a wide consent.

The working group will hold its first meeting before the end of January in London and is expected to present its first report by mid February.