Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson
Minister of Financial Services
Just weeks shy of the anniversary of its establishment in May 2002, the Minister of Financial Services and Investments spoke to the nation last night on the accomplishments of her Ministry since the Government appointed a Cabinet Minister to guide the essential sectors of financial services and investments.
At the time of establishing the Ministry, Prime Minister the Hon. Perry G. Christie said its main focus would be *”to provide leadership and direction in restoring The Bahamas to the pre-eminent position it once enjoyed as an international financial and banking centre. This Ministry will also have as its role the task of mounting and sustaining an aggressive campaign both locally and internationally to attract new investment in all areas of economic life, whether touristic, industrial or otherwise.”*
The specific responsibilities were identified as follows:
(i) the promotion of the financial services industry;
(ii) the promotion and administration of direct investments through The Bahamas Investment Authority;
(iii) Hotel Encouragement and Time Share and Vacation Plan Acts;
(iv) the promotion of electronic commerce;
(v) the Office of the Registrar of Insurance Companies;
(vi) the Registrar General’s Department;
(vii) the promotion of mutual funds; and
(viii) the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas
Addressing the mandate she accepted, Minister Maynard-Gibson reported that her team diligently – and successfully – pursued efforts to ensure that the framework was in place to restore The Bahamas to its position of preeminence in the provision of financial services. Additionally, the Ministry aggressively pursued investment, both foreign and domestic; and is replacing the red tape of bureaucratic intransigence with a welcoming red carpet for Bahamian and Non-Bahamian investors alike. For the period between May 2002 and the present, foreign direct investment projects “considered and approved” represented a projected capital investment of $727.4 million. At the present time, pending projects represent a projected capital investment of approximately $1.18 billion.
The Minister is confident that the economic base of The Bahamas has been broadened, with the framework laid to encourage and develop more Bahamian entrepreneurship. She said, *”Bahamians can now benefit from the creation of new economic opportunities. With the increased Bahamian ownership of national assets, Bahamians have been economically empowered and are generating jobs for their fellowmen.”*
Minister Maynard-Gibson described the challenge of reclaiming the jurisdiction’s competitive advantage without compromising the integrity of the financial services sector. She assured the nation that the sector is secure, and that there is no uncertainty about the Government’s commitment to financial services. *”We will not be satisfied with “second best”. We will be leaders in the region and will compete at the table with the larger financial sectors of London, New York, and Zurich.”*
Industry practitioners have expressed confidence in the positioning of the jurisdiction on the international scene, and have credited this to (a) access to decision makers and participation in decision making process; (b) institutionalisation of consultation with the private sector through the establishment of the Financial Services Consultative Forum; and, (c) participation in development and promotion of “The Bahamas Brand”.
**Financial Services Consultative Forum**
The Ministry of Financial Services and Investments remains fully committed to its partnership with the private sector in terms of national development.
Particularly referencing the consultative process embodied within the new FSCF, the Minister pointed to successful collaboration on legislative amendments; e.g. the International Business Companies Act, the Investment Funds Act, and the new package of E-Commerce laws. She indicated that the various sub-committees of the FSCF are *”working feverishly to complete the remainder of their stated goals.”* The Forum has said that its legislative package for the year includes the review of the KYC Regime and amendments to the Financial Transactions Reporting Act; review of the Securities Industry Act; the Insurance Act (Domestic and External); and Protective Cell, Foundations and Purpose Trust legislation.
Reportedly, the Forum also is in consultation with stakeholders concerning regulatory red tape, and is working on relevant recommendations, considered critical to the strength and competitiveness of The Bahamas as a financial centre.
The Minister concluded that The Bahamas must be prepared for the challenges consistent with achieving and maintaining “world class” status. *”We must re-tool, re-train, and re-invent ourselves and our products. We must re-capture the charm and diligent work ethic. We must be competitive both in price and services.”*
Last fall, Minister Maynard-Gibson presented a “Strategic Plan” for financial services, designed to ensure the sector remains an economic engine for employment and for improving the quality of life for all Bahamians.