**Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, M.P.
Minister of Financial Services and Investments**
Minister Maynard-Gibson opened the 2003 Bahamas Institute of Financial Services Week, on Monday, presenting a review of her Ministry’s Strategic Plan. She pointed out the critical importance of the Week’s theme, *”Respositioning Financial Services.”*
During the collaboration with industry on the development of the strategy, it was recognised jointly that The Bahamas must “enhance the economy by repositioning and expanding financial services”. In re-claiming the competitive advantage in this area it was recognised, too, that the integrity of the sector could not be compromised.
*”In the Strategic Plan, we agreed that we would promote The Bahamas as a ‘Blue Chip, Well Regulated and Cooperative’ Financial Centre.”* said Minister Maynard-Gibson. *”We would not be second best. We would sit at the table as a responsible participant in the financial services industry, recognising that The Bahamas has a place alongside jurisdictions such as London, New York, Switzerland, and Singapore.”*
The Financial Services sector contributes between 15–20% of the Gross Domestic product (GDP) of The Bahamas and creates a wealth of high-income generating jobs. Estimates are that more than 13,000 Bahamians are employed in this sector, providing a yearly payroll of some $360 million and some $15 million annually in tax revenue. The Minister called on industry participants, however, to recognise that The Bahamas is scratching only the surface of this vibrant worldwide industry, with still tremendous potential for growth.
This development potential can be capitalised because of some unique Bahamas advantages:
– Location, Location, Location
– Tax neutrality
– Strong respect for privacy
– Democratic history
– Government facilitating business and entrepreneurship
– Well educated and professionally skilled workforce
– Independent judicial system
– Sound fiscal environment
– Public/private sector partnership
**Attracting Quality Business**
Minister Maynard-Gibson pointed to the importance of focusing on the delivery of quality service, indicating that this will facilitate the attraction and maintaining of quality clients and business.
The Government has committed to doing its part by ensuring an effective public sector, demonstrating professionalism, expertise, accountability, and transparency. On this last point, the Financial Services Minister emphasised that it is critical policies and procedures are clear. She continued, *”Business as usual must not be acceptable. An effective public sector – delivery of quality service – can be achieved only by a greater appreciation of the essential role this plays in the success of the overall economy and the ability to sustain the public sector itself.”*
From the practitioners’ perspective, the Minister cited the need for a ‘re-tooled’ private sector, with broad expertise in all components of the industry, and a creative orientation towards new product development.
Accordingly, the strategic action that has been taken by the Government has stemmed from the identification of the need to:
· Foster a professional attitude focused on the commitment to deliver optimum service
· Develop legislation to facilitate and enable relevant products
· Build a modern infrastructure to support business
· Adhere to laws and policies
· Infuse a new level of efficiency into the public and private sectors through best practices and proven methodologies
· Demand transparency
· Increase brand recognition
· Institutionalise the consultative approach
Reviewing recent developments, note was made of the package of e-commerce laws already passed in both the House and Senate, and a new Investment Funds bill currently working its way through Parliament.
The Minister indicated that she expected a report from The Financial Services Consultative Forum on the IBC Amendment Act, a bill for which should be tabled at the next sitting of Parliament. The FSCF comprises a wide cross section of industry practitioners and was appointed by the Prime Minister late last year to facilitate structured and continuous dialogue between the government and the private sector. The intent is to have legislative and promotional strategies – aimed at repositioning the financial services industry to better meet the needs of international financial markets – “conceived and implemented” within a framework of collaborative effort.
The Forum is consulting with industry on the following draft legislation, with plans to have relevant bills tabled in Parliament in June:
· Protected Cell Companies Bill
· Foundations Bill
· Perpetuities Bill
· Purpose Trust Bill
· Amendments to the Financial and Corporate Providers Act
Also included in imminent action plan of the FSCF are recommendations for (a) the streamlining of the KYC Regime and (b) a process by which the Memorandum of Understanding jointly signed by all Industry Regulators may operate more effectively. A new Domestic Insurance Bill is being prepared for tabling in Parliament as well.
Other initiatives outlined in the 5-Year Strategic Plan, and for which the Minister foreshadowed legislation are:
· expansion of international private banking
· international employee stock option and pension plans
· capital market transactions
· expansion of cross border transactions by multinationals
· structures for management of personal and political risk
· aircraft registry
· arbitration centre
Minister Maynard-Gibson expressed thanks to financial services industry practitioners for the collaborative approach to advancing the goals of her Ministry over this past year, indicating that she looks *”forward to continue cooperation with all of you as we together reclaim our preeminence.”* This month, the PLP Government celebrates its first anniversary in power following the 2002 General Elections.