***”…investors, Bahamian and non-Bahamian, have great confidence in the investment climate created by our policies and approach.”*** The Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, M.P., Minister of Financial Services and Investments.

In her contribution to the 2003-2004 Budget Debate now ongoing in the House of Assembly, Minister Maynard-Gibson outlined a number of investment proposals already approved as well as the high potential for ongoing growth. Too, she spoke to the specific policies being enforced by the Investment Board and National Economic Council. *”My Government has replaced the red tape with a red carpet to stimulate efficient and effective processing of all investment applications. The effects have proven positive.”*

Noting that there still is much to do, the Minister nevertheless pointed out that the investment stability built in the Administration’s first year in office will be the foundation for sustaining opportunity and prosperity for all in the years to come.

Quoting from earlier comments by the Prime Minister in his Budget 2003-2004 Presentation, the Minister affirmed that The Bahamas is building on the **6 pillars of tourism, financial services, e-commerce, international services, manufacturing industry, and agriculture and fisheries.** *”These are the areas for investment on which Bahamians and non Bahamians alike should focus,”* she said.

**Financial Services**

Noting vigorous measures taken to address many of the uncertainties in the financial services sector, Minister Maynard-Gibson remained confident that Government has been successful in bringing some degree of stability to the sector. She said, *”Perhaps most significant is the spirit of change, openness, participation, consultation and responsiveness that pervades the sector.”*

Specifically, the work of the past year has been accomplished through the following:

· Co-operation amongst all stakeholders in the industry. This enables the government to arrive at a fully informed conclusion or decision on the way forward

· Partnership with the private sector where the resources of the private sector become available to achieve the objectives of the public sector

· Engagement with the private sector as there is clear recognition of mutuality of interest and respect of sector views and assiduous effort made to ensure the success of the sector and thereby the jurisdiction

*”The work accomplished and in progress has involved many persons/groups in the public sector, regulatory and administrative agencies and the private sector. Business thrives in a transparent environment where the rule and objectives are known. More importantly, it thrives where those who are responsible for the success of business are actively involved in the process of identifying priorities and the process by which the priorities will be achieved.”*

Specifically referencing the “broad and varying input from the industry” the Minister indicated that Government’s 5-Year Strategic Plan was a result of this collaborative approach, and took the opportunity to highlight the objectives of that Plan:

·Remove unnecessary bureaucracy and streamline the “know your customer” regime

·Create a public/private sector dialogue

·Identify and Create Opportunities for Growth

·Develop Expertise

·Promote The Bahamas

**Real Estate Developments**

Speaking to a recent Trade Mission hosted by the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA) in cooperation with the Realtors Association of Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast International Council, Minister Maynard-Gibson also took the opportunity to tout the economic expansion being experienced by The Bahamas. She pointed to the substantial increase in real estate development, for example, and said the Government is positioned to capitalise on this growth, and to stimulate further expansion.

According to the Minister, the Government’s Investment Board recorded for the period July 1, 2002 to May 2, 2003 a total value of **foreign real estate investment** of some $842 million, with accompanying revenue in the amount of $42 million. This she said translates to a strong and unequivocal expression of confidence in The Bahamas.

The Ministry of Financial Services and Investments has announced that a Committee of interested parties will be formed to advise Government on its policy on second homes and time share and, generally, on land policy. She concluded her address to the realtors with, *”The Bahamas is without a doubt the best investment choice in this part of the world for tourism, financial services and ship registration as well as being competitive in such areas as light industry and manufacturing. We are a premier location for investment and business opportunities. The Bahamas stands out from the crowd. We like it that way and will do everything to keep it that way!”*

During the Budget Debate, Minister Maynard-Gibson again commented that Time Share is a “significant plank” of the Government’s investment platform. Referencing discussions with large international law firms and their clients (including the largest time share developers in the world) the Minister said Government will pursue the legislative changes needed to re-establish The Bahamas’ pre-eminence as a Time Share destination.