The Bahamas has the opportunity to position itself as the Wealth Capital of The Americas. This is not an empty marketing slogan provided we, government and industry stakeholders, are prepared to act in concert to achieve this goal. We need to put in place a roadmap that will result in an ‘open architecture’ platform that will send a definitive message to the international marketplace that The Bahamas is the international financial centre jurisdiction of choice in the Americas. International institutions, intermediaries and their clients have many options and the challenge for us is to make them favourably disposed towards using The Bahamas as a base or domicile for their financial operations or structures.
The success of the realization of this vision will be measured in increased contribution to our Gross Domestic Product (currently approximately 20%), diversified and enhanced educational opportunities, increased financial industry careers for Bahamians, expansion of the professional class and attendant beneficial impact in the broader economy such as financial tourism and real estate development.
In order to realize this vision we need to act forthwith in the following areas:
* Fully implement the legislative agenda of the Five Year Plan published by MFSI. This will ensure that the Bahamas has the requisite legislative framework.
* Ensure we obtain market intelligence and continuously monitor international developments in order that we may develop proactive rather than reactive responses to international developments.
Our responses to international developments and pressures must be measured and considered; this is not however a proxy for making decisions. Resources must be brought to bear to permit the timely development of policy and implementation of legislation as the situation requires.
We must ensure we adhere to all applicable international standards in order to maintain our viability as a financial centre. We must carefully monitor and negotiate our way through the TIEA/Withholding tax issues and in this regard we must develop a strategy that is clearly understood and communicated to all stakeholders.
* The Bahamas must move to obtain greater international regulatory recognition in respect of its financial services industry. As a jurisdiction we have, over the past few years, implemented a regulatory regime, which subscribes to the highest international standards – notwithstanding such standards, for example the FATF’s 40 Recommendations, are a continuously moving target – and it is now time that we obtain market access recognition from the key markets.
* We need to make it easy to establish and conduct financial services operations in The Bahamas.
I note that the Securities Commission has undergone a recent restructuring and I commend them for their recent willingness to interface with industry and their increased transparency. I also note the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Regulators. I sincerely hope that we continue to see progress in this regard.
* The government has to continue to exercise fiscal prudence. We must guard our international credit rating as it is a clear signal of our economic stability.
* We must maintain our tax neutrality for international business
* We must constantly strive to improve the quality of delivery of our services. This applies across the board to the private sector as well as public sector. Advances in technology will continue to increase the performance expectations of our clients and we cannot afford to fall short. In this regard everyone can directly make a difference.
BFSB will continue to strive to position The Bahamas as the quintessential international financial center but to be successful in this mission we need a concerted effort by both the government and the industry stakeholders.
Personally, I am sanguine about the future of financial services in The Bahamas, the challenge is to ensure that the future is also bright for future generations and in that regard it is up to us. BFSB has proven its worth over the last five years and is undoubtedly the most effective representative body for the financial services private sector in The Bahamas. The Executive will endeavour to ensure that it remains so.
(Excerpts from remarks by Chairman M. Paton at the 2003 Annual General Meeting of the Financial Services Board, when he called for the formulation of *"a vision and implementation plan for the financial services industry of The Bahamas."* )