As a sovereign country with a pro-business government, strong regulatory oversight and sensitivity to the requirements of a global market, The Bahamas provides a unique environment for the conduct of international business.
The nation continues to compete successfully in the two largest global industries – tourism and financial services. With a Gross Domestic Product of $6 billion, it maintains the third highest per capita income ($20,000) among independent states in the Western Hemisphere, following only the United States and Canada.
In 2006, The Bahamas received The Banker Award as **Best International Financial Centre in the Western Hemisphere** from *The Banker*. The Financial Times Group publication engages in “high level research” to identify leading International Financial Centres (IFC) across the world. On the occasion of the 2006 Awards, Stephen Timewell, Editor-in-Chief of *The Banker* said they identified IFCs “that offer banks and financial institutions the best locations and infrastructure to carry out their business and serve their clients.”
The financial sector contributes over 20% to GDP, with annual expenditures in the local economy of the banking sector alone exceeding $400 million, assets exceeding $350 billion, and with sizeable assets under management. There are over 80 insurance companies, with assets approaching $700 million. The 760+ Funds have assets under management totalling in excess of $200 billion. The Bahamas Ship Registry is one of the world’s most prestigious and currently it is ranked as the 3rd largest ship registry in the world, with merchant ships representing some 35 million gross tons.
Overall, The Bahamas offers a full range of financial services and products, including: asset management and protection; commercial banking, brokerage services, company formation & administration; information technology services; insurance & support services; investment management; fund administration; private banking; maritime registry & support services; support services (back office); and trust services.
The Bahamas provides a tax neutral environment for international business. There is no direct taxation, i.e. on capital gains, corporate earnings, personal income, sales, inheritance or dividends.
People power continues to be a key ingredient in providing continuity and consistency of services. The Bahamas has a large skilled labour pool – well educated and committed to professional development, and driven to perform. This environment is founded on the commitment by The Bahamas to the development of its human resources, demonstrated in large part by the significant portion of the National Budget allocated to education. At the same time the Government maintains a flexible immigration policy suited to the needs of international firms and international business. An available pool of well-qualified international and Bahamian professionals means The Bahamas can offer long-term working relationships with resident expertise.
The depth of professional services available has been crucial to growth. There are over 800 attorneys trained in English Common law and some 400 chartered accountants. In addition to the impressive number of these professionals practising in The Bahamas, other support services include corporate and ship registries, investment advisory and planning services, property management and insurance. Some banks also provide back-office administration and company management, as well as information processing of their affiliates from other offshore jurisdictions. Some firms in the financial services industry have expanded their services to include tax consulting, with others specialising in structures involving tax compliant insurance products.
A particular advantage to ongoing industry growth is the Government’s commitment to development of the industry, and steps taken to position The Bahamas as a well-regulated, responsible international financial centre. The Government is committed to ensuring the integrity of the financial services system and to keeping The Bahamas on the competitive edge. In The Bahamas, there also is a unique relationship between the Government and the private sector, based on a spirit of consultation and input.
BFSB, launched in 1998, represents an innovative commitment by the financial services industry and the Government of The Bahamas to promote a greater awareness of The Bahamas’ strengths as an international financial centre. BFSB represents and promotes the development of all sectors of the industry, including: banking, private banking and trust services, investment funds, capital markets, investment advisory services, accounting and legal services, insurance, and corporate and shipping registry. Associate Memberships cover real estate, information technology and marketing & public relations. BFSB does not supplant existing financial services associations that continue to serve individual professional groups within the industry as they have in the past. Rather, the Board complements them, drawing much of its strength from close intra-industry participation and collaboration.