**Hon. Zhivargo Laing
Minister of State for Finance**

Speaking at a **Tax & Trade Symposium** hosted by the Bahamas Financial Services Board yesterday, Minister Laing said the current administration is committed to increasing the country’s profile and presence within the global marketplace. *”In this regard, there will be increased marketing of the jurisdiction and increased participation and visibility by the government in conjunction with the Bahamas Financial Services Board in strategic international events,”* he said.

Minister Laing took the opportunity to report that the government is also developing a comprehensive international trade and tax policy. *”Such a comprehensive policy developed by an established, professionally-staffed, academic-research supported International Trade Unit within the Ministry of Finance will ensure that all implications of agreements affecting our financial services sector are clearly defined and addressed.”*

Acknowledging that there is some pressure in regard to the establishment of tax information exchange agreements, Minister Laing noted that the government is determined to receive full input into this issue from the private sector. *”Certainly, for our part, any agreements entered into with other countries must meet the basic requirement of advancing the growth and development of our economy with clearly defined gains. There must be open and frank dialogue with industry on this issue.”*

When the policy is developed within the next six to 12 months, it will ensure that the country is able to deliberate and comprehensively negotiate any and all trade agreements including its accession to the WTO, which The Bahamas will be pursuing actively according to the Minister of State for Finance.

Minister Laing said the government’s ultimate objective is to advance the hopes, dreams and aspirations of Bahamians. *”Financial Services has been important to our well-being thus far and will no doubt continue to be so,”* he said. *”Together we must work to ensure success in this regard.”*

Minister Laing also noted that the government is increasing its commitment to public-private partnerships as part of its mandate to preserve and advance the growth and development of the financial services sector of The Bahamas, and spoke to the continuing strong commitment to the sector.

*”Today, all the legal and policy authority necessary for conducting virtually all financial services business in The Bahamas is consolidated in the Ministry and Minister of Finance. There is no go-between ministry. Even the critical Information Communication and Technology (ICT) functions of the nation necessary for facilitating financial services come under the ambit of the Ministry of Finance.”*