A well functioning judiciary underpins the confidence essential to attracting international investment and is critical to sustaining the financial services industry. To put it simply, one of the cogent reasons that clients select The Bahamas as a jurisdiction for their business is that they are confident that the Bahamian courts can quickly and efficiently deal with issues that arise out of matters which are either transacted in The Bahamas or use Bahamian vehicles.
A natural offshoot to business contracts and agreements is that disputes will arise. Consequently, the ability of this country’s courts to resolve business disputes and address matters efficiently will attract financial capital that is directly connected to the perceived strength of its judiciary. Where there is the perception that the judiciary is lacking, clients’ confidence wanes and they take their business elsewhere.
With this very clear nexus between the availability of a seasoned and sophisticated judiciary capable of handling the most complex commercial and trust-related cases and the volume and type of business in the jurisdiction, it is essential that The Bahamas has an adequate complement of judges whose legal acumen is reflective of the commercial activity The Bahamas seeks to attract. Such appointments by the Judicial and Legal Services Commission would demonstrate the availability, capability, and consistency of the Bahamian judiciary to resolve commercial matters in a timely manner and provide a ready forum for urgent ex-parte applications.
The financial services sector is at the heart of global economic reforms and financial services firms are being called upon to re-engineer through consolidation and other cost cutting measures. With the increased global competition in the sector, a clarion call to the global community that The Bahamas remains committed to its financial services partners through dedicated and specialized judicial talent can best be evidenced by the establishment of a Commercial Court.
As is the case in all spheres of life, the unexpected presents challenges as well as opportunities. Despite the gloomy economic outlook, many individuals and corporations continue to make international investments through finance centres such as The Bahamas. What has changed is the extent to which risk mitigation dominates these decisions. Clearly, such mitigation calls for an assessment of the judiciary in whom final carriage of any dispute resides. Moreover, the global economic downturn has created an opportunity to secure available qualified judicial talent.
The Bahamas was one of the early international business centres to benefit from the role a well regarded judiciary plays in our society. There is an opportunity now to reinforce this message. The appointment of judges charged with commercial matters, or the ultimate step of establishing a Commercial Court, would benefit the sector, our professionals and the overall economy. With such a vital step being taken, The Bahamas and its strengthened financial services industry will be well positioned, when the inevitable economic upturn occurs, to take advantage of expanding business opportunities.