In making his contribution to the mid-term Budget Debate, the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Minister of Financial Services, said his Ministry is on a mission to correct the misconception that financial services is an insular issue – affecting only a handful of persons in the country.

Like tourism, he said, Financial Services is everyone’s business. *“The industry, through its professionals supports the Bahamian economy. The industry has played a paramount role in the creation of a middle and upper middle class – and even wealthy Bahamians. The industry has provided, not only careers, but also entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians. Financial services supports the need for a strong cadre of lawyers, accountants and other professionals such as teachers. It supports the need for persons employed in domestic industries such as housekeepers and landscapers. It supports thousands of shopkeepers who benefit from Bahamians and non-Bahamians with high disposable incomes. Indeed, I cannot think of one occupation, which is not supported by a stronger, more active financial services industry.”*

The Minister called on stakeholders to work together to ensure that all Bahamians understand the contribution of financial services to the development of The Bahamas – past, present and future.

##Blue Chip Bahamas: Smart Branding##

Speaking to the work undertaken by the Ministry and industry partners over the past year, the Minister said The Bahamas’ name is synonymous with a blue chip jurisdiction. *”We have taken the message from Uruguay to Brazil to Guatemala to build our profile in key Latin American markets. We have taken the message from Miami to New York to re-launch The Bahamas in the North American market. We have taken the message from the UK to the Middle East. We will be taking the message next to the Far East, to the world’s fastest growing economy – China in the next few months.”*

*“I have made it my personal mission and a core mission of my Ministry to ensure that our message gets out to the people who matter.”* The Bahamas, the Minister said, headlines many of the major conferences in the financial services world. *“Over the last few months, first hand information on The Bahamas has been delivered to thousands, if not tens of thousands of international financial services professionals – persons who bring clients to our shores; persons who intend to bring new clients and set up businesses in our country; and those who make the decisions as to whether operations which are already here in The Bahamas stay or go, in the face of global uncertainty.”*

The Ministry of Financial Services is committed to promoting The Bahamas as a financial services centre that offers a full range of services: trusts, banks, funds, insurance, wealth preservation services, second homes, yacht and aircraft services and arbitration services. The Minister provided assurance that it will continue to tell the story of a business centre with the top-notch human capital and infrastructure and most importantly – a business and financial centre with full government support. *“The Bahamas is open to business and is friendly to all business – both foreign and domestic. Unlike many of our competitors that are commodity financial services jurisdictions, our brand is a full service business and financial centre, offering the full range of products and the service providers to support the industry. I say it again, the world is being told that The Bahamas is open for business.”*

In his report representing his debate contribution, the Minister also spoke to specific initiatives relating to new product development and international initiatives. On the latter, he said, *“The international landscape for financial services continues to change extremely rapidly. My Ministry continues to actively follow and engage on issues emanating from the United States, the Global Forum, OECD, G-8, G20, the EU and now even the United Nations on matters related to financial services. My Ministry’s goal in its dealings with all of the international initiatives is to have The Bahamas’ products and services offered internationally without unnecessary impediments.”*

Human development issues, including training, will continue to be a major focus and essential pillar of the Ministry of Financial Services and its Strategy for the sector. The Ministry has been charged with the task of ensuring that The Bahamas is recognized as the Regional Centre of Excellence in Financial Services and for the development of a Centre for Excellence in Financial Services. *“We continue to discuss with Caribbean and International governments and with our tertiary institutions. A definitive plan of action for achieving this will be released in the new budget year,”* said Minister Pinder.

##Fiscal Prudence##

Minister Pinder congratulated the Minister of Finance and the Minister of State for Finance and their team for promoting fiscal prudence and responsibility.

On a cash basis, for the first half of this 2013/2014 fiscal year the Government realized $56 million more in revenue than the first half of the 2012/2013 fiscal year. Likewise, the total deficit for the first half of the fiscal year 2013/2014 was $92 million, or 25% less than the first half of the 2012/2013 fiscal year. *“And”*, said Minister Pinder, *“for the first time in a long time we bring a mid-year budget report without the need to seek additional borrowing. We have demonstrated the fiscal prudence promised by the Prime Minister.”*