The Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson, M.P.
Minister of Financial Services and Investments
Integrity, transparency, accountability, efficiency and professionalism will be the watchwords of the Ministry of Financial Services and Investments. So said new Minister, the Hon. Allyson Maynard Gibson in her contribution to House of Assembly Debate on the National Budget. These will assist the newly created Ministry in the fulfillment of its mandate to ensure the nation’s preeminent position as a financial centre.
**Financial Centre Development & Industry Consultation**
Recognising that it is imperative for The Bahamas to clearly define itself as a financial service provider and pursue policies in accordance with that definition, the Minister also reaffirmed earlier pledges that all interested parties should be at the table as the Government evaluates development and pursue policies to keep The Bahamas on the cutting edge.
The Ministry has taken a proactive approach in carrying out this mandate, and has begun the process of meeting with and listening to local practitioners and stakeholders in the financial services community. Views and suggestions have been solicited on issues such as new financial services products; simplifying the provision of financial services; and financial services legislation and amendments, if any, needed to restore The Bahamas to pre-eminence.
Referencing the recent financial services European Tour on which she joined representatives of the Bahamas Financial Services Board, the Minister indicated that her primary objective in meeting with institutions heavily invested in The Bahamas was to ensure they recognise that Government sees the Bahamas being developed not as an *Offshore* Financial Centre but rather as a Financial Centre. The Bahamas competes with and offers the same services as other financial centres such as Switzerland, London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.
On the matter of consultation, these stakeholders now *”know that we recognise that policies cannot be developed in a vacuum but rather in a crucible where national objectives and market needs are mixed and balanced,”* said the Minister.
Pointing to the importance of stakeholders also knowing fully the realities of the jurisdiction, she continued, *”To know first hand who we are, and our objectives, are but two of the reasons why they are happy to accept the invitation to engage in dialogue at the policy making table.”*
In the future, financial centres will be evaluated and chosen on the quality and productivity of their services providers; the clarity of the jurisdiction’s policies; the standards of regulation applied in the jurisdiction; the speed with which various agencies respond to applications; the extent to which the jurisdiction responds speedily to market requirements; the extent to which the jurisdiction involves the private sector in policy formulation; and the general ambiance of the jurisdiction. The Bahamas recognises that the world of financial services is changing and is ready to respond to that change. *”We are blue chip, well regulated and cooperative. We are not and will not be a centre where ill-gotten gains may be hidden,”* attested Minister Gibson.
**5-Year Strategic Plan for Financial Services Sector**
The Minister pointed out that the inaugural Budget of the newly elected Progressive Liberal Party Government represents programs and activities for the ensuing twelve months only. It is not a five-year Budget, she said, and as such does not provide for all of the pledges contained in the Government’s “Plan for a Stronger Bahamas and a Brighter Future.”
The Ministry of Financial Services and Investments intends to unveil a 5-year strategic plan for the financial services sector, as well as the legislative framework to support this plan. Minister Gibson said in September, 2002 the government will clearly outline its plan of action and blue print for the pursuit of those goals.
The Bahamas Government has invited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to review and comment on its regulatory regime. The Minister of Financial Services and Investments pointed out to her colleagues in the House of Assembly that the Government is aware there are many regulatory models that are accepted as being in accordance with the highest international standards, and that it will evaluate as many as possible. *”We shall do so because we want the Bahamian people and the international community to be assured that we are acting in our national interest and that our national interest demands that Bahamian financial services be well regulated,”* she said.
Also noted was that the Government recognises the marketing and regulation aspects of financial services are connected and that there is a delicate balance to be struck between both. The proposed dialogue with market partners, international agencies, policy makers and regulators in other jurisdiction will greatly assist in finding that balance, according to the Minister.
*”Clearly the success of our jurisdiction will come from the manner in which we promote it as well as the manner in which we compete on the world scene and deliver services. This presents many unique opportunities for my Ministry to liaise closely with the Ministry of Tourism in promotion of this sector,”* Minister Gibson said in her presentation.
Portending the wide use of official and informal ambassadors of The Bahamas, the Minister said the message about The Bahamas, as the world’s most beautiful financial centre and one in which the same level of service can be obtained as may be obtained in London, New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, must come from *”our mouths and from our promotions”*.
**National Development Plans**
Minister Gibson emphasised that the importance of the new Ministry of Financial Services and Investments is to bring focus to the need to attract investment and to develop the financial sector in accordance with national development plans.
In this connection, reference was made to the equipping and staffing of the Department of Statistics so as to ensure improvement in the quality, timeliness and consistency of available economic and social data; Government’s commitment to the full computerisation of the Registrar General’s Office; the development of e-commerce throughout the entire Bahamas is a major component of the diversification of the economy and to positioning The Bahamas as a blue chip financial center; a possible revamping of the Immigration “thought processes”, to ensure the availability of skilled personnel for specific development needs. On this last initiative, the Minister commented that labour unions may need to become more proactive in using resources to train their members so that they may be equipped to respond to the changing means by which services are provided and productivity enhanced.
She pointed out some of the challenges and realities facing the new Administration. Saying that the Government must embark upon a comprehensive evaluation of the present structure of Government revenues, she stated that it also must create and implement policies that encourage employment and stabilise incomes, ensuring that economic stimuli provided produce the intended economic impact. The Government is committed to seeing the current revenue base preserved and expanded.
Minister Gibson pledged that whatever recommendations may be accepted from technical assistance advice to be sought from international agencies will reflect the needs and special circumstances of the local economy to the greatest extent possible.