Financial Services is the second industry of The Bahamas, behind tourism, and Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie recognised the important need to have a specific, separate entity with cabinet level leadership overseeing the development of this sector, says the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Minister of Financial Services. *“Charged with this awesome responsibility, my Ministry endeavours to strengthen The Bahamas as a modern, well-functioning, robust business and trade centre while also protecting and promoting the financial services industry for the overall development of The Bahamas and to the benefit of our citizens,”* he added. Minister Pinder said that one of the strategies his Ministry is implementing is the branding of The Bahamas as a “full business centre” to the world.
*”Financial Services is one, albeit a very large component, of the services offered in The Bahamas. The Ministry of Financial Services views our ability to link current and new service sectors, as key to the future growth and development of The Bahamas. As part of our strategy, my Ministry has begun and will continue to identify the financial sector linkages in each of our services sub-sectors,”* Minister Pinder said during last weekend’s launch of the Ministry’s Strategic Plan and the unveiling of its 10-year strategy at BFSB’s [International Business and Finance Summit](http://www.ibfs-bahamas.com), at Bimini Bay Resort. The Ministry has met with the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) to identify the opportunities for co-ordination with the ultimate aim of increasing the use of the Bahamian exchange. *“As a result of those discussions, the specific needs of BISX will be on the table during my discussions with foreign governments and CEOs of our financial sector firms,”* he said. *“Those discussions have also identified specific projects that can be taken on board by the Ministry as part of its 2013 work plan.”*
Minister Pinder said that The Bahamas’ arbitration services rounds out the services that are offered in The Bahamas. *“My Ministry has portfolio responsibility for creating The Bahamas as an international arbitration centre, and we are looking to focus on niche markets, such as maritime and financial services, as well as trade disputes, and also focus on being the gateway to Latin America for such disputes.”* The Ministry of Financial Services is constituting an arbitration council of public and private sector persons to plot the strategy forward. *“We look to advance the arbitration agenda of The Bahamas in a way to continue providing opportunities for local practitioners, further diversifying the financial and professional services of The Bahamas,”* he said.
##Trade in Services##
Also discussed in Bimini was the Ministry’s role in trade in services. This multifaceted approach to international finance and business development dovetails nicely with its trade portfolio, he said. *“Indeed, there are natural synergies between the two as an international business centre, by nature, is centred on the trade in or export of services,”* Minister Pinder said. *“Not only do we build domestically and internally, we should also leverage our knowledge base to export services, and particularly in financial services.” *
Minister Pinder said that another important aspect of his Ministry’s work is that it serves as a focal point from which the Government of The Bahamas can survey international initiatives that impact and threaten our centre. His Ministry is charged with ensuring that The Bahamas is not faced with surprises from the international arena, he added. *“My Ministry will also be coordinating The Bahamas’ response to these initiatives, in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to our Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates throughout the world and with the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Finance, as necessary,”* he said.
Minister Pinder said that his Ministry is working on several key issues in the industry, including the United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). *“I am mindful, that my Ministry ought not to consider the implications of FATCA in a ‘public sector vacuum’,”* he noted. *“Therefore, to ensure that private sector participants are included, I have installed a Minister’s Advisory Group to ensure that your views are considered. This group has met and has commenced its work to chart the way forward with respect to FATCA.”*
Minister Pinder said that his Ministry continues to work alongside the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney General’s Office with respect to the work of the Global Forum on tax transparency and the exchange of tax information matters. He added that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and now the European Union have a consistent, fast moving approach in its actions against jurisdictions like The Bahamas. *“It is evident that our only crime is having a competitive tax structure and one that differs considerably from Europe,*” Minister Pinder said. *“The Bahamas’ tax structure has evolved, not from the desire to create a “tax haven” environment, but one that is historically based on our policy makers’ consideration of the best mechanism to raise revenue for public expenditures given our open, import oriented economy.”* Nevertheless, Minister Pinder said, the world has changed. *“Rules have changed,”*he stated.
*“My Ministry is closely following developments out of the OECD and the European Union to ensure that the views of the business sector are considered as we adjust our legislation. As the OECD strives to make its groupings more inclusive based on the demands of small countries like The Bahamas, my Ministry will also be an active participant to ensure that The Bahamas’ views are always presented and included in the OECD process, and in fact on the Global stage.”*
Minister Pinder pointed out that a modern regulatory environment is an important selling point for any jurisdiction. His Ministry, he said, is working closely with the Regulators to ensure that regulatory initiatives, including those which cut across the entire financial sector, are properly and promptly addressed in a manner consistent with the risks present in the Bahamas’ jurisdiction. He added that The Bahamas has a strong reputation of proper regulation and a strong legislative and policy framework and his strategy incorporates this aspect of leadership.
*“My strategy also involves The Bahamas systematically identifying those jurisdictions outside of the region with positions that are compatible with The Bahamas so that discussions may be advanced with a view to developing common strategies for addressing these initiatives,”* Minister Pinder said. *“The Bahamas has many friends in the world and are prepared to call upon like-minded nations to have a truly global discussion on the future of international business and finance.”*
Minister Pinder noted that, together with the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB), his Ministry creates a platform for industry participation in the development of the financial services sector. *“Our Government has a renewed commitment to consultation on matters that affect your business,”* he said. *“In particular, we seek to balance the need and approach of the regulators with that of the business reality in which we lie.*
*“We must emphasise that there is a strong and distinct difference in the roles of the BFSB and our Ministry. We emphasise that for the Ministry to function effectively, we need to have a strong, vibrant, full time industry lobby in the form of BFSB to continually do your bidding to the Government. While our Ministry does have a valued, close relationship with the industry on a one-on-one basis, there are benefits to representation to our Ministry through BSFB – who I must add is a strong and persistent advocate for its members,”* he concluded.