Acting Prime Minister, the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest said The Bahamas continues to adapt, grow and expand despite the dynamic changes taking place around the world. “When The Bahamas needed an economic base in a region known for its agricultural and manufacturing prowess, we pioneered the tourism industry in the region. Today, we are employing different strategies to increase and diversify foreign direct investment. The Commercial Enterprises Act, 2018 has already had great success attracting international companies to open up offices and headquarters in Grand Bahama, where we are creating the Tech Hub for The Bahamas.”
The Acting Prime Minister was speaking at the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook (BEO) held at Baha Mar, Tuesday, February 26, 2019. He noted that the government is undertaking several other initiatives to boldly lead The Bahamas into a dynamic future. The Acting Prime Minister explained that the government is preparing Bahamians to take advantage of new opportunities in the tourism market by regulating and expanding Airbnb and related services, which is an area with great potential for boosting inclusive growth. He said the government is preparing Bahamians to be businesses owners with unprecedented investments in entrepreneurship: $25 million over five years. The era of finishing school and looking for a good government job is over. The government wants the workforce to be highly trained to secure private sector jobs, and to create their own jobs.
The Acting Prime Minister said the government is also modernizing itself by leveraging the power of technology; strengthening the national statistical system; and instituting comprehensive public sector financial management reform. Lastly, he explained that the government is building a new culture of governance that is grounded in fiscal responsibility principles of transparency, accountability, and inclusive growth, undergirded by the Fiscal Responsibility Act that introduces quarterly budget performance reporting and fiscal strategy reporting. The Acting Prime Minister noted that in a competitive commercial environment, where geopolitics is constantly at play, it seems as though the playing field will never be level for small territories like The Bahamas.
“We are participants in a global economic system, where the principle of sovereign equals is not always respected when you don’t have the political clout to enforce it. We are seeing a lot of turmoil in the financial services sector today on account of these factors, but we can hardly call it new. “The goalpost has constantly been shifting when it comes to assessing territories like The Bahamas, and there seems to be no end in sight. No matter how cooperative or how compliant we are as a nation, larger countries exercise their liberty to create new rules at will, with an expectation for everyone to immediately fall in line, no matter the resources we need to marshal or the investments we need to make.” He explained that the United States has one set of rules. The European Union has another. And then, the OECD and the EU together have another set of rules.
“The latest move by the Netherlands is clearly an indication that individual countries within the EU now want to have their own individual standards to export to the entire industry too. When does it stop? The model that seems to be proliferating is antithetical to the notion of having a global standard, and there are questions as to whether the standards are being applied fairly and transparently. If we are really working towards the same goals, is this even the best way?” The Acting Prime Minister said while The Bahamas has many shared interests with the international community, particularly as it relates to combating AML/CFT, the process of unilaterally setting rules and exporting them to other territories under threat of sanction is counter to the spirit of international cooperation in the first instance.
He said this is 2019, and it does not matter how many blacklists pop up to unfairly stick The Bahamas on, the fact will remain that the country is a clean, compliant and cooperative wealth management jurisdiction, providing competitive financial services. “We compete on the strength of our services and the quality of our professionals, and we eschew any and all efforts to introduce AML/CFT risk into our system. This government is committed to keeping up with any regulator or legislative reforms that are necessary to maintain our position as a global leader.” The Acting Prime Minister said, “We have no intention of giving up any of the ground we occupy as a premier international financial centre. We are adapting to the change environment and encouraging the industry to innovate and develop new competitive products to meet the demands of the market. Investors can be assured The Bahamas will continue to be a reliable provider of sophisticated, high quality financial services products that meet their needs.”