Bahamas passes budget for transforming financial services sector

The government of the Bahamas has voted to allocate additional resources to facilitate the transformation of the financial services sector with the specific aim of improving the ease of doing business in the Caribbean jurisdiction.

The 2018-19 fiscal budget was passed by the House of Assembly on 18 June. In his contribution to the budget debate, Brent Symonette, the Bahamas minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration, outlined plans to accelerate the pace of Human Capital Development and to improve the ease of doing business. Both initiatives will facilitate a deliberate economic transformation toward a sustainable future for the country’s financial services sector as well as other elements of the Bahamian economy.

“We must first be proactive in investing in human capital through education and diversity to achieve service quality that is second to none,” said Symonette. “By improving our talent pool, we will ultimately increase efficiencies in the “ease of doing business” in the Bahamas.”

Centre for excellence
He said the establishment of a “Centre for Excellence” for professional skills development in financial services in the region is a priority. He stated: “Through a grant from the EU facilitated by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) a road map was developed to enable us to demonstrate our commitment to educating and equipping our financial services workforce to meet and maintain quality standards in the provision of financial services through the Centre for Excellence. This project is envisioned as a public-private sector partnership to create a financial services ‘smart city’ for education, research and development, and internship.”

Symonette added that his ministry also intends to work with the University of the Bahamas to integrate in its business program opportunities for research and internships. The ministry of financial services will also work with the ministry of education to strengthen financial services education at the tertiary level.

Symonette added: “We must realize that although we are an independent and sovereign nation, we exist in an interdependent, and integrated ever-changing global economy. This means that we must embrace and adapt to change this is the only way we will be able to create opportunities for ourselves. He went on to stated that, “We must be innovative in our services and product offering while also putting in the framework for policy, and innovation that will foster flexibility for the creation of new products and services as well as investment in new areas of financial services.”

The minister contended that the Bahamas brand has to become a label of quality, creativity, innovation and technological advancement. “We live in a knowledge based era, where these things are the key to future advancement. We must develop a Financial Services Technology and Innovation scheme where research centres and innovation libraries can be bred for user experience, data science and machine learning. This is where technological advancement is, it is happening now and we have to embrace it.”

Ease of business
Symonette noted that the ease of doing business touches across the whole economy of the Bahamas, but is of particular importance to the Financial Services sector. “There has been a lot of talk surrounding this issue, but the goal of eliminating unnecessary bureaucratic protocols and practices in our administration for daily business operations is coming to fruition,” he said.

He said while improvements in the business license process are in its infancy phase, the business license fee for new businesses have already been eliminated over the past year.

“Already, we are seeing greater communication between departments where the provision of information between agencies is being streamlined,” he said. “This has enabled most of the transactions for obtaining a business license to occur in one place.”

Christopher Copper-Ind
Christopher Copper-Ind is Publisher and Editor of International Investment. His previous publishing experience focused largely on the Middle East and emerging markets, and he was Editorial Director of The Business Year, based in Istanbul, for three years before moving back to London in 2017. He is the author of How to Negotiate, to be published by Macmillan in 2019.

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