Friday, March 5, 2010
In his mid-year budget presentation to Parliament, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham addressed improving the business environment, touching specifically on the streamlining of the regulation of the financial services sector.
Addressing parliament, Ingraham said: "The government is moving to streamline the regulation of non-bank financial services. Specifically, we intend to merge the Securities Commission, the Office of the Registrar of Insurance Companies and the Compliance Commission to create a new Financial Services Authority. The goal is to reduce burdens on the regulated financial sector by simplifying authorization requirements and data reporting requirements. As well, efficiency gains will be achieved by ensuring joint operations in terms of on-site inspections, authorizations, information technology and human resources."
The new Authority will be fully operational during the course of 2010, Ingraham disclosed.
On “Enhancing the Competitiveness of Financial Services,” the Prime Minister noted progress made towards the removal from the OECD grey-list of territories that had not yet substantially implemented the internationally agreed standard on tax information exchange, of which the Bahamas was deemed to be one. Following last April's G20 summit, where the list was drafted, territories that were placed on the grey have been given until March 31, 2010 to substantially implement the international standards in tax information exchange, by signing twelve bilateral agreements with third countries to increase tax transparency. "On April 2, 2009, the Bahamas had one agreement executed with the US. We have moved aggressively to meet the requirement. At present, there are 11 signed agreements and, by the end of March, we will have executed 19 agreements to ensure our exit from the grey list," Ingraham said.
Parliamentarians were also advised of planned changes to the Investment Funds Act to remove restrictions that impact negatively on Bahamian investment managers and advisors and the competitiveness of the Bahamas as a financial centre.
Additionally, Ingraham added that the government is "taking a number of steps to strengthen the Bahamian business environment." Specifically, proposed amendments to the Business Licence Act will soon be introduced to simplify the legal and regulatory requirements to operate a business. "We also propose to simplify the fee structure for business licences," he explained.