The commitment of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to maintaining the country as a “responsible financial services centre is absolute, unequivocal and unalterable” Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Senator the Hon. Michael L. Barnett said at the winter briefing of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) recently.

The Attorney General affirmed that the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is and will continue to be a “responsible” member of the international community and the campaign to maintain this is an ongoing exercise.

He said the briefing came at a time when wealth preservation is a matter of priority as many persons have seen their savings diminish, national governments have seen tax revenues diminish, and international financial centres like The Bahamas are faced with increasing scrutiny by countries of the more developed world.

Mr. Barnett recalled the plethora of legislation passed over the years by which he said The Bahamas adopted best practices, criminalised money laundering and required the reporting of suspicious transactions.

Additionally, he said the legislation strengthened know-your-customer regulations, established the Financial Intelligence Unit and strengthened the cooperation between The Bahamas and other countries in the fight against crime.

Pledging the Office of the Attorney General’s commitment to law reform, Mr. Barnett made reference to several initiatives including draft legislation for domestic and external insurance, domestic and foreign arbitration and a new Probate Act which is likely to be tabled in Parliament early next year.

Furthermore, he said new legislation is being considered regarding bankruptcy law and a new Law Reform Commissioner will be appointed to replace Justice Ricardo Marques.

Efforts to improve the Registrar-General’s Department are also continuing. In addition to the computerisation of this department, the Attorney General said construction of the new Registrar-General’s Department office complex on Market Street will begin in the next 12 months.
Regarding the administration of justice, Mr. Barnett said the government is committed to the restoration of the Supreme Court and Colonial Secretary buildings at Bay Street and Bank Lane. He said restoration of the buildings will commence shortly and will be completed in 2009.

“We expect that this effort to improve these facilities, together with a revision of both the Rules of Civil Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Code will have a positive impact on the administration of justice.”

The recent appointments of Associate Justice Christopher Blackman to the Court of Appeal, Mr. Justice Neville Adderley and his predecessor Justice Claire Hepburn to the Supreme Court have strengthened the judiciary, he added.

“Government’s commitment to supporting the growth and development of the financial services sector is further demonstrated in its desire to continue advocacy of a level playing field for standards to be observed by providers of financial services internationally,” said the Attorney General.

“We will continue our efforts to ensure the availability of adequate, reliable and internationally competitive telecommunications and electricity services. BTC will be privatised.”

Moreover, said the Mr. Barnett, the government is committed to facilitating the engagement of the “necessary” number of professional and administrative professionals in the financial, legal and judicial services, and to pursuing policies to ensure the ongoing availability of “appropriately” trained and experienced staff in banking, investment, accounting and law.

No initiative of the government, said the Attorney General, can be effective without the cooperation of the private sector. He assured the international and domestic communities that the government’s determination to sustain the financial services community is “unequivocal”.