Financial services bills pass in House

A compendium of financial services bills, including the Non-Profit Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was unanimously passed in the House of Assembly yesterday.

Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Copper, who serves as shadow minister of finance, said the opposition did not have any “burning issues” with the bills.

He described the Non-Profit Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as “better” than the original bill.

“The amendments also [introduce] this concept of an umbrella organization that can register all of its constituent units one time as opposed to duplicating that process a dozen times for a church with numerous locations,” Cooper said.

“This is also much better. The amendments say a non-profit organization whose gross annual income does not exceed $75,000 per annum shall not be required to maintain records under this section.

“This is better in that it reduces the reporting burden on smaller non-profits. The government has also, wisely, removed the burden of paying fees when registering under the bill for existing entities whose gross annual income does not exceed $250,000 and for those that do exceed this threshold.”

The amendment bill outlines several changes to the original bill, which was passed in the House of Assembly in December, but revised in the Senate after widespread concern from religious and civil society organizations.

On Friday, nearly eight months after it was shelved, the original bill was passed in the Senate.

Speaking about the delay, Cooper said, “The government had since December to amend this legislation, but ‘why do early what you can do at the very last minute’, appears to be the guiding philosophy of the administration.”

Cooper noted that the government found the time to “regulate the church” while leaving “political parties out of this legislation”.

“One of the things I found interesting about this legislation in December is that we were doing this before campaign finance reform,” he said.

“Something the government, when in opposition, marched for and demanded and promised. Eight months later, still no campaign finance reform. Perhaps we’ll get around to that the same time Ragged Island gets its green city.”

Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said the shaping of the amendments “reflect an ongoing dialogue and consultation with international experts who are helping The Bahamas to fully meet the requirements to exit the grey list of the FATF (Financial Action Task Force)”.

The other bills that were passed yesterday included: The Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill, 2019; International Obligations (Economic and Ancillary Measures) (Amendment) Bill, 2019; Investment Funds (Amendment) Bill, 2019; and Register of Beneficial Ownership (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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