A former minister of state for finance yesterday said The Bahamas should explore joining forces with regional jurisdictions as a means of securing and protecting the offshore financial services sector.
Michael Halkitis, who served as a minister of state under the last Perry Christie administration, said while the legislative progress the government has made to shore up the financial services sector against scrutiny and sanction by international watchdogs over the past two years is notable, more could be done to shore up and bolster the sector.
“The goalpost continues to move. We believe that we need to seek common ground with our compatriots in the region as well as in the financial services industry and really give a united voice when we are addressing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“Yes, we agree that there needs to be standards, everyone is against terrorism, money laundering, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but we need to ensure that there is a level playing field and that we are not being asked to do things that other countries are not being asked to do. So that’s a conversation that we need to have,” Halkitis told Guardian Business at the Melia Nassau Beach resort during the Progressive Liberal Party’s convention.
“What we believe is that, yes we want to have good regulation, but we have to balance that as being able to promote ourselves as a friendly place to do business, so that we do not over-regulate ourselves and regulate ourselves right out of business.”
Just this week the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that the The Bahamas’ legal framework is in line with international standards and as such concluded the jurisdiction is a safe place for financial services and corporate investment activities.
The Bahamas, however, remains on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) grey list of high-risk jurisdictions with strategic anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism deficiencies.
The Bahamas is seeking to be removed from that list by early 2020.
“This has been a process that has been ongoing since the year 2000, when The Bahamas was responding to the Financial Action Task Force for those recommendations, and those global standards have continually evolved and unfortunately jurisdictions such as ourselves have to continually adapt,” Halkitis said.
“We in the Progressive Liberal Party have been in office twice since 2000 and we agreed that as a financial jurisdiction we should adhere to global standards in terms of AML/CFT and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the global standard.”