Having a physical presence in Belgium not only strengthens the country’s position in the global economy, but also increases its profile in Europe, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis declared yesterday at the official opening of The Bahamas Embassy of Belgium and the European Union in Brussels.
While commenting on the country’s blacklistings in recent years, Minnis said the opening of the embassy demonstrates The Bahamas’ commitment to its relationship with the European Union (EU) and its desire for the further development of this relationship.
“As a small island developing state, with financial services as our second largest industry, the impact of being blacklisted has proven to be a barrier to our economic growth. The Bahamas does not believe itself to be in the category of countries that were presented in the blacklist, particularly as we have successfully met at least 30 of the 40 criteria of the Financial Action Task Force in redressing these issues,” Minnis said.
“Even though we have met these requirements and are no longer blacklisted, we know that, even as we continue to feel the ramifications of these actions despite our robust efforts, we need to continue strengthening the foundations of our financial services pillar. The Bahamas passed the latest assessment by the OECD, confirming that the jurisdiction is a safe place for financial services and corporate investment activities.”
Last year the government tabled legislation designed to ensure compliance with tax matters highlighted by the EU and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The legislation was benchmarked with other jurisdictions and was found to be adequate.
In March, The Bahamas was removed from the EU’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.
The prime minister is in Brussels along with a delegation including Minister of Financial Services Elsworth Johnson, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield, Attorney General Carl Bethel and Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union Maria O’Brien.
Minnis said the opening of the mission in Brussels also allows for increased trade between the two nations.
“It is also our intention that the mission will allow for the enhancement of our relationship with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the process with the European Union. With the EU as one of our major economic partners, working alongside the ACP-EU will allow for further sustainable development for The Bahamas, as well as the strengthening of our position in the global economy,” he said.
“We will promote the islands of The Bahamas as an attractive and stable investment opportunity in a number of sectors, including tourism, financial services, the blue economy and other industries. There is an attractive and diverse suite of investment opportunities in The Bahamas for potential investors, including provisions in our Commercial Enterprises Act. The Bahamas is figuratively and literally an archipelago of opportunity for investors.”
And with an embassy of The Bahamas in close proximity to the second largest port in Europe, Antwerp, Minnis said the country is prepared to take advantage of the offers of Belgian expertise in maritime affairs to enhance the maritime industry in The Bahamas.
“The Bahamas values the cooperation with the Kingdom of Belgium within the International Maritime Organisation and the Human Rights Council. We will continue our collaborative work within these organizations to the benefit of our bilateral relations,” he said.
The prime minister added that a presence in Brussels would also help to enhance the country’s relations with a number of other European nations, including potential technical assistance in areas such as education, renewable energy, agriculture, infrastructural development and other areas.
“We look forward to enhanced cooperation in areas such as addressing the global climate emergency and a host of environmental challenges including fisheries and ocean preservation. This includes accessing funds committed to the Green Climate Fund by European countries and other groupings,” he said.