By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) yesterday touted this nation's improvement in an index of global financial centres, even though it remains adrift of major Caribbean rivals.
The 22nd Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI), published by Z/YEN, said the Bahamas saw a "strong rise" in its ranking, which rose by two places from 83rd to 81st. Its 'rating' also improved by 32 points - from 582 to 614.
Tanya McCartney, the BFSB's chief executive and executive director, said in a statement: "This is good news and serves as a reminder that we must continue to work on those areas that impact the perceived competitiveness of the Bahamas as an international financial centre.
"Improving ease of doing business must continue to be a priority. Industry continues to collaborate with the Government in this regard. We also encourage policymakers to focus on policy positions that support continued growth and development of this important sector, including tax and Immigration, which impact the business environment and reputation of the Bahamas as an international financial centre (IFC)."
However, the Z/YEN report showed that the Bahamas remains some way behind rivals such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands (BVI). Bermuda and the BVI, in particular, improved by five and 14 places, respectively, in the rankings to 29th and 37th. Cayman held its spot at 31st.
They were collectively ranked as the top three financial centres in the Latin American and Caribbean region, with Sao Paulo, Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico City pushing the Bahamas into seventh - ahead of Rio de Janeiro, Panama and Buenos Aires.
Ms McCartney, in e-mailed responses to Tribune Business's questions, said the report showed a "material improvement in the rating" with the 32 point rise.
She added that the Bahamas' was "certainly moving in the right direction", but acknowledged this nation needed to "focus on increasing the pace of our improved competitiveness".
The financial services industry has also submitted to the Government a 'benchmarking study', conducted by Deloitte UK, which compared the Bahamas' tax structure to that of rival IFCs
"The initial review phase has been completed, with an assessment of our existing tax structure and how it impacts competitiveness compared to other IFCs, being completed," Ms McCartney said. "The aim was really to benchmark the Bahamas against other IFCs.
"We have submitted this to the Government for their review. At this very early stage, once government has completed its review, there is an opportunity for stakeholders (public and private) to move to engaging in meaningful dialogue as to how tax policy can be leveraged to improve competitiveness and reposition the sector for long-term growth.
"However, it would be premature of me to speak of conclusions without first giving the Government the opportunity to review the report and discuss it with industry stakeholders."