Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest in the House of Assembly. File Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The deputy prime minister yesterday pledged that The Bahamas will “not give up any ground” to global regulatory initiatives in its fight to remain a leading international financial centre (IFC)
K Peter Turnquest, suggesting that “the playing field will never be level” for IFCs given that they lack “the political clout” to take on larger developed states, questioned where such initiatives will stop given the ever-changing standards being imposed on The Bahamas.
He told the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook conference “In a competitive commercial environment, where geopolitics is constantly at play, it seems as though the playing field will never be level for small territories like The Bahamas.
“We are participants in a global economic system, where the principle of sovereign equals is not always respected when you don’t have the political clout to enforce it. We are seeing a lot of turmoil in the financial services sector today on account of these factors, but we can hardly call it new.
“The goalpost has constantly been shifting when it comes to assessing territories like The Bahamas, and there seems to be no end in sight. No matter how cooperative or how compliant we are as a nation, larger countries exercise their liberty to create new rules at will, with an expectation for everyone to immediately fall in line, no matter the resources we need to marshal or the investments we need to make.”
Mr Turnquest argued that various jurisdictions introducing their own set of rules appears “antithetical” to the notion of having a global standard. “The United States has one set of rules. The European Union has another. And then the OECD and the EU together have another set of rules,” he said.
“The latest move by the Netherlands is clearly an indication that individual countries within the EU now want to have their own individual standards to export to the entire industry too. When does it stop?..... There are questions as to whether the standards are being applied fairly and transparently. If we are really working towards the same goals, is this even the best way?”
Pledging that The Bahamas will always comply with global standards and best practices in the fight against financial crime, he added: “The process of unilaterally setting rules and exporting them to other territories under threat of sanction is counter to the spirit of international co-operation in the first instance.....
“We have no intention of giving up any of the ground we occupy as a premier international financial centre. We are adapting to the change environment and encouraging the industry to innovate and develop new competitive products to meet the demands of the market. Investors can be assured The Bahamas will continue to be a reliable provider of sophisticated, high quality financial services products that meet their needs.”
However, arguing that The Bahamas should not fear uncertainty, Mr Turnquest added: “In the face of dynamic change, we have a choice: Sink or swim? In this respect, we are in the same boat as everyone else. We can choose to run away and isolate ourselves or embrace change, with all of the turmoil it brings and the opportunity it creates.
“In The Bahamas we don’t run away. We adapt. We innovate. We grow. We expand....... As not to get lost in the ups and downs, we need to remember as a country, and as businesses, who we are, what we stand for and what we want to achieve.
“We are seizing the moment to reorient our workforce away from a traditional jobs mindset to an ownership mindset, so that entrepreneurship and small business can continue to be drivers of job creation and economic growth, so that there are no limits on the way of work, which can now be done from home or anywhere around the world.”