While addressing the Bahamas Financial Services Board’s (BFSB) International Business & Finance (IBFS) summit in Abaco on March 19, Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged that the Bahamas must fix “broken systems that no longer serve our needs” in order to remain competitive in financial services and other international industries.
He said he was “dismayed” at the Bahamas’ fall to 106th in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ rankings, and told guests at the annual financial services conclave that the country “dramatically” needed to eliminate bureaucracy and corruption.
Mr. Christie said a Competitiveness Council will be established to boost government efficiency and service delivery.
“There is no ‘silver bullet’ as we examine our value proposition in financial services and re-define our brand,” he said. “The journey will involve comprehensive reform of broken systems that no longer serve our needs.
“The journey will be difficult but nonetheless achievable. But in making this journey and in carrying out this re-building, we need to candidly acknowledge our challenges and systematically address them in a sustained and sensible manner.”
The Prime Minister said he has tasked the Economic Development and Planning Unit in his office to assess how the Bahamas could become more competitive, unveiling his proposed Competitiveness Council.
“Our approach will facilitate the identification of breakdowns in the system, and ensure the speedy resolution of challenges so that we can get on with the business of making the Bahamas more resilient, more business friendly, and a location-of-choice to live, work and operate a business in,” Mr. Christie pledged.
“Like everyone here, I remain dismayed at our continuous slip each year in the ‘Doing Business’ rankings put out by the World Bank. At 106th place, we rank below many of our regional counterparts and some of the poorest countries in the world. This is unacceptable. It can be improved and it will be improved.”
Mr. Christie continued: “This ranking suggests that if we are to remain a serious contender in financial services, then we must provide better, more efficient government services.
“We need to dramatically reduce red-tape while facilitating an efficient, stress-free, corruption-free environment for business development. We cannot be part of a race to the bottom. Instead, our goal must be to attain a ranking comparable to – nay, superior to – our international rivals.
“We must root out the inefficiencies, the bottlenecks and communication failures. We must develop a zero tolerance for sub-standard performance. In sum, we must strive to become ‘best in class’ as a government services- provider,” he added.
“We need to set a standard not only for the bureaucracy but for the country as a whole. Both public and private sectors need to move in tandem towards these goals
“This is hard work. It will cause some pain, but it is a goal that we can achieve with commitment and perseverance. It is a goal that is well supported by both the average Bahamian and the business person alike.”
Mr. Christie acknowledged the Bahamas’ traditional strengths of a stable political system, its sovereignty, and long-standing tradition and knowledge/labour base in financial services.
Noting the importance of good governance to the financial services industry’s growth the Prime Minister also agreed to the need for ‘best-in-class’ regulators so that the Bahamas maintained its reputation as a well-supervised jurisdiction.