#Nassau, September 17, 2018 – Bahamas – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest said small islands like The Bahamas have to grapple with the imposition of external standards set by the world’s large countries when it comes to the financial sector.
“This sometimes happens without due regard for national sovereignty or the spirit of international cooperation that should exist. This is a challenge we must acknowledge and address,” DPM Turnquest said at the two-day AML/CFT Anti-Money Laundering: Countering the Financing of Terrorism 2018 Risk Management Conference at Baha Mar, September 17, 2018.
He also said small countries must participate in proactive international engagement.
“We cannot be satisfied to only anticipate or adapt to changes. Importantly, we must mobilize with our regional counterparts, and engage at the highest levels to shape the nature and direction of change in the industry. We must take a seat at the table when it comes to shaping international standard.”
The DPM explained that much of this work is done at the inter-governmental level and requires strong leadership.
“In May of this year, the government formulated a comprehensive strategic plan to secure the viability of the industry. Under the 10 broad categories, covered in the strategic plan, we identified strengthening international collaboration as an important strategic priority. We also specified the need for the Ministry of Finance to strengthen its intellectual capital with specialized skills to enhance our presence and representation in the international arena.”
He said small jurisdictions like The Bahamas are committed to international standards not just because it is in their economic interest to comply, and not just because larger international partners can deploy their influence to exert pressure over the entire industry. He said, “In the case of the United States and Europe, they have required every country and every bank in the world to support their tax collection efforts.”
DPM Turnquest explained that the incentive provided for this work, with aggregate compliance costs amounting to many billions of dollars, is the risk of being shut out of access to US dollar clearing and the international financial markets.
He said this threat is not a survivable for a country such as The Bahamas, which imports more than 80 per cent of its food and nearly 100 per cent of its energy, and therefore needs greater access to such clearing mechanism than less open economies.
“We know our size and interdependence makes us more vulnerable to the threat of harmful economic sanctions; however, we are committed to a strong AML/CFT regime more fundamentally because we share a common set of values and desired outcomes with our bilateral and multilateral partners.”
The DPM said despite the country’s historical reputation, The Bahamas makes no home for individuals or entities seeking to launder proceeds through criminality, or those who might expose our society to the risk of terrorism.
“This is an international code of practice, but in a domestic context, we place our own value on an environment that has integrity, that is competitive, robust, well-regulated and safe.”
He said the spirit of cooperation based on shared values and outcomes, and respect for the sovereignty of nations must underpin the system of international codes of conduct. History and experience demonstrate that there is need for more proactive engagement at the international level to ensure this is the case. The DPM said therefore, the government is actively enhancing its capacity and performance in this area.
By Llonella Gilbert