Senator the Hon. Katherine Forbes-Smith, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister is pictured along with President of the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel (FDCC) Mr. Wayne B. Mason (left) and FDCC Convention Chairman Mr. Timothy Pratt, following the opening of the FDCC Convention at the Our Lucaya Resort on Thursday morning (February 28, 2008). Senator Smith welcomed the more than 600 participants to Grand Bahama. (Photo by Vandyke Hepburn)
By Simon Lewis
FREEPORT, The Bahamas – Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of The Prime Minister Senator Katherine Forbes-Smith officially welcomed some 600 members of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel to Grand Bahama Thursday (February 28, 2008), giving them some “compelling” reasons to consider Grand Bahama as part of their future plans.
Senator Forbes-Smith told the FDCC members that their meeting in The Bahamas comes at a most opportune time as it coincides with a period of positive transition and growth for the country’s international business services industry.
“As you may be aware, in addition to enjoying a premier position in global hospitality, The Bahamas has also distinguished itself as a pioneer in the provision of international financial and corporate service.
“In this latter sphere of our economic activity, although our traditional strengths have been in private wealth management, products and services, we have begun to broaden our focus in recent years to grow both our collective investment funds offering as well as participate more fully in the global captive insurance market,” she said.
Also, Senator Forbes-Smith stated that The Bahamas’ success in financial services has been and remains driven by its natural attributes: a strong institutional framework and a determination to compete on the international stage.
“The country’s commitment to political and fiscal stability, its independent judiciary and no direct tax environment proved a compelling springboard for new residents to base their essential wealth management requirements in The Bahamas as well as make it the domicile of choice for inter-group companies, reflecting the increased internationalization of business,” she said.
With its headquarters in Tampa, Florida, the FDCC is an international body with the majority of the membership being based in North America. The Federation was founded in 1936, originally as the Federation of Insurance Counsel.
To reflect the broadening of their membership to include corporate and claims professionals, the organisation changed its name to the Federation of Defense & Corporate Counsel.
The guiding principles of the FDCC are summarized in three words underlying its logo: Knowledge, Justice and Fellowship. Its objectives and purposes are to assist in establishing standards for providing competent, efficient and economical legal services; to encourage and provide for continuing legal education of the members; and to use the knowledge and experience of its membership for the promotion of public good.
The members and the family began arriving on Grand Bahama on Sunday past and are staying at the Our Lucaya Resort. The actual meetings began on Thursday and will wrap up on Saturday evening with a formal dinner dance.
This marks the first time that the organization is meeting in The Bahamas and Senator Smith encouraged the group to take advantage of sun, sand and sea and experience the way of life and culture of the Bahamian people.
Senator Forbes-Smith pointed out that the Ministry of Tourism is developing a wide range of experiences within the native areas, referred to as community tourism, to include some of the activities listed in their program.
Senator Smith also gave the gathering a brief history on the city of Freeport, a 230-square-mile area that was established as a free trade zone some 53 years ago.
She noted that Freeport is one of the main commercial hub for The Bahamas, accommodating not only a growing international services industry, but also has a successful maritime center.
Among the areas brought to the guest attention was the Freeport Container Port, a transshipment terminal capable of moving over 1.5 million containers annually and which, at the completion of Phase Five of its expansion, will double the current movement of containers.
She also mentioned the Freeport Harbour Company, which can accommodate the largest ships in the world; Bradford Marine, a yacht repair facility and the Grand Bahama Shipyard, which is home to the largest floating dry dock on the Eastern Seaboard and in this region.
The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that while Freeport has a unique situation in terms of the role of the Grand Bahama Port Authority as managers of the city, that no other island in The Bahamas has that arrangement, and that it is unlikely that such as arrangement would ever be duplicated in The Bahamas again.
Senator Forbes-Smith informed the gathering on the structure of Government in The Bahamas which is based on the Westminster model.
She also told the gathering that many major accounting and legal services are available in Grand Bahama. She touched briefly on The Bahamas Bar Association, which has more than 940 members and is a self-governing body.
Since the early 1930s, she added, The Bahamas has developed a thriving private banking, estate planning, asset management, fund administration and corporate services business, built on a regulatory framework that adheres to international standards, risk based regulations and a commitment to ongoing dialogue with the private sector.
“The future remains positive as The Bahamas represent an attractive location where the fundamentals are in tact and institutions and individuals are encouraged to establish not only their domicile, but to develop thriving businesses staffed with highly competent professional.
“To meet the expectations and demand of the new global services environment, we are currently engaged in two major modernization exercises in both the insurance and securities sectors that will place The Bahamas amongst the most progressive jurisdictions in the provision of these services,” she stated.
According to Senator Smith, complimentary to the exercise to enhance the country’s securities and insurance industries is the initiative underway as a joint public/private sector effort to consolidate the regulatory framework for financial service.
“This integration will result in the establishment of a single integrated regulator similar to the Financial Services Authority of the UK, and is set to take place in two phases,” she said.