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Bahamas Minister Describes Government's E-Commerce Plans

by Mike Godfrey,, New York

21 November 2002

Bahamian Minister of Financial Services and Investments, Allyson Maynard Gibson, spoke last night at the PLP's first convention since it was swept back to power last May, ousting the previous administration which had overseen the Bahamas' response to FATF and OECD attacks, installing comprehensive new financial services legislation seen by many as too bureaucratic and intrusive.

Promising to be more responsive to the wishes of the financial services community, Ms Gibson has implemented a strategic 5-year plan aiming to raise the international profile of the jurisdiction and to expand and diversify the economy. Last night the Minister described some of the initiatives that are already taking place, focusing on e-commerce and e-government.

'In the next few weeks,' said Ms Gibsonn, 'we shall be presenting to Parliament legislation to enable e-commerce and e-government to flourish in The Bahamas. A big part of this is the plan to fully computerize the Companies Registry by the end of the year so that company names may be reserved and companies formed, annual returns filed and payments made for anywhere in the world. We expect the entire Registry to be fully computerized over the next 24 months.'

The Minister explained the concept of the e-world:

'The e world means that in Grand Bahama a shipment can be tracked from the point of departure through storage and transshipment in Freeport to delivery at its final destination. At the Freeport Container Port by the end of the year about $243 Million will have been invested in this project which will employ about 500 Bahamians and only 2 expatriates.

'The e world means that in Crooked Island at Pitts Town Landing, a $35 Million investment, people who purchase second homes can in the privacy of their home in London or Abaco or anywhere else, view a potential lot and home that they wish to purchase. They can see the interior of each room, the finishes in each room, the view from each room, the cost of the lot and home with the options that they have chosen, the financing for those options. So from the privacy of your home you can decide whether you want to buy a lot with that view and the type of exterior and interior that you want in your home. Then you can review the purchase contract to see if you're happy with it. This is the e world revamping real estate sales, architecture, interior design, and legal services and financing all in a few strokes at a computer.

'Financial services and e business require efficient, reliable and affordable communications. We must ensure that Cable Bahamas delivers cable service to every Family Island, as promised. We must also ensure that Batelco delivers efficient, affordable and reliable services. We will not tolerate business as usual. Cell phones must work all over every Island. Visitors should be able to use their cell phones in The Bahamas. When Mrs. Jones or anyone else rings from one end of the Island to the other at nighttime, she should not get any busy circuit. When Mr. Smith uses his cell phone in Andros, or Acklins, or Abaco he should get clear reception.'

The Minister also said that new legislation for the insurance sector was imminent, and promised improvements to banking legislation to make the industry more customer-friendly.

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