The Bahamas: Selected Issues and Statistical Appendix

This Selected Issues paper for The Bahamas reports that the largest portion of tourism expenditure in The Bahamas comes from stayover visitors, and total tourism spending has been stagnant. The Bahamas is a small open economy highly dependent on tourism and the offshore financial sector. Private consumption expenditure in the country or countries of origin is the most important determinant of tourism in The Bahamas.

Abstract

This Selected Issues paper for The Bahamas reports that the largest portion of tourism expenditure in The Bahamas comes from stayover visitors, and total tourism spending has been stagnant. The Bahamas is a small open economy highly dependent on tourism and the offshore financial sector. Private consumption expenditure in the country or countries of origin is the most important determinant of tourism in The Bahamas.

IV. Recent Developments in Financial Sector Supervision in the Bahamas1

A. Bank Supervision

1. The Bank Supervision Department of the Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBB) is in charge of licensing, regulating and supervising the onshore and offshore Bahamian banking and trust industry. Its Supervision Unit is responsible for offsite and (since January 2001) onsite inspections, including a program to discontinue “shell” banks.2 As recommended in the report of the IMF’s Module 2 assessment in 2002, a Policy Unit was created in 2002 to develop supervisory policies consistent with international best practices. An update on implementation of the Module 2 assessment report’s main recommendations is given in the appendix that follows.

2. The program to discontinue between “shell banks” is close to completion. Following the adoption of a physical presence policy in 2001, which set a June 30, 2004 deadline for “shell” banks to either establish a physical presence or having their license revoked, the number of licensees in The Bahamas dropped from 410 at end-2000 to 262 at end-March 2005. The remaining small number of “shell” banks are being monitored closely, and most are expected to establish a physical presence in the near future.

3. Onsite inspections focus on higher risk-rated banks, and on “know-your-customer” AML/CFT requirements; corporate governance; and loan classification. A watch list of banks that could pose a threat to depositors or trust holders has been established, and discussions are held with these institutions on actions to address specific problems. Overall, the banking sector—domestic and offshore—is sound. In particular, quarterly reports from domestic banks on loan quality and provisions indicate prudent lending practices and adequate provisioning, which helped domestic banks cope well with the September 2004 hurricanes.

4. During 2004, the Bank Supervision Department took a number of actions to strengthen prudential regulations and provide guidance to banks and trust companies. These actions were based on the Basel Core Principles and the Fund’s Module 2 assessment. In particular, it issued various guidelines, including: guidelines for assessing capital adequacy, conditions for the central bank’s approval of outsourcing of data processing and accounting, and minimum standards for disclosure of financial information to the public in annual audited statements.

B. Other Supervisory Authorities

5. In addition to the CBB, four agencies perform a regulatory function with respect to the financial sector. These agencies include: Securities Commission of The Bahamas oversees the securities industry, including mutual funds; the Inspectorate of Financial and Corporate Service Providers (IFCS) oversees business service providers; 3 the Registrar of Insurance regulates the insurance industry; and the Compliance Commission ensures compliance with the AML obligations of enterprises that are not otherwise subject to prudential supervision. While the CBB, the Securities Commission, and the Compliance Commission report to the Minister of Finance, the IFCS and the Registrar of Insurance report to the Minister of Financial Services and Investments. As the portfolio of the latter ministry is primarily directed toward business development and external marketing and promotion, rather than regulation, the Module 2 assessment report recommended grouping all the regulatory functions directly under the Ministry of Finance.

6. The Module 2 report recommended a review of The Bahamas’ complex regulatory structure. A Financial Services Regulatory Reform Commission, chaired by the Minister of State for Finance, was subsequently appointed to develop a strategy for rationalizing the regulatory system. In addition, pending a reform toward a more unified supervision, a Group of Financial Services Regulators (GFSR), chaired by the central bank governor, is working to ensure greater harmonization of the existing system. In 2004 the GSFR met several times to discuss the supervision of financial conglomerates with activities falling under the competence of several or all regulatory agencies.

7. Legislation in The Bahamas constrains the transmission of information to foreign regulators. In particular, foreign regulators need the approval of the Attorney-General to obtain information in criminal cases or civil issues. However, information sharing has been facilitated through Memorandum of Understanding between the central bank and banking supervisors in Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala, and negotiations are underway with Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador. An arrangement for cross-border information sharing is also in place with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In addition, the GFSR, with support from the central bank, has worked to ensure that requests from foreign regulators are effectively dealt with, and the GFSR intends to issue guidelines by end-2005 on information sharing between The Bahamas and foreign regulators.

APPENDIX: Status of Implementation of Recommendations of the Module 2 Assessment Report 4

A. General

Recommendation 1. Consolidate the reporting lines for the regulatory authorities under the Ministry of Finance.

Status: In progress. The reconfiguration of ministerial portfolios to address the consolidation of reporting lines is part of the work of the Financial Services Regulatory Reform Commission, which began work in May 2005. This Commission will include a former minister of finance and all current regulators. The Commission’s objective is to propose a realignment of the regulatory framework that is consistent with international best practices.

Recommendation 2. Complete the comprehensive review of the regulatory framework to determine the most efficient structure for The Bahamas.

Status: In progress. The Financial Services Regulatory Reform Commission will propose a more appropriate regulatory system, with a view to avoiding duplication of effort and establishing a more unified supervision system.

Recommendation 3. Introduce statutory protection against civil and criminal liability for all staff of, and official appointees to, the regulatory authorities, while performing their duties in good faith.

Status: To be implemented. Statutory protections, where these do not currently exist, are expected to be provided when the legal framework is revised to give effect to the new regulatory regime.

B. Banking

Recommendation 1. Clarify the extent to which the branches and subsidiaries of foreign banks may pass information to their head office and parent bank for consolidated risk management and supervisory purposes.

Status: In progress. To help foreign regulators present their information requests within the framework of Bahamian legislation on information sharing, the GFSR intends to issue guidelines for information sharing arrangements in The Bahamas by end-2005. While in practice the Central Bank has allowed the passage of information to parent banks for the purpose of monitoring large exposures on a consolidated basis, it would be advisable that the guidelines on information sharing clarify the ability of branches and subsidiaries to transfer information to their head office.

Recommendation 2. Establish an adequately funded policy unit within the Bank Supervision Department (BSD), which will develop supervisory policies consistent with international best practices.

Status: Implemented in 2002.

C. Securities

Recommendation 1. Narrow the powers of the minister to dismiss members of the Securities Commission so that just cause is the grounds for dismissal.

Status: In progress. This would be included in the forthcoming revision of the Securities Act, for which the IMF is providing technical assistance.

Recommendation 2. Complete the work on the draft mutual funds law and on the amendments to the securities legislation for submission to parliament.

Status:

  • Mutual funds: Implemented. This was included in the Investment Act passed on December 15, 2003.

  • Securities legislation: In progress. The Securities Commission commented on MFD’s November 2004 preliminary technical assistance report and will start preparatory work on legislation following finalization of the report.

Recommendation 3. Establish a clear policy with respect to the confidentiality declaration required from overseas regulators. The aim is to permit efficient exchanges of information in line with the practice adopted by the CBB.

Status: Under finalization. This will be addressed in the forthcoming guidelines for information sharing arrangements in The Bahamas.

D. AML/CFT

Recommendation 1. Ratify all the relevant international conventions.

Status: Implemented. The 1999 UN Convention on Suppression of Terrorism Financing and UN Resolution 1373 have been implemented in The Bahamas by virtue of the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act 2004. The provisions of the Palermo Convention have been implemented into domestic law by virtue of provisions contained in the Penal Code, the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Dangerous Drugs Act and the Prevention of Bribery Act.

Recommendation 2. Enact legislation to criminalize, and make other provisions in relation to, the financing of terrorism.

Status: Implemented. The Anti-Terrorism Act was passed in December 2004.

Recommendation 3. Rationalize the legal framework with respect to money laundering. The objective is to reduce the number of highly prescriptive requirements and to permit financial institutions to develop a risk-based approach.

Status: Implemented. The December 2003 Financial Transactions Reporting Act introduced provisions allowing financial institutions to adopt a risk-based approach to know-your-customer requirements. For example, the Compliance Commission requires nontraditional financial institutions to categorize customers as either high- or low-risk.

Recommendation 4. Reduce the number of exceptions to the principle of requiring financial institutions to identify their customers.

Status: Under finalization. The CBB is in the process of finalizing guidelines on the prevention and detection of money laundering for licensees, consistent with international standards and the risk-based approach. The Compliance Commission has responsibility for AML supervision of the insurance sector and the financial and business service providers sectors under the Financial Transactions Reporting Act.5 It allows no exceptions, and its constituents are required to keep on file copies of verification information from any source upon which they have relied for verification purposes.

Recommendation 5. Extend the time permitted for financial institutions to undertake the process of customer identification on pre-2000 Bahamian dollar accounts, and consider introducing a risk-based approach to resolving the outstanding accounts.

Status: Implemented. This was covered by the risk-based approach incorporated in the December 2003 Financial Transactions Reporting Act.

Recommendation 6. Revise the provisions relating to the obligation to identify beneficial owners/beneficiaries of corporate entities, trusts, partnerships, etc., to ensure that the legal requirements present no exceptions.

Status: Implemented. In the interest of clarity the 2003 amendments to the Financial Transactions Reporting Regulations included a specific provision which mandates that beneficial owners must also be verified.

Recommendation 7. Review the list of countries and institutions that underpin the “eligible introducer” provisions to ensure that they do not weaken the customer identification requirements.6

Status: Implemented. This is an ongoing process. There is a list of jurisdictions in the Financial Transactions Reporting Act which are FATF member countries and those jurisdictions de-listed by the FATF in 2001. The authorities are confident that The Bahamas is in step with international best practice in this area.

STATISTICAL APPENDIX

Table 1.

The Bahamas: Geographic Distribution of Stayover Visitors1/

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Source: Ministry of Tourism.

The other main countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Table 2.

The Bahamas: Value of Construction Starts and Completions 1/

(In millions of Bahamian dollars)

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Source: Central Bank of The Bahamas.

The data refer to activity only in New Providence and Grand Bahama.

Table 3.

The Bahamas: Generation and Sale of Electricity

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Source: Central Bank of The Bahamas.
Table 4.

The Bahamas: Retail Price Index for New Providence

(October/November 1995=100)

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Source: Central Bank of The Bahamas.
Table 5.

The Bahamas: Summary Operations of the Nonfinancial Public Sector1/

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Sources: Ministry of Finance; public corporations; National Insurance Board; and Fund staff estimates.

Includes BTC, Bahamas Electricity, Water and Sewerage, Bahamasair, and Broadcasting Corporation.

Table 6.

The Bahamas: Summary Central Government Operations1/

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Sources: Ministry of Finance; and Fund staff estimates.

The year corresponds to the fiscal year ending June 30.

Table 7.

The Bahamas: Central Government Revenue1/

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Sources: Central Bank of The Bahamas; Ministry of Finance; and Fund staff estimates.

The year corresponds to the fiscal year ending June 30.

Table 8.

The Bahamas: Central Government Expenditure1/

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Sources: Ministry of Finance; and Fund staff estimates.

The year corresponds to the fiscal year ending June 30.

Table 9.

The Bahamas: Number of Employees in the Central Government

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Sources: Ministry of Finance; and Fund staff estimates.

Data before 2002 are not comparable due to differences in coverage, including in the Ministries of Education and Health.

Includes the judicial system.

Includes industrial schools.

Table 10.

The Bahamas: Operations of the National Insurance Board (NIB)

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Sources: National Insurance Board; and Fund staff estimates.
Table 11.

The Bahamas: National Insurance Board—Cash and Investments

(In millions of Bahamian dollars)

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Source: National Insurance Board.
Table 12.

The Bahamas: Operations of Nonfinancial Public Corporations 1/

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Sources: Ministry of Finance; public corporations; National Insurance Board; and Fund staff estimates.

BTC, Bahamas Electricity, Water and Sewerage, Bahamasair, and Broadcasting Corporation.

Difference between deficit measured above the line and debt financing.

Table 13.

The Bahamas: Operating Balances of Nonfinancial Public Corporations

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Sources: Ministry of Finance; public corporations; and Fund staff estimates.
Table 14.

The Bahamas: Summary Accounts of the Financial System

(In millions of Bahamian dollars; end of period)

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Sources: Central Bank of The Bahamas; and Fund staff estimates.

Includes Bahamas Development Bank, Bahamas Mortgage Corporation, and Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation.