New agency aimed at stimulating investment

KINGSTON, Jamaica: A Bill to establish the Jamaica International Financial Services Authority, for the promotion and development of Jamaica as a Centre for International Financial Services, was passed in the Senate on March 4.

Minister of Justice and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the Bill, said the Authority will market and promote Jamaica as a central point for international services.

“In the exercise of this function, it is expected that the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce will provide guidance and direction to the Authority to ensure that its marketing efforts and strategies are consistent with that ministry’s initiatives to promote the island and stimulate investment,” said Senator Lightbourne.

She added that the Authority is expected to zealously guard and protect Jamaica’s reputation in the international financial marketplace, ensuring that at all times the nation is seen as compliant with required international standards and that it is not perceived as a tax haven or a facilitator of funds derived from illegal activities.

The Authority is also expected to establish and maintain international linkages, aimed at positioning Jamaica’s international financial services sector on the global landscape.

“The education of the public is also critical to this Authority,” said Lightbourne. “Unless all sectors of the local economy, as well as the general public, are kept abreast of this initiative and are encouraged to play their part, it will not achieve the success that it is expected to achieve.”

In his remarks, Opposition Senator Mark Golding said he was not pleased with the Bill in its current state, arguing that the statutory body which the Bill will establish is little more than a promotional agency.

Senator Golding suggested that Jamaica would need a raft of modern, business-friendly legislation to create an enabling legal framework, inclusive of an International Business Companies Act, International Mutual Fund legislation and legislation to facilitate offshore trusts and offshore banking.

He further noted that there is need for a tax framework that will encourage international investors to use Jamaica as their preferred jurisdiction for offshore transactions.

In response, Lightbourne said legislation was currently being drafted for the framework Golding mentioned.

“I am advised that approximately eight Bills are now being drafted and a draftsperson has been specially retained, so that it is being fast tracked,” she said.

The Bill was passed in the Houses of Representatives on February 1, 2011. (JIS)

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