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FS Minister bullish on arbitration

Speaking at an industry seminar yesterday, Financial Services Minister Hope Strachan (pictured) said that the government was committed to making The Bahamas an international centre for arbitration. Read her remarks here. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Here follows remarks by Minister of Financial Services Hope Strachan at a industry practitioners’ meeting held in the British Colonial Hotel October 13:

I would to like to acknowledge Dame Joan Sawyer, Chairman; President of The Bahamas Bar Association; H.E. Richard Demeritte, Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; Mr. Edison Sumner and his Executive Members of The Bahamas Chambers of Commerce, The Bahamas Branch; Professor Jan Paulsson and Attorney Clyde Lea; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen and in particular our colleagues who have travelled from Freeport to attend today’s lecture and our law students of Eugene Dupuch Law School. On behalf of the Ministry of Financial Services and by extension the Government of The Bahamas, I would like to extend my profound appreciation to both Professor Jan Paulsson and Attorney Clyde Lea for graciously sharing your knowledge and expertise with us today.

When speaking to my fellow members of The Bahamas Bar Association and other professionals about The Bahamas becoming a state of the art international arbitration centre, I am always encountered with the question “How will it benefit my practice?” Today, Professor Paulsson, Consultant at the Ministry of Financial Services, will address this question as it relates to the development of international arbitration in The Bahamas. He will be followed by Attorney Clyde Lea who will provide a debriefing on the market research survey questionnaire for potential end users of The Bahamas International Arbitration Centre. The findings of the said questionnaire will be used to formulate a roadmap for the development of The Bahamas International Arbitration Centre.

In addition to understanding the benefits of international arbitration which will be discussed by Professor Paulsson, there is no doubt that professionals in The Bahamas have a keen interest to expand their knowledge of the technical and practical issues arising in international arbitration.

For this reason, the Ministry of Financial Services is committed to ensuring that a strategic and comprehensive capacity building programme is firmly entrenched in the National Development Plan for The Bahamas International Arbitration Centre. With this in view, the Ministry is extremely fortunate to have the expertise of Professor Paulsson, pre-eminent scholar and world renowned international arbitrator, to provide guidance in areas such as sustainable in-country training for professionals, necessary to develop the arbitral landscape of The Bahamas.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Financial Services Consultants Professor Paulsson and Bertha Cooper-Rousseau, along with Dame Joan Sawyer and Atty. Clyde Lea met with Cabinet to provide a debriefing on the strategic development of international arbitration in The Bahamas. During the Professor’s presentation to Cabinet, he highlighted the need for The Bahamas to enact the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law – UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. This will enable The Bahamas to harmonize its international commercial arbitration regime with other countries and different legal and economic systems.

In keeping with its efforts to provide comprehensive and cutting edge training on international arbitration to professionals in The Bahamas, the Ministry of Financial Services has invited the Principal Legal Officer of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law to conduct a lecture and technical workshop on the impact of the Model Law and the development of The Bahamas International Arbitration Centre. This will be held on 13th & 14th November.

Another milestone regarding the development of international arbitration in The Bahamas took effect on 1st October, 2015 when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Hon. Frederick Mitchell, along with Mrs. Bertha Cooper-Rousseau met with H.E. Hugo Sibliesz, Secretary General of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, to discuss The Bahamas becoming a State Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. I am pleased to advise that we are in the advanced stages of satisfying the necessary procedural steps for The Bahamas to become a Member State of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. We are also undertaking steps for The Bahamas to become a host country for Permanent Court of Arbitration administered hearings based in the region, as seen in Mauritius. This would be an honour for The Bahamas and would significantly boost its profile within the international arbitral community.

Also, always with training in mind, at the meeting earlier this month, the Secretary General expressed a keen interest in joining other international arbitration institutions in facilitating training programs for young professionals during The Bahamas Arbitration Week starting on 28th March, 2016.

As I close, I would like to reiterate that the Ministry of Financial Services is determined to make considerable efforts to enhance a conducive environment for financial services and investment. However, in order for The Bahamas’ financial centre to grow and sustain a reputable position in an intensely competitive environment, effective steps must be taken to embrace the liberalization of the legal profession in The Bahamas. Such liberalization is a journey and not an overnight process. We must look towards the future whereby The Bahamas will become a jurisdiction that will provide legal and arbitration services to the region. We have a phenomenal amount of opportunities at our doorstep and we will do well to embrace each and every one before they are seized by other jurisdictions in the region.

As I close, I leave with you an African proverb written by an unknown author – “Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.” It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. We must run ahead with making The Bahamas an internationally recognized and respected hub for international arbitration – and – fast.

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