Workshop Focuses Attention on Bahamas’ Role in Financial Services Arbitration

Authored by: Eric Rose
Source: Bahamas Information Services
Date: April 4, 2016


Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance the Hon. Michael Halkitis addresses the opening of the Abritral Practice Training Workshops of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), hosted by the Ministry of Financial Services, March 30 and 31, 2016 at the British Colonial Hilton.

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance the Hon. Michael Halkitis said recently that the choice of The Bahamas as the venue for the CARICOM 101 Arbitral Practice Training Workshop focuses attention on the role of The Bahamas in financial services in the region and it will also give focus and attention to our efforts to make The Bahamas a centre for the settlement of arbitration disputes.


“Many of you would be aware the Government of the Bahamas is currently in the process of taking significant strides in positioning this nation towards becoming a leading international arbitration centre in the Americas,” Minister Halkitis said to attendees, during the Official Opening Ceremony for the workshop, facilitated by the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).


“From a regional perspective, the Caribbean is considered very conducive for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as it offers a number of opportunities to those with capital, technology, management and market skills,” Minister Halkitis added.  “Economic Growth and profit are the main factors that spark the interest for FDI.”


Minister Halkitis pointed out that it follows, naturally, that Investment Arbitration is needed for the protection of FDI in order to ensure investor’s rights are safeguarded and their obligations enforced.


“Experience shows that the confidence of investors increases where the host state provides recourse to impartial tribunals,” he said.


“Further, by creating an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction to investment arbitration, countries facilitate the flow of investments required for economic development and the reduction of poverty,” Minister Halkitis added.  “The Bahamas, perhaps by the very nature of its economy as a centre where there is a strong financial services and investment focus, has always been a place where varying complex litigation matters have come before our Courts. This is probably true for many of the representatives here, this morning, who have come from other jurisdictions.”


Minister Halkitis stated that it was an honour for The Bahamas to have been included in the celebratory activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the ICSID Convention), which established the Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.


“ICSID’s record over the past 50 years shows an admirable foresight by the Founders,” Minister Halkitis said.  “The Bahamas became a signatory to the ICSID Convention on November 18, 1995 and, today, The Bahamas has four appointees to the ICSID Panel of Arbitrators and Conciliators.”


Minister Halkitis pointed out that, over the years, we in The Bahamas have had the experience of litigation that have been drawn out over many years at great expense to all parties involved and which have had the effect of dampening investment and business prospects.


“There are really no winners in litigation of this nature. It is this experience that has convinced me, as I am sure that it has convinced you, that there must be an alternative way to dispute settlements, and that way is through arbitration,” Minister Halkitis said.  “I am, therefore, happy to see the emergence of an alternative window for such matters and that alternative window is through arbitration and conciliation, which would be binding on all parties involved.”


“I feel that I can speak safely in saying that what is true in this jurisdiction is also true for our fellow Caribbean jurisdictions.”


Minister Halkitis stated that, this being said, any delays in resolving such issues can result in high costs to the parties involved and this protracted process has direct impact on the attractiveness of our various jurisdictions to potential investors.


“The investor and those who deal in complex financial transactions would wish to have the assurance when they operate in our respective countries that there can be swift, fair and transparent dispute resolution,” Minister Halkitis said,  “We cannot promote our respective jurisdictions as attractive places to do business if we cannot guarantee equitable resolutions when disputes arise. The need for arbitration, therefore, follows naturally from this and we need to strengthen this feature of legal processes as a viable option.”


Minister Halkitis said that, due to the stable political and economic landscape of The Bahamas, FDI, in The Bahamas’ circumstances, centres primarily around the tourism and hotel sectors, but, increasingly, there are other areas of FDI which come into play.


“Firstly, our sovereignty makes us nimble,” he said.  “We can adjust our legislation and policies to take advantage of the changing circumstances.”


Minister Halkitis added that The Bahamas is also endowed with a prime and accessible location.


“We provide an opportunity to be near the United States, without being in the United States,” he said.  “We provide excellent infrastructure and a way of life that can make anyone feel comfortable.”


Minister Halkitis added that The Bahamas’ infrastructure ensures that international and Bahamian investors alike have the necessary facilities to conduct business smoothly and efficiently.


“But we can and will have an additional selling point, one of great persuasion to the prospective investor, if we can also say that in bringing your investment to The Bahamas or elsewhere in the Caricom Region you will have the added guarantee of knowing that we have the laws and the practice of settling Investment Disputes within our shores,” Minister Halkitis said.