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The passage through the House of Assembly on Tuesday of the Private Trust Companies Bill is a clear signal we intend to be taken seriously as an international financial centre, and will do our best to respond to initiatives that permit it to remain a viable competitor in all kinds of legitimate business. It is just as well that the bill was promoted and debated at this time, because the celebration of International Business Week all this week, with the timing of the debate, will ensure wider publicity. The importance of international finance has long been recognized, and most Barbadians have come to accept that, like tourism, the offshore sector is also our business. It is a business that earns its keep, so to speak, in foreign exchange, which we receive as taxes and payments for other services. Equally important are the jobs provided by the sector; for employment of our highly skilled workforce is a key component of nation building, if we are not to suffer from a brain drain that becomes the norm when educated younger people find it difficult and often impossible to secure employment at home. Yet, if we are to secure the maximum benefits from this sector, we must be focused and proactive. Once a clear decision has been made on our niche in the market, we have to keep our eyes on the prize and seek to anticipate the market, or be so vigilant, that we are able quickly to meet the need for new products. We proffer that it is the demand for new products that has driven the necessity to bring the Private Trust Companies Bill to Parliament. High net worth individuals may find it useful to form and manage private trust corporations for a variety of perfectly legal tax purposes; and there is every good point in meeting this need as one more vehicle in the armoury of international wealth managers. This initiative therefore should receive popular bipartisan approval, and we urge all citizens to support the policy and thinking behind this bill, since it complements the effort to accommodate those segments of the market that are not particularly catered for at present. Offshore banks, international business companies and captive insurance companies speak in the main to the corporate market, whereas the private trust company legislation focuses more on the individual or family concern. During the debate, former Attorney General Dale Marshall raised an issue concerning the short time frame of seven days given by the Financial Services Commission for the Barbados International Business Association to respond to important regulatory proposals relevant to its operations. We note that Attorney General Adriel Brthwaite conceded the time frame was indeed “unrealistic”. They couldn’t be more right. Small foxes spoil the vine and these regulatory issues are sensitive and ought to be dealt with in a manner that ensures effective oversight without eroding the flexibility of the industry. Hence the need for a time frame that allows for careful response. We urge all Barbadians to recognize the importance of international finance as one of our major “invisible exports” – for that is precisely what it is!