By NEIL HARTNELL
Editor-in-chief of the Tribune
The Bahamas will likely have to “fight” the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to maintain its leadership in digital assets, the opposition leader warned yesterday.
Michael Pintard, MP for Marco City and a former cabinet minister in the Minnis administration, told the House of Assembly that Europe’s high-tax states and their parliaments would like nothing better than to ‘suppress’ the ambitions of Bahamas to establish itself as a fintech (financial technology) hub for cryptocurrencies, blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Speaking as the House debated reforms to the Digital Assets and Registered Exchanges Act, which will expand the Securities Commission’s enforcement and sanctioning powers to cover unlicensed and unregistered traders, he said added that the Free National Movement (FNM) was “ready to stand with the government”. in this fight” and support any necessary response.
Warning that the Bahamas will face attacks similar to those that undermined the competitiveness of its traditional financial services sector, Mr Pintard said: “The problem that we are likely to encounter, in Europe, parliaments are quite worried about this what we are doing here.”
While the European Commission has so far expressed no concerns over the Bahamas’ digital asset drive, the opposition leader said politicians there are likely to see the country’s developing industry as a safe haven. potential for operators who “do not want to follow the law”. .
“There are those in Europe who are looking at our jurisdiction and ways to suppress what the Bahamas is doing right now,” he said. “Our jurisdiction has unfortunately been treated unfairly by the OECD and some European parliaments, and some of the things we have faced in financial services are likely to be encountered in digital assets.
“We have to fight this same fight with digital assets because parliaments look out for their interests, not our interests. We are ready to stand with the government in this fight. When we pursue innovative things that position us as leaders in the global community, we don’t allow them to close all the opportunities where we can succeed.
Kwasi Thompson, former minister of state for finance, said the Bahamas needs to focus on developing the workforce needed for a digital asset industry. “We need 10,000 [software] developers, we need 10,000 coders if we really want to make an impact in this industry,” he added.
The government’s ‘white paper’, titled The Future of Digital Assets in the Bahamas, seeks to balance signaling to crypto, blockchain and non-fungible token (NFT) providers that this nation is ‘open for business’ with regulation necessary risk-based approach to protect the reputation of the country and the interests of investors/consumers.
Indicating the Bahamas’ eagerness to attract blue chip traders of the same caliber as FTX Digital Markets, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, who wish to operate in a compliant environment, the document lists several broad objectives and policy goals that the government wishes to achieve in building a sustainable digital asset industry.
Pledging to work with the Central Bank and the private sector to enable Bahamians to invest in digital assets using Bahamian dollars, and thereby overcome a key complaint from many locals, the ‘white paper’ also pledged to create this year a digital policy committee and a digital council. Panel tasked with advising the government on how best to facilitate the growth of the sector through legislative and policy initiatives.
The committee will be headed by the prime minister, tasked with overseeing the delivery of the government’s digital policy objectives, while the group will include industry and regulatory executives operating in a capacity that will see them advising the former.
And, perhaps critically, the “white paper” also aimed to enable Bahamian entrepreneurs and workers to harness the opportunities of digital assets by providing them with the necessary skills upgrades. It calls for a partnership between the University of the Bahamas (UoB), the Securities Commission and the private sector to develop courses, certifications and degrees related to crypto assets.
To help fund this, the government says it is considering whether to impose a “development and training” tax – sum and mechanism unspecified – on “the largest digital asset companies” to ensure that Bahamas can provide the skilled and well-trained workforce that can help attract other home-based operators to this country.