Statutory body proposed for offshore centre - Wehby sees markets in sport, entertainment
Published: Friday | February 13, 2009
Senator Don Wehby, the minister responsible for getting Jamaica's offshore centre up and running. - File
Jamaica is to create a statutory body for its International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) or offshore business, but while the executive branch has approved the plan, it still has to get the imprimatur of the legislature.
A board will be announced shortly and a special consultant appointed to fast-track the necessary legislation, said Don Wehby, minister without portfolio in the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's pointman on the establishment of the offshore centre.
He made the announcement Monday at a forum in London .
Wehby has already been handed a report on what it will take to bring the IFSC to life, from a task force he created in 2008, but the details of that report have not been disclosed.
He has since decided to hire a 'chief implementation officer' whose job it would be to breathe life into the plans. Wehby told the Financial Gleaner last November that the IFSC secretariat had got several applications from within Jamaica and overseas and that the applications would be shortlisted by November with a recommendation to be made thereafter of who would get the job.
"As at October 15, the IFSC secretariat was in receipt of several applications from both local and international applicants, including interested persons from Canada and The Cayman Islands," Wehby said at the time.
"However, an insufficient number of applicants were found to have the necessary skills set needed for the post," Wehby explained.
The advertisement for the post of CIO had stipulated that applicants should have a minimum of five to 10 years' experience working with offshore financial services sector, experience in the field of international marketing and postgraduate studies in business administration, finance, economics or marketing.
Further, that the CIO's job will be four-fold: coordinate and supervise the processes involved in the start up of the IFSC; direct the design, implementation and monitoring of the IFSC strategic plan and programmes; develop and monitor strategic goals for the IFSC; and the selection of staff for the IFSC organisation.
The post was later re-advertised "including placement in industry publications and other offshore locations," said Wehby.
The applicants were subsequently shortlisted to four, including two Jamaicans.
Two months later, the candidate for the job has still not been named, amid questions whether it is in Jamaica's interest to continue pushing for a low tax financial services industry.
"The question is being asked if this is the right time to set up an international financial centre. I think this is the best time, because what it gives us is the time to put in the framework and the legislation in a proper way," said Wehby, speaking with government news agency JIS at the London forum.
"And what I have said to my colleagues back home is that we only have one chance to get this thing right the first time. Because the market is now down, we can spend a lot of time doing the background work and getting it right, in terms of the legislation and the marketing. I think it is the right time."
Jamaica should enter the market as a mid-value competitor, he said, with a specific niche that could include sports and entertainment.
"In terms of the structure, we have spent a lot of time on this. We have engaged top professionals to look at Jamaica, to see if there is a competitive marketing edge that we might have because we are late in the market. They came back to us and said, yes Jamaica can in fact enter the market with a competitive advantage, if we enter as a mid-value competitor with a specific niche and among those they identified were sports and entertainment," said the senator.
"The idea is, therefore, to attract sportsmen and women from all over the world to have their offshore planning done in Jamaica."