PM Christie: Accountants on the ‘Frontline’ of Business Entities

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said that accountants are on the “front line” of The Bahamas’ business and commercial entities, as they are an integral part of the inner workings of the country’s firms and government enterprises.

“In your professional capacity, you assist our firms to diagnose their challenges and, if we are wise as owners and managers, we listen to your advice on the ways to mend our businesses to become more successful or to make the requisite improvements,” Prime Minister Christie told accountants at the Opening Ceremony for The Bahamas’ Accountants’ Week, at Melia Nassau Beach Hotel, November 14, 2016.

“You see the best of our firms during times of financial success and the worst of our firms in their biggest challenges as you help them unwind and dismantle when they are no longer a going concern,” he added.  “The accountant then, like a doctor, is usually present at birth and at death and throughout the lifecycle of our businesses.”

Prime Minister Christie pointed out that, in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the history of the accounting profession is a relatively new and remarkable one despite not always being heralded in the manner that was befitting such an important sector of the professional world.

In its infancy, he added, the local profession was led by many well-known expatriate personalities who made positive contributions to the nation; but in the mid-1960s as young, educated Bahamians saw opportunities to advance, so came the advent of the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) in 1971 — with founding fathers that included the likes of Basil Sands, T. Maitland Cates and G. Clifford Culmer.

“There is no doubt that the birth of BICA in 1971 and the birth of an Independent Bahamas in 1973 was fate in the making,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“You have since grown from strength to strength, now boasting over 500 members and virtually 100% ownership of the firms practicing accounting in The Bahamas – the true meaning of a Bahamas for Bahamians is evident in your history.”

Prime Minister Christie said that, likewise, The Bahamas continues to grow “from strength to strength”, and the paths of BICA and the wider Bahamas are to become even more entwined, as the nation moves “forward, upward, onward, together”.

“Therefore, I take this opportunity to congratulate the Institute on its celebration of 45 years of existence and self-regulation, with a complementary theme of ‘Capitalising on Our Past and Building Opportunities for the Future’,” he said.

Prime Minister Christie went further to say that if the economy of The Bahamas is to be successful then, the country needs to encourage the growth of a healthy and vigorous accounting profession.

“We must ensure that those who are in the profession remain at the cutting edge of best international practice and well-trained and we must encourage the young bright minds of our country to continue to enter the profession,” he stated.

In this regard, Prime Minister Christie said, all present at that time should have been aware, that the nation celebrated the birth of the University of The Bahamas a week earlier – a “proud occasion” for The Bahamas.  He noted that a “key pillar” of the University’s academic strength is its Business School and Accounting programme.

“We encourage BICA to continue its work with that programme so as to ensure that the accounting students learn more than the book theory, but also achieve the opportunity to experience the practical side of accounting through internships and mentorship within the accounting profession,” Prime Minister said.  “We must show our young people the diversity of the accounting world and all of the tremendous advantages that this degree can bring them.”

Prime Minister Christie said that The Bahamas has long been a country known to “punch far above its weight class”, and the local accounting profession is no different.

“We bear witness to all of the major international networks of accounting firms being present in The Bahamas, however, led by Bahamian principals,” Prime Minister Christie said.  “These same firms assist in the development of our future leaders, through the promotion of academic excellence, and continuing professional development – the latter being evidenced this week.”

Additionally, he said that he was advised that as an Institute, BICA sponsors a scholarship programme at the now University of The Bahamas – a partnership that I trust will expand as BICA grows.

BICA, he noted, had arguably produced the largest number of private business executives in The Bahamas, along with leaders in various public entities, including the Office of the Auditor General and the Public Treasury, management in several of the leading local learning institutions and varied consultants.

“Therefore, the accounting profession remains a springboard profession and is very influential in the affairs of The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Christie said.

“The profession both internationally and domestically, is one that knows no borders, as it covers the private sector and the public sector, and is a gatekeeper for the widest population of stakeholders, including shareholders of companies, citizens with vested interests in the fiscal position and performance of the national accounts and fiscal affairs, and international observers of all that transpires in both the private and public sectors – the necessary but daunting rating agencies and international fundingmagencies, as well.”

This, therefore, necessitates strong collaboration between the Government of The Bahamas and the private sector BICA, a relationship that his Government is proud to not only maintain but also enhance, Prime Minister Christie pointed out.

“As examples of this one need look no further than BICA’s involvement in the recent implementation of Value Added Tax, compromises on the implementation of changes in the Business Licence Act, and the ongoing project to implement International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS),” Prime Minister Christie said.

“Further, my Government has and continues to welcome the input and counsel of BICA’s well respected personalities and members on topics ranging from economic development and governance to financial management of specific projects such as recent hurricane relief initiatives.”

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