Paula Cox, Bermuda's premier [Enlarge]

The World Chamber of Commerce honored the premier of Bermuda in Atlanta with its “International Hero Award” on Nov. 15 for her leadership in formulating financial policies of global significance in the face of the current recession.

As vice chair of the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation’s Global Forum, Premier Paula Cox is focused on transparency and exchange of information in financial transactions. The OECD, which is composed to the world’s wealthiest nations, serves as a forum to help set global policies affecting all nations.

The World Chamber was organized in 2008 to promote international business in the Southeast and across the world. Last year, it gave Alvaro Uribe, the former president of Colombia, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, its international hero awards.

Mrs. Cox has had an exceptional political career ever since she was elected to the island’s parliament in 1996, eventually becoming the head of the Progressive Labour Party and premier in October 2010.

She has held numerous cabinet posts including minister of Education and Development as well as minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety.

She also has served as attorney general and as head of the Finance Ministry succeeding her late father, C. Eugene Cox. She is a member of the Bermuda bar and serves as president of the Bermuda branch of the International Women’s Forum, which she established in Bermuda in 2011.

In responses to questions sent to her from Global Atlanta by email, she addresses a wide range of issues including the state of the world’s economy, Bermuda’s role as a magnet for insurance companies, its efforts to increase foreign direct investment and its tourism initiatives.

Global Atlanta: Please describe the factors responsible for the success of Bermuda's economy over the years and how they have been affected by the global recession?

Premier Cox: Once almost entirely dependent on tourism for foreign exchange earnings, Bermuda has developed its position as an international business center since World War II.  International business and tourism are the two sectors that make the greatest contributions to GDP and generate high levels of foreign exchange earnings.

Bermuda is regarded as a leading financial service center due to: a long-established and highly developed commercial and social infrastructure; the proximity to the United States and ease of access to Europe; recognized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international bodies as having transparency and standards consistent with those of other major developed countries;

coherent, transparent, and predictable application of the financial services policy towards the financial services sector; shaping of international relations in the financial sphere, including bilateral relations with G7, G20 and markets that are of significant economic importance to Bermuda; well-established reputation as a domicile of choice for insurance and reinsurance; the Bermuda Stock Exchange is the world’s largest offshore, fully electronic securities market; well-educated labor force; the absence of direct taxation and exchange controls; and a stable regulatory framework.

Bermuda also has a long-established and transparent legal system as well as an extensive, well-qualified support system of auditors, attorneys and investment professionals.  Equally important are Bermuda’s stable economic and political history.

The (re)insurance sector, as the key driver of the current account surplus, has remained well-capitalized in spite of a near record-level of catastrophe losses in 2011, and fundamentals appear to be still strong.

Tourism is also a vital and integral component of the Bermuda economy.

Being a small open economy, the lack of economic diversity exposes the Bermuda economy to significant risk of instability should either sector seriously decline. As is the case globally, the recent global economic and financial crisis has negatively affected the international business and tourism sectors in Bermuda, and Bermuda is still recovering from the impact of the recession. However we continue to leverage our strengths to attract interested investors while maintaining our current industry base. In other words, Bermuda continues to be open for and open to business.

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