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During my first week
as the United States' Secretary of State, I had the honor of meeting
with a group of courageous women from Burma. Two were former political
prisoners, and although they had all endured incredible hardship in
their lives, each of them was committed to moving forward - providing
education and training to girls, finding jobs for the unemployed and
advocating for greater participation in civil society. I have no doubt
that they will continue to be powerful agents of change, bringing
progress to their communities and their country in the years to come.
opportunities like this that remind us why it is so vital that the
United States continues to work with governments, organizations and
Nassau, Bahamas -
keeping with the U.S. Embassy's ongoing efforts in supports of the
empowerment of women and girls and in recognition of The Bahamas' 50th
anniversary of the Women's Suffrage Movement, two Bahamian women were
recently given the opportunity to participate in separate professional
exchanges with female leaders from around the world.
Honorable Melanie Griffin, Member of Parliament for Yamacraw,
participated in an exchange focused on "Women's Leadership and Political
Participation," while Miss Keva Nairn, Family Island District
Commissioner of The Bahamas Girl Guides Association, participated in a
program focused on "Girl Scouts and Girl Guides: Building and Developing
Capacity for Girl-Serving Organizations." Both exchange opportunities
were organized by the U.S. Department of State's Office of...
The government has been presented with an initial report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on how it could go about creating a 25-year plan "to guide the development of the nation", which would move the country from "ad-hoc" prioritization of investments and policies that have left the economy performing at a "sub-optimal" level.
In a 16-page "terms of reference" document presented to the government on October 21 by IDB economic planning consultant Dr. Nicholas Miles, it is proposed that developing a national development plan (NDP) for The Bahamas ultimately requires the creation of two "interdependent" road maps for the country: One directed towards "governance improvement" and the other, "socio-economic development".
These two road maps would be targeted, in the first case, towards improving the effectiveness of government with respect to the ability to set "investment and operational priorities" and "devise and execute development, investment and operational plans", and in the latter, towards ensuring buy-in and input from key decision makers and the public and private sectors, who will agree on a vision for the country and an "implementation plan" for the period 2015 to 2040.
Overall, Miles' terms of reference suggest a highly ambitious project to develop within a short space of time - nine months and on a small budget of $350,000 - a 25-year plan for the The Bahamas' long-term sustainable economic development that it has lacked since independence.
An international consultant is expected to work in collaboration with a team from the government to prepare the document, which is intended to include "detailed milestones and targets for the first five years and indicative milestones and targets over subsequent five-year intervals".
Financing could come from the government budget, public-private partnerships and donor support, the terms of reference indicate.
Miles proposes that the NDP should include a short-term (three-to-five-year) implementation plan which identifies key programs and projects and which would be accompanied by a financial plan that "clearly demonstrates how key programs and projects can be funded".
This short-term plan would be "reflected in the operational plans of the relevant ministries and be associated with targets, milestones and key performance indicators".
In the case of this plan, Miles calls for the identification of "bankable" programs and projects that are "attractive to external funders".
A medium-term (five-to-10-year) plan would also be produced, "highlighting possible important and bankable programs and projects".
In the terms of reference supplied to the government, Miles reiterates as justification for the work now taking place towards the development of an NDP fairly damning comments made by the IDB regarding the historic lack of economic planning in The Bahamas.
"The Bahamas has lacked a comprehensive and publicly discussed long-term development strategy since its independence in 1973. Without such a strategy the prioritization of policies, programs and investment projects often has been made on an ad hoc basis, and has tended to be vulnerable to short-term political pressures and the individual agendas of line ministries.
"This has led to inefficiencies and inconsistencies in investment decisions as authorities have lacked objective justification to either reject non-priority projects or clearly identify and encourage priority projects. As a consequence the economy has tended to perform at a sub-optimal level and is characterized by geographical and social disparities and institutional fragmentation within government, and is unnecessarily vulnerable to the volatility of the global economy," states Miles.
The terms of reference call for the preparation of the NDP to be undertaken via three phases of work. The three phases envisaged include: Creating the evidence base for the plan; defining the vision and strategy by engaging stakeholders, and lastly a phase in which the implementation and financing plans would be devised and the final document produced.
During the "evidence gathering" phase, Miles proposes the establishment of "tripartite NDP thematic groups" involving stakeholders across areas including infrastructure, human capital, tourism, financial services and the green economy. This phase will culminate in the creation of a "state of the nation report" that will also incorporate all relevant recommendations from any and all "relevant reports" on The Bahamas that have been produced in the past.
The evidence gathering phase will also involve a collaborative "opportunity analysis" which will "identify those economic activities characterized by substantial inclusive growth opportunities and with the clear potential for private sector investment".
"The consultant should establish a defensible framework to filter, scan, screen and select these opportunities in order to eliminate those that have low probability of implementation and/or transformational impact," suggests Miles.
The "vision and strategy" phase would see the establishment of a vision and strategy for "how The Bahamas economy should evolve over the coming 10 to 30 years".
"These visions and strategies will guide decision making in terms of policy, programs and resource allocation."
This phase could consist of inter-political party workshops, stakeholder and community workshops, surveys of industries, use of digital media and community festivals and debates, suggests the document.
The report indicates that the IDB was called upon by the government to assist with the development of the plan, given the "lack of experience in The Bahamas in the preparation of national strategies and plans, and the limited capacity of the Office of the Prime Minister to do so."
However, it is intended that the plan would be "prepared with participation from and validation by the Bahamian citizens, the private sector and the opposition, in order to ensure the level of ownership needed to transcend the current administration and serve as a road map for informing future public and private investment decisions and policy making."
It is anticipated that a "high degree of Bahamian involvement" will occur and that a significant proportion of the budget would be spent on engaging Bahamian consultants or organizations to assist in the plan's development process.
"In order to strengthen local ownership and build local capacity, it is envisaged that a high level of effort will be procured from Bahamian institutions and expertise. It is expected that many of the positions will be filled by Bahamians, in particular the project coordinator."
Positions such as team leader and project coordinator, as well as infrastructure, human capital, economic development, governance and institutional and sector-related specialists, are all called for under the terms of reference, with three of these posts specifically said to require or prefer those with "Bahamian experience".
A "project launch" event is proposed where the private sector, civil society and wider government is familiarized with the NDP preparation process and how they can participate.
"This meeting could be a combination of a live event plus video/media feeds. Social network/blog sites could be established in order to provide "real time" inputs to the process of preparing the NDP, to build, maintain and secure wide stakeholder ownership, and to ensure that the preparation of the NDP is undertaken in an open and transparent manner," suggests Miles.
It is envisaged in the document that the NDP project will commence in early 2014, and would be completed "within nine months of commencement."
By U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
During my first week as the United States' Secretary of State, I had the honor of meeting with a group of courageous women from Burma. Two were former political prisoners, and although they had all endured incredible hardship in their lives, each of them was committed to moving forward - providing education and training to girls, finding jobs for the unemployed and advocating for greater participation in civil society. I have no doubt that they will continue to be powerful agents of change, bringing progress to their communities and their country in the years to come.
It's opportunities like this that remind us why it is so vital that the United States continues to work with governments, organizations and individuals around the world to protect and advance the rights of women and girls. After all, just like in our own country, the world's most pressing economic, social and political problems simply cannot be solved without the full participation of women.
According to the World Economic Forum, countries where men and women are closer to enjoying equal rights are far more economically competitive than those where the gender gap has left women and girls with limited or no access to medical care, education, elected office, and the marketplace. Similarly, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that if women farmers had the same access to seeds, fertilizer, and technology as men do, they could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100 million to 150 million.
o On 26 February, Sir Ronald Sanders was invited to launch "In the Ring", a Commonwealth memoir written by Sir Donald McKinnon former secretary-general of the Commonwealth (2000-2008), at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. This article is adapted from Sanders' remarks.
No secretary-general of the Commonwealth has an easy time. Building consensus among countries large and small, rich and poor, black and white is extremely challenging, and, in the course of it, secretaries-general are not only referees, sometimes they become the punching bag. In this context, Sir Don McKinnon's Commonwealth memoir is appropriately titled: "In the Ring".The book is remarkable for its frank account of the events that led up to Robert Mugabe's withdrawal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth in 2003. Mugabe took that action when it was evident that Commonwealth heads of government would make the decision to suspend Zimbabwe following seriously flawed elections. Inevitably, the secretary-general was made the villain of the peace.However, as Don relates in the book, his own reflection over Zimbabwe was more "in sorrow than in anger". No secretary-general relishes the suspension, expulsion or withdrawal of a member-state under his watch. And, Don bent over backwards to encourage President Mugabe to remain faithful to the Commonwealth's Harare Principles - principles that were agreed by all Commonwealth heads at a meeting chaired by Mugabe himself.No one is the more accountable custodian of the Commonwealth's collective values than the secretary-general. His primary touchstone is the values and principles to which all Commonwealth governments subscribe not only as a condition of their entry to the organization but as a sine qua non for keeping such membership. As Don rightly observes in his book, "The Commonwealth and its institutions had to be protected."Don's account of his efforts to engage Mugabe even after he had withdrawn Zimbabwe is an untold story which deserves to be known. And, Don has told it with clarity but also with a sense of disappointment and frustration. He has also not deprived his readers of an appreciation of the tensions that develop among heads of government in their decision-making on thorny issues.That tension makes the secretary-general's job a lot harder, particularly when it occurs among the Troika - the three heads of government - the past chair, the present chair and the incoming chair. The secretary-general has to look to them for guidance over how to deal with another head of government such as Mugabe who rode roughshod over Commonwealth values in pursuit of his own narrow political agenda. This memoir gives a full account of the tensions, the differences and even the vexations that occurred within the Troika. It is a frank insight into the contest between efforts to preserve the Commonwealth's shared values and the desire by a small number of heads of government to protect a fellow head of government who had thrown those values to the wind.Of particular interest is Don's account of the remarkable role played by P.J. Patterson, the prime minister of Jamaica, a small Commonwealth state, in the heads of government reaching a unanimous decision to continue the suspension of Zimbabwe. Don describes Patterson's intervention as a "tour de force". "We are dealing with two almost irreconcilable positions and we have a consensus," Don reports Patterson as saying. "Certainly not everybody is happy, but we must not now show a split." Patterson's legal and political skills impressed the room and Commonwealth agreement was preserved. So was its commitment to its declared values. If Don's candid account of the tribulations that surrounded Zimbabwe is not a sufficiently compelling story of the secretary-general's challenging role in the Commonwealth ring, then his experience over suspended Pakistan under President Musharraf completes the tale.As secretary-general he was invited by the British government to the Lord Chancellor's dinner for President Musharraf who was visiting Britain officially. This was in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities in the United States when Pakistan had overnight become the new "best friend" of the governments of Britain and the United States.But, at the time, Pakistan was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth over very doubtful democratic institutions. Don did not regard Musharraf's visit to London as a good thing. As he said in his well-known forthright manner, it would not have happened to Fiji, Nigeria or Zimbabwe while they were suspended. It was, as he said, an example of one policy for the Commonwealth and another policy for bilateral relations. He was then promptly "uninvited" from the dinner, before being "re-invited" by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but placed at a table out of sight. Quite rightly Don declined the re-invitation. He had "no intention of being a pawn in their game".This was not the only occasion when a government expected the secretary-general to act in its interest. But, as he pointed out to another government, the secretary-general "has to work for the collective Commonwealth good, not just advance the view of one country".
Indeed, every secretary-general, however deeply involved he was in the affairs of his own country and its interests in the Commonwealth and the international community, has to leave that baggage at the entrance door of Marlborough House. He must become de-nationalized, color blind, non-aligned religiously and re-constructed as a Commonwealth being - whole and entire. Don McKinnon became that body as every secretary-general has had to do.When a senior British Foreign Office official, who insisted that Britain, as the biggest contributor to the secretariat's funding, should always hold the post of deputy secretary-general, Don told him that not only was Britain not getting the post, it also would not permanently be on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.Thirty-two of the Commonwealth's 54 members are small states with problems and challenges that are peculiar to their vulnerabilities and lack of capacity to stand-up to powerful organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).When Commonwealth small states were being pummelled by the OECD over "harmful tax competition", Don in his full Commonwealth regalia - his OECD membership card as former foreign minister of New Zealand firmly put away - championed the cause of the Commonwealth's constituency of small states and curtailed bullying and an uneven playing field. As a chronicle that is as frank in its content as it is wide in its telling of the inner workings of life in the ring of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon's memoir is compulsory reading.
Note: "In the Ring" by Don McKinnon is published by Elliott and Thompson, London.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and visiting fellow, London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
Last week, in response to what he described as an intolerable level of crime and "the most pressing issue in our nation", Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham addressed the country. It may be one of the more important addresses of his political career, and not for the reason some may suspect.
Though critical for various reasons including politically, the prime minister did something even more compelling and far-sighted. In tone and text, he demonstrated that he understood the national mood and deep worry at the level of crime and the need to address its root causes.
He addressed the soul of crime, speaking to the fears and hopes of Bahamians.
Only the most churlish and the inveterate Ingraham-haters would deny that he spoke from the heart, the latter point noted by a woman who lost a family member to murder.
Moreover, the prime minister elevated the national conversation on crime and violence from finger-pointing to shared responsibility.
And he did something even more compelling: He seized the national imagination by urging a new era of national volunteerism, inclusive of enhanced community service programs for thousands of students in the government school system.
Ingraham also called for a renewed civic compact to address the desire not only for safety and security, but more broadly for community and social peace. His call to action was issued to parents and teachers, civil society and the business community, as well as to the nation's youth.
In the lead up and the immediate response to the half-hour address, the prime minister's critics stumbled badly, misreading the deep concern over crime as a moment for political posturing, pandering and gamesmanship.
DNA Leader Branville McCartney, in typical publicity stunt mode, showed up for a press conference with a gimmick graph in the background. Unconvincingly, it showed the level of crime, long in the making and with multiple causes, falling precipitously under the DNA.
Also unconvincing was McCartney's tough guy performance after the address.
He shot down the idea of a gun amnesty as if it was the only proposed measure on guns, and bemoaned that the prime minister's ideas appeared not to have any teeth.
His assertion was at stark variance with that of the Police Staff Association, which praised the address and whose members are actually on the frontline, battling crime.
One measure with additional teeth is the expansion of CCTV monitoring in New Providence, a measure advocated and applauded by the high command of the police force.
So predictable was the post-address press release issued by the PLP that it easily could have been written before the prime minister spoke. Using the hackneyed phrase, "too little, too late", too liberally, too quickly, the Opposition misjudged the public's mood and overwhelmingly positive reaction to the speech.
In all likelihood, though few Bahamians may remember what the Leader of the Opposition said in his crime address just a few months ago, many may recall a general impression with which they were left. It was the suspicion that they were hearing familiar promises, few of which they remember being fulfilled.
There was also the suspicion that the Leader of the Opposition was offering a jumble of slogans. In an editorial the day after the prime minister spoke, The Nassau Guardian opined in reference to recent pronouncements by the Opposition:
"Coherent and plausible plans on crime and the economy actually do not need quirky names. They simply need to work and have the will of a competent government behind them.
"When a party announces multiple named programs at every speaking engagement, and it does not explain how they would be paid for, who would lead them and if they have been fully planned out, that party could come across as less than serious."
Two days after the crime address, tech-revolutionary and Apple Founder, Steve Jobs died. Jobs leapfrogged his competitors with devices and software which went beyond tinkering with existing operating systems and gadgets.
In his own way, Prime Minister Ingraham has essentially done the same by proposing significant innovations in social policy. The Opposition proposed Urban Renewal 2.0 if returned to office. The ambitious and impressive range of social intervention measures offered by Ingraham is more like Community and Urban Renewal 10.0.
With the prime minister superceding the Opposition's proposal by a wide magnitude, it looked foolish by calling his proposals "reasonable". This is akin to the Sony Corporation calling the iPad a "reasonable" improvement on its Walkman introduced in 1979. The next generation of social intervention innovations proposed by the Ingraham administration offers a variety of key features.
They include: the development of an Outward Bound-type program; a National Volunteers Register; the expansion of community service-learning in government schools; support for additional initiatives in urban areas geared towards young men; greater support for alternative sentencing programs like that offered by groups such as the Peace and Justice Institute of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church, among others.
Ingraham was clear that it takes more than government action to address the roots of crime and anti-social behavior. To support his administration's initiatives, he proposed the expansion of public-private partnerships and collaboration calling on faith-based groups, NGOs, corporate citizens and philanthropists to help craft, manage and fund such initiatives.
His call for a new era of volunteerism recognizes the critical need for citizen-volunteers to help to bring about social change while addressing crime and violence. In essence, his was a message of "we the people". One of the more novel initiatives proposed is for an Outward Bound-type program.
Outward Bound is an experiential outdoor learning program with great success in youth development, including for at-risk youth. Its well-tested model has helped transform the lives of thousands, inclusive of practical and customized courses "developed for struggling teens [and] groups with specific health, social or educational needs".
Outward Bound or a similar program has the extraordinary potential to re-socialize and effectively intervene into the lives of young men and women, replacing destructive mindsets and behavior with healthier lifestyles and attitudes.
Its potential may extend to young people involved in gang activity, as well as residents of "the Simpson Penn and Willamae Pratt facilities with a view to improving the results being achieved in preparing these young people for reintegration into the community with skills to pursue productive lives." It may also involve students enrolled in the Ministry of Education's SURE program.
The National Volunteer Register "will enable Bahamians to sign up to be available to volunteer their time for mentoring our young men and women; assisting in community centers with afterschool programs; outreaches to urban neighborhoods to encourage parental and child involvement in school activities; to work with existing youth organizations in their programs; and a host of social activities that can positively impact upon our society."
The revamping of community service programs in government schools with an emphasis on ethics, service learning and character development holds considerable promise. The Prime Minister noted that implementation of a more comprehensive community service model is intended to help, "more young people develop a sense of belonging in our community, and [a] deeper sense of responsibility for its well-being, while better respecting themselves and others."
With the National Volunteers Register and a new community service-learning model, Prime Minister Ingraham has launched a new era of volunteerism redefining national service and fulfilling a dream long-held by various leaders.
Sir Lynden Pindling often spoke of a version of national service that was more paramilitary in nature and mandatory for youth between certain ages. Mr. Ingraham's version is voluntary, more practical and extends to every age group.
It holds the promise of becoming a singular accomplishment of national development and one of Mr. Ingraham's greater achievements, as well as a milestone of progressive governance.
The new administration has decided that the head of Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), Coralie Adderley, will be fired from her post. Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez told The Nassau Guardian that new leadership is required at the hospital. Leader of the Opposition Dr. Hubert Minnis said the Progressive Liberal (PLP) is victimizing Adderley.
Dr. Minnis went further, claiming Adderley is being fired because Dr. Gomez has something personal against her.
"That's, I guess, rhetoric," Dr. Gomez said of the victimization claim in response to The Nassau Guardian. "There's nothing personal, it's all about leadership of the institution."
The minister argued PMH needs to move in a new direction.
"I think that the institution needs, if you ask me seriously, new leadership, not only in administration, but in physician management," Dr. Gomez said.
"The place is crying for new leadership and if we are going to make PMH what it ought to be, we have to try to get leadership of the institution straight in all aspects. There's nothing more, nothing less."
New political regimes and new leadership in business have the right to change leaders in their organizations. The new people in charge have to feel their executives will most effectively execute their policies and their will. However, it must also be remembered that when professionals are dismissed, the organization should grant the person what is legally due them via their contract or agreement.
While stressing that he did not wish to go into any specifics surrounding the decision to terminate the contract of Adderley, Managing Director of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) Herbert Brown has gone on record and said she will be compensated above what her contract calls for. If this occurs, the PHA would be more than fulfilling its obligation to Adderley.
There is a political side to this issue, though. The PLP had as its election theme that it believes in Bahamians and that it believes in The Bahamas. Adderley is a young Bahamian professional who has run the largest hospital in The Bahamas for several years. If the new government wants to change leadership at the hospital that is its right. But is it necessary to fire her? Could there not be another role in the overall hospital system for this young Bahamian?
Politically speaking, firing Adderley could seem harsh and cold to members of the electorate who do not know all the reasons behind the move by the new administration.
As the PLP reconfigures the various government agencies at the beginning of its term it must be careful that the perception does not set that it is a victimizing, uncaring party. This would go against the party's campaign theme in 2012.
Bahamians are not overwhelmingly in love with the governing or opposition party. Setting the wrong tone early in a mandate could set the party on a course to being our third consecutive one-term government.
While suggesting recent comments made by Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins were inappropriate, West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said Rollins will not be victimized by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
During debate on the constitutional amendment bills on Wednesday, Rollins said the PLP is not open to independent thinkers.
He also said that in the last general election the party used young politicians like him as mere "tokens" to help secure a win.
"When we stand to our feet and speak in a fashion that appears to be contrary to that of the party line, there are those who give orders to politically destroy and do damage to that individual for no reason other than that they espouse independent views," he said.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Wilchcombe said any challenges that arise within the party should and can be addressed internally.
When asked whether he believes Rollins' most recent stance will affect his future within the PLP, Wilchcombe said, "I don't think the party operates that way".
"Andre Rollins is a young man. Does he have potential? Does he have ability? Absolutely. Does he have something to offer? He has already told them that.
"But he is a young man, and along the way, one day, he will come to an appreciation that even in organizations that he runs, he wouldn't want at his clinic for a member of his staff to go public saying things that could be resolved inside the clinic.
"That is something you learn alongside the way.
"We are not going to victimize Andre Rollins. For what purpose? We are not going to penalize him for his words. Penalizing him is not going to change his words.
"Can we learn from his words? That is what we have to look at, but we don't want to hurt anyone. We brought him into the PLP."
Wilchcombe said the PLP never puts a "seal over people's views".
He said although he would have gone another route, each member has a right to express him or herself, and the organization celebrates that freedom.
"The way I would have done things is quite differently," Wilchcombe said.
"I am a part of a team. And being a part of a team requires that you understand that if I want to win the championship I have to practice in-house.
"That's how basketball teams win, football teams win; that's how politicians win and that's how teams win generally."
But he said Rollins is "a man and he makes his own decisions".
"There is an apprenticeship program and a process in which you learn the game," he said.
"The party never casts anyone aside.
"But along the way, everyone, whether you are in politics, sports, the church or in school, you have to go through processes.
"You can't walk in today and tomorrow it's all going to be there. You have to learn a few things."
Asked about Rollins' assertion that orders are handed down to politically destroy members who speak out, Wilchcombe said he and the deputy prime minister have expressed opposing views to the party in the past.
"It happens all the time," he said. "It is just a part of politics.
"You do speak out. The truth is, we also understand in the party politics there is a place that we can speak."
Voters will never know what the new political candidates are offering until they get those candidates to sit down and talk to them. But, many of the candidates are not prepared to talk, or have nothing to say unless that 'talk' takes a particular line. The ability to communicate is very important and some of the fresh blood who want to talk are finding out stuff that they did not know about their political organizations, their opponents or themselves.
Communication that goes beyond the stupidity that you hear coming out of the mouths of the many foot soldiers is very necessary as prospective, would-be leaders attempt to sway the many constituents in the nation to their side and away from the other political suitors. However, there is some misinformation going around or being put out for public consideration. If you listen closely to what is being propagated, the upcoming election is set against the backdrop of the 1970s and we as a nation are just coming of age.
More than 40 years of social, economic and political advancement is being pushed to the side and it is being proposed that the present administration has done nothing for the Bahamian electorate, and this is a lie. But, here is a truth: the greed, need and prejudices of the Bahamian are being politicized and the baser negatives of the human psyche are being played upon by those who are educated enough to know better - but in the name political expediency they push forward.
This may be a shocking year. This could be the year when the Bahamian voter sends the message that our national identity will not be defined by any political ideology, no matter how much they lie to us about their opponents. It must be noted that an unusual number of these persons that we see in public as adversaries are also partners in business, godparents for each others children, sit down to eat at the same table, attend the same parties and at times get drunk together.
I will not get into the part about how a significant percentage of the real estate and property that is being rented by the government is owned by politicians or former politicians on all sides of the political divide. Have you observed that politics has more sides than you can count?
When the fellows show up on your porch this year, take some time to get your questions in order and make the questions relevant to what you perceive their motives to be; especially if their offerings point an accusing finger at the fellow they are up against. You may be accused of being judgemental, but remind them that with few exceptions most politicians have sounded just like them - starting out.
If you are not prepared for them and you foresee difficulties, get some black pepper or a couple of wasp nests for your potcake. With so much on the national table, the plea to "give someone else a chance" has a very hollow ring to it. It is time to articulate in very clear terms what we want, what is needed and where we want to go; and those who want to lead must have some relevant answers.
- Edward Hutcheson
I am a proud graduate of St. Augustine's College, class of 2002. After high school, I obtained a bachelor's degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University. I then worked in New York for a few years before returning to school to get my law degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. In January, I will move to New York to work at a large corporate law firm practicing in the areas of mergers and acquisitions, capital markets and financing. I am a young Bahamian living aboard, full of energy and optimism for our country, and I would like to believe that I can return home in a few years to a bright future, professionally, socially and personally. However, in conversing with young Bahamian professionals, at home and abroad, many of them have a feeling of disconnection and frustration with our economic system as it relates to career development and advancement.
Young Bahamians are frustrated because of: The failure of successive governments to diversify our economy from tourism and off-shore banking; the inability to adequately promote Bahamian ownership and expertise in our economy; the failure to sufficiently imbue our young people with the belief that they can achieve their full potential in The Bahamas; and a paucity of established mentorship programs designed to guide young Bahamians in their career advancement. This article will examine the aforementioned factors that contribute to the brain drain in our country and offer some solutions to reduce the number of Bahamians that leave or fail to return to The Bahamas due to frustration, disappointment and hopelessness.
Graduates who obtained degrees in traditional and well-defined fields have all too often been faced with the reality that the number of suitable positions available, if any, are greatly outnumbered by the number of persons seeking a job in areas such as law, finance, business, accounting and the civil service. Furthermore, young people with expertise in disciplines with little presence in The Bahamas are often left jobless and hopeless. While a smaller economy such as ours may not have as diverse a complement of career paths as exists in larger economies, our governmental and private sector actors must seize the opportunity to look at feasible opportunities for us to diversify our economy using and harnessing the special talents of our nation's most valuable resource - its people.
One possible way to employ the diverse skills of young Bahamians would be to finance and encourage alternative energy programs and sustainable development related projects. Also, established industries such as farming, fisheries and offshore financing must be bolstered. All interested stakeholders must take a step back and develop innovative ideas to improve the international competitiveness of these industries while also increasing Bahamian ownership in these areas, especially with respect to the offshore finance industry. Increasing the number and visibility of Bahamian owners in hotels, banks and similar businesses provides hope and inspiration for young Bahamians to believe that they too can become owners in our largest industries if they work hard and make smart business decisions.
To facilitate and develop sustained youth empowerment in this country, the government must take seriously the business of Bahamians acquiring a more significant ownership interest in the economy. Young people have to feel that there is a realistic possibility of prosperity in The Bahamas beyond simply securing a job, especially for high-achieving young Bahamians who have access to opportunities around the world. It is interesting that although the incumbent government in Singapore won the recent general election, it lost a number of parliamentary seats and the former foreign minister, who was highly regarded internationally, lost his seat. One of the main grievances young Singaporeans articulated during the electoral season was the belief that expats are receiving many of the high paying jobs. In other words, many Singaporean youths are disheartened, like many young Bahamians, because they do not believe they have a realistic chance to truly flourish in their domestic economic market.
It is not sustainable for a nation's economic development and advancement to have such a high level of disaffected youth, particularly highly educated youth, as this exacerbates the brain drain The Bahamas is currently experiencing. Creating awareness programs designed to inform Bahamians living abroad about lucrative and challenging opportunities at home can also reduce our brain drain challenges. There are already a number of Bahamians who previously lived abroad and have returned home to rewarding careers. To the extent that these success stories can be promoted and disseminated locally and internationally through the Bahamian diaspora, it can go a long way in giving young Bahamians hope that they can achieve professional success beyond their wildest dreams in The Bahamas. At the same time, public-private partnerships designed to broaden our economic expertise, facilitate entrepreneurship and attract global companies to set up shop in The Bahamas will go a long way to lure highly educated Bahamians back home.
The government along with the private sector, churches and other relevant stakeholders must address the lingering nihilism and hopelessness that afflicts many of our young people. In my short time at home, in conversations on social media platforms and elsewhere, many young Bahamians, regardless of political affiliation, have said to me that they feel advancement in this country is gained primarily based on familial pedigree rather than competency. Furthermore, many Bahamians feel that successive governments are selling our "birthright" to foreigners and that foreigners seem to be the only ones really reaping the financial rewards here in The Bahamas. Whether or not these claims are well substantiated, it is clear that leaders in the public and private sectors must do a better job of inspiring young people and informing them that there is still opportunity in The Bahamas regardless of parentage. They must convince young people that if they work hard and are fair in their dealings with co-workers and community members, they will one day enjoy the benefits of their dedication and delayed gratification. This effort to address this pernicious and persistent nihilism among your young people must start with strong public policy geared towards facilitating strong Bahamian entrepreneurial and corporate success.
Developing a culture of mentorship will also promote youth empowerment over the long-term in The Bahamas. Connecting young Bahamians with established business people, scholars and other accomplished individuals can help young people navigate their way up the corporate ladder in an environment that is perceived to be plagued with cronyism, nepotism, despotism and even political victimization. All interested persons must accept that a vibrant, effective mentor relationship cannot be forced or bureaucratized. It must be organic and genuine. Having said that, prominent business, political and civic leaders publicly coming forward and stating their willingness to mentor young Bahamians can go a long way in helping young people feel accepted and a part of our political, social and economic landscape. Also, young people must understand the importance of excellence and hard work. Successful individuals often have very tight schedules. Any time they make available for mentorship must be treasured and effectively used. We must be respectful of their time and also offer to assist them as well because young people often have valuable insights into trends and ideas popular among their contemporaries that older Bahamians could find useful.
The "Occupy Protests" that have rocked cities from New York to Rome underscore the pain and suffering young people feel the world over. Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons, countless nations around the world have failed to provide their young people with affordable, practical educations and jobs that allow young people to live in a dignified manner. Going forward, governments will have to prioritize empowering young people if they wish to maintain any semblance of peace, prosperity and normalcy in their countries. Our Bahamian government and private sector leaders must act quickly, decisively and creatively to encourage and promote youth empowerment in our country or else we could see our own "Occupy Rawson Square" movements in the not too distant future.
A few weekends ago, I went to Arawak Cay to catch up with some old friends and to enjoy succulent Bahamians delicacies such as conch salad and guava duff. It truly feels good to be home and I love my country, but unless our government and other social organizations take significant steps to making our country more attractive to talented, ambitious young Bahamians, I do not believe that I and other young Bahamians will be returning home to this country that I love.
- Rishard P. O. Cooper