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 Bahamas Commentary

2003-06-30 15:57:35

Realities And Principles

One essential economic fact Bahamians and other Caribbean people need to know is that an expanding economy needs the right mix of skilled and professional labour if growth in output is to be sustained and increased.

Interestingly, the case of The Bahamas provides an abundance of evidence to suggest that precisely because of the large inflow of foreign investment, Bahamians could enjoy a level of high and rising incoming without actually expending too much energy to make money.

In a country where basically educated workers in tourism and banking sectors could hold down high paying jobs, it is today not surprising that in hard times, these people would be anxious about their chances of making it in a more competitive environment.

But as we have previously suggested, the antidote to fear and anxiety is education and training. The truth of the matter is surely that a more liberalized world economy provides opportunities galore for people who are prepared for change. This applies to all Caribbean nations, states and peoples.

However, the point must be hammered home that if the region is to improve its chances in the world, its members must re-dedicate themselves to reforming their educational and training systems with a view towards making them relevant to the demands and imperatives of a globalized world economy.

If reference is made to the specific case of The Bahamas, it is quite clear that there is a profound mismatch between those sectors of the economy generating the real money and the other which feeds off it. In addition, there is also evidence to suggest that even when the dynamic sectors of the Bahamian economy expand there is a noticeable dearth of Bahamian labour available to do the work.

Were we asked, we could recite project after project where consultants and other professional and manual labourers had to be brought in to do the work needed to get the job done on time and within budget. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. There is also nothing intrinsically wrong with making provision for building population and creating new towns and settlements from the pools of pioneering labour available worldwide.

In the ultimate analysis, then, The Bahamas and its Caribbean neighbours should make it their business to better train and better educate their peoples not only about each other, but also about the economic facts of life concerning a world in which they wish to prosper.

Bahamians are today being obliged to reconsider most of the working assumptions they have cherished for more than a half-century about government, politics, culture, society and the economy. Among issues currently being hotly debated and often stridently discussed are matters concerning whether the Bahamas should engage more deeply and more intensely with its Caribbean neighbours.

Today these discussions involve the more specific policy concern regarding the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. There are voices on one far end of the spectrum suggesting that Bahamian participations in this arrangement will undermine the livelihood of thousands of Bahamian workers, at the elite and mass levels.

On the other end of the same spectrum of debate are those voices which point to the economic benefits which will accrue to all Caribbean states who sign on to the CSME. As in other so-called 'debates' where there is no end of sound and fury, because of the weight of emotion, there is little hope for an easy resolution of the matter. Indeed what follows is often little more than an endless rehash of previously stated positions.

Where both sides go wrong, of course, is to be found in their unstated premises. On the one hand, those who yearn for the maintenance of 'things as they are' must turn a blind eye to the fact that the whole world is in flux, and that cherished assumptions and positions are being swept away as the entire world changes the way it does business and governs itself.

Decisions taken in the corridors of power in Washington, London, Zurich, Beijing, Moscow or Paris can so shape circumstances around the world that political leaders have no real choice but to respond to already made for them realities. The only thing that matters at that juncture involves the quality and depth of the response.

Similarly those Bahamians who see deeper Bahamian involvement as some kind of placebo or palliative are themselves in for a rude surprise. So long as the Caribbean refuses or fails to create economies which are complementary, their nationals will continue to view deeper engagement as an invitation to conflict and poverty.

What is needed at this stage of the game is for Caribbean leaders - including Prime Minister Perry G. Christie - to summon up the will and the resources sufficient to have the cold hard economic facts of life brought home to all of their peoples.

Since most people are blissfully unaware of certain economic realities and principles, those wishing to persuade them to adopt a new course of action should take the requisite steps to show, teach and tell them otherwise.

A Salute For A Bishop

When we heard the new information that Father Pinder was slated to become auxiliary Bishop in The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas, we were happy for him, that community and the Bahamian Nation.

As one of this nation's most cherished sons, Father Pinder impresses all as a thoughtful sensitive man, a brother, son and friend.

Today we salute him and wish him a bountiful and productive tenure in this new position.

Editorial, The Bahama Journal

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