FOX Hill MP Fred Mitchell questioned how the Bahamas expects to survive in today’s world with decision-making processes stuck in the paper trail model of the 1960s.
Giving a lecture on Foreign Affairs at the College of the Bahamas, Mr Mitchell said government functions are still mired in “long meetings and long papers on various subjects” – to the point that the most routine decision takes months to make, and even longer to execute.
He said: “At each point along the way, there are serious choke points to the timely delivery of the services which the Bahamian public demands.
“Bahamians travel all over the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is tasked with ensuring that this travel experience, whether for business or tourism, is seamless around the world.
“It will require more attention to being proactive and to logistics and to thinking about how we actually conclude and execute the decisions that we make.
“It appears to me that there has to be a new way of thinking on these issues. It is revolutionary only in the Bahamian context.
“How about a commitment to starting things on time, and not dragging things on into endless meetings without making a decision?
“In our own sphere of Foreign Affairs, it is for our institutions coming to accept that Foreign Affairs or Immigration for that matter are not cloistered subjects for the favoured few.
“It will be a recognition that there is a responsibility to interface with the public and that we have a responsibility to account to the public for what we do and say.
“I commented publicly that it surprises me the number of public officers who do not even read the newspaper on a daily basis or listen to the Bahamian news.
“They do not know that there is something in the news or the social media that affects the work in iImmigration or Foreign Affairs may require a response and the need to constantly fill the space unless it is filled with nonsense.
“Of course, the public service is so hierarchical that often the ordinary entry level worker is not supplied with a newspaper or computer access, because it is not seen as a tool of the trade.”
Mr Mitchell said that in his youth, the great challenge of the time was the question of whether or not this country could be independent.
He said we now know that it can be independent, but there are still issues which the younger generation must seize in order to bring the Bahamas into the 21st century.
“I would like it for the Bahamas to become a republic. That however has not lit any fires anywhere. Tonight I want to suggest that perhaps we ought to fight for the transformation of the culture of inertia in our country to a culture of proactivity, in other words to pay more attention to logistics.
“At every level of the country, to build in greater efficiency in the management of our time and of our decision making. This country could be wealthier than it is, if we were much better organised.
“It is attracting people from around the world but the product does not match up with the expectation which we sell abroad. There is no sense attracting people to this place if we cannot meet the expectations of the world about what we are selling.
“We have to fix the product at home. Tony Blair for example once said that he could not imagine why a Cabinet meeting had to take more than 45 minutes. There was the heavy use of Cabinet committees to move the work of the government forward.
“I will give you another example of how our national life is affected by this and why we must seek to fix it. The question of the attitude of people to the commitments they make and the issue of getting somewhere on time.
“It is the bane of my political life. I cannot tell you how many times I have been stood up by people, mainly younger people, who tell you: I will come by at such and such a time. They never show up. They don’t apologise for not showing up. Or they show up late and there is a casual indifference to the fact that they are late.
“Think about the number of Bahamian weddings that you have been invited to for example and the wedding is supposed to start at 11am and one hour some times and hour and half later you are still waiting for the ceremony to begin. There is no respect for other people’s time,” he said.
Mr Mitchell also charged that there is too much prejudice in the public service.
He said: “I tell those who work in my constituency office that I serve the blind, the lame, the gay, the straight, the Baptist as well as the Catholic and those with no religion at all.
“The service should be delivered with equanimity. I encourage people to be neutral in their views when it comes to serving the public.
“For me this becomes particularly important against the backdrop of a startling report that came to us that as many as 60 per cent of those in the management of the public service simply do not want to take instructions from the Progressive Liberal Party.”