By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE need for proper succession planning in the Bahamas was emphasised by Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell during his address to new employees of his ministry yesterday.
Mr Mitchell’s speech came as a Foreign Affairs Employee Seminar began within his Ministry.
“There is much talk about succession in our country throughout the public service and public life,” he told a room of nearly 20 new employees.
“More properly, there is talk about the fact that in so much of our public service there is not much attention paid to succession planning.
“Succession planning is not done in our country the way many other countries do it. It is rather less formal. In other words, it takes place largely through death or the effluxion of time. One thing we know, however, is whether we plan or whether we do not, change will come. New faces will take our places. The issue for those at the helm today is whether or not we have done enough within the parameter of our remit to ensure that the institution goes on. So today, I am hoping to imbue in you a sense of what this institution is, and where it has come from and where it can go.”
Mr Mitchell explained to the new employees that their job is to fight for Bahamian interests throughout the world, even when engaging more powerful allies.
“We are close to the United States and are very much overshadowed by their culture, international political clout and wealth,” he said. “They are our closest friend and trading partner. Within that relationship, however, there is scope for the defence of our independence.”
Doing one’s job effectively, he added, requires particular attentiveness to the declared policies and agenda of the Bahamian government.
“In order for a Foreign Ministry to work,” he said, “the team at home and in our missions abroad have to be tuned in to what the thinking is at the top. That means the Prime Minister who is the head of government, his pronouncements and statements, the formal decisions of the government, the statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other statements. You have to know the personalities in the country and what defines your country and its citizens. Everything that touches and concerns Foreign Affairs is your business. That means all matters because you are the general face of this country overseas.”
Mr Mitchell also noted the unconventional demands that Foreign Affairs work places on its employees.
“There is no nine to five job here,” he said. “When you signed the public service form, you agreed to be called upon at any time and to serve in any place. If that is not what you want to do then you are in the wrong place.
“I have spoken to the Permanent Secretary who is the administrative head of the Ministry about the issue of execution. We must all try to do things quickly and with dispatch and accurately. The culture of our country is too deliberative and in the result we lose so many opportunities because of it. We must begin to change that here in this ministry.”
Mr Mitchell indicated that during this week’s seminar, he will speak to the new employees on various issues, including how to execute policies and decisions on a timely basis, how to give advice to a decision maker while “not writing college level essays,” knowing the history of the Bahamas and Foreign Affairs Ministry, and “knowing who is a Bahamian”.