By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Just 1 per cent of the Bahmas’ 19,000 public sector workers fall into the highly skilled/technical category, a Cabinet Minister yesterday describing this as a “sobering statistic”.
Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, told Tribune Business there needs to be a “dramatic” increase in the number of highly skilled/technical employees, who now number roughly 200, in the public sector workforce.
“It’s a sobering statistic. It is something that the country needs to pay attention to. We can’t simply have this discussion in political terms; it’s beyond that now,” said Mr Rolle.
“It’s not that we have all bad employees in the Government. We have some very good employees, but when it comes to the concentration of highly technical, highly skilled people, we need to improve dramatically in that area.
“That is why the Government constantly has to bring in outside consultants. With the amount of activity that you have to do, it makes the case very easy to justify when you just don’t have the resources capable of functioning at the highest tier.”
Speaking at the National Conclave of Bahamas Chambers of Commerce, Mr Rolle said the Government employs just under 19,000 persons or 9.6 per cent of the total Bahamian workforce.
He added that it has limited capacity to absorb a great portion of the labour force, and agreed that worker productivity was the primary private sector concern.
“We are beginning to get the statistical information. We are beginning to get the evidence behind a lot of the assumptions that we have made,” Mr Rolle said.
“The fact is that businesses are saying that the productivity level of employees is low. The fact is that businesses are saying that the Government process is a bureaucratic process and needs to be streamlined and needs to be modernised.
“This isn’t something that I just started to say. I have been saying this when I was in the private sector. I said it when I first got into government and I’m saying it now. The difference is that now we are actually doing the comprehensive and integrated study, and then the plan to execute the reforms that need to be done to ensure that we get a government process that is relevant and one that will give the business community the platform for innovation.”
Mr Rolle added that while other countries are positioning themselves to be competitive and ‘best in class’, the Bahamas was not doing enough.
“The Bahamas started off as best in class, and if you look at some of the statistics, in the 1970s we were going up, and then, at some point we started to flatten and then decline while others started off moderately but then they started to soar,” the Minister said.
“When you look at the ease of doing business index, it is not that the Bahamas isn’t doing anything; we’re not doing enough. We’re not doing as much as other countries, which is why others are improving in the rankings while we are declining.
“We have a lot of work to do in this country. It’s not about politics. It’s about a system that has been in existence for many years and needed to be rebirthed. It’s not unique to any party. It’s a system that has been allowed to develop into what it is now.
“Our hope is that we have an opportunity to influence the change that is needed. We have already started the process and we have some momentum, where we want people to be involved in the process and be supportive.”