By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday defended his decision to increase the size of the ministry’s staff by 55 per cent under this tenure. Mr Wilchcombe told Tribune Business he was proud of the fact he had created opportunities for Bahamian professionals to be employed within his department, a move he said was done within the ministry’s budgetary constraints.
“Obviously this administration has a different strategy they wish to deploy. That is their right given the mandate they received from the people,” he told the paper.
“I sought to Bahamianise the ministry and open new offices to cause for many qualified Bahamians to have an opportunity to be employed. We have qualified Bahamians with two and three degrees who can work anywhere in the world and countries certainly will try to lure them. We can’t just continue using outside agencies and that’s why we are doing more work in house now, employing Bahamians. The reality is there was still space for further hires.”
Mr Wilchcombe said he was uncertain of the number of people recruited under his watch but arguing the bigger issue was regardless what the number was they were qualified Bahamian professionals.
“I wanted to ensure they were working throughout the industry and we were creating linkages,” he said. “The thing is we needed more staff. We took on more festivals for instance and we opened more offices in the United States and elsewhere which is why we brought in more people to assist. There are many department heads still complaining about being understaffed.”
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar has pointed to the growth of the tourism department despite the industry’s failure to grow over the past few years. According to Mr D’Aguilar there were 260 employees when Mr Wilchcombe assumed office as Tourism Minister in 2012 and 403 when he left.
Mr Wilchcombe said yesterday: “I am proud of the individuals that we brought in. One also has to consider attrition and we were also preparing for that. I certainly don’t want to get into a back and forth with the minister. The law gives him the right to do what he sees fit. I believe however that what I did was in the interest of the country. There certainly was nothing political about it. We never went looking to ascertain whether someone was an FNM or a PLP. All that we did was intended to improve the ministry and become the marketing force as we should and to grow the sector.”