EDITOR, The Tribune.
AFTER reading The Tribune’s November 22, 2017, articles entitled “We have to open up the economy” and “New job bill will ensure ‘Bahamians are a priority’,” I was tempted to join the spirited and lengthy commentary that the articles engendered. However, after perusing the text of the Commercial Enterprises Bill, 2017, I realised that, because I was neither lawyer nor legislator and because I wasn’t willing to take the time to try to fully comprehend the Bill, I was insufficiently qualified to comment.
Then I penned observations about the systematic failure of successive Bahamian governments to tackle fundamental issues facing our country — largely because, no matter the political party, governments before and since independence have favoured existing socio-political and economic systems, the perpetuation of the status quo, and the “where’s mine?” mentality, all to the detriment greater equity, sustainability, justice, empowerment, cooperation, etc.
In the end, I decided to let someone eminently more experienced in these matters than I to share basic principles that should underpin our country’s development policies. Among his other accomplishments, James Gustave Speth is the founder of the World Resources Institute and a former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and the paragraph that follows is part of a brief speech Speth made to the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt on September 6, 1996: “The great civilising and educating institutions of the world all have at their core the values of human solidarity, tolerance, justice and equity… What is needed to achieve the goals of (the International Conference on Population and Development in) Cairo is sustainable human development. This is development that not only generates economic growth but distributes its benefits equitably; that regenerates the environment instead of destroying it; that empowers people rather than marginalising them. It is development that gives priority to the poor, that enlarges their choices and opportunities, and that provides for their participation in events and decisions that shape their lives. It is development that is pro-people, pro-poor- pro-nature, pro-jobs and pro-women.”
If our country cannot take meaningful steps to meet these and similar goals, and if we are unable to achieve a more just society, The Bahamas’ medium and long-term future is bleak. Our nation has too many have nots, too many under- and unemployed, and too many inadequately educated.
Our sense of community is increasingly fractured, and too many national and local leaders prioritise individual advantage over both the health of the broader community and a sense of common purpose. Finally, and perhaps most important, political and other community leaders who have been entrusted with the authority to spearhead consequential, systemic change too often make spurious claims and fail to provide the honest answers and clear direction necessary to make substantive, sustained, measurable progress towards addressing the challenges that threaten the future stability of our nation.
November 26, 2017.