IN a pre-retirement speech at the Royal Fidelity Bahamas Economic Outlook in February, Tim Rider, Royal Bank of Canada’s vice president of sales, gave Bahamians a bit of sound advice that they did not want to hear — especially coming from a white man, and a foreigner at that.
Mr Rider told Bahamians that they cannot allow the educational “status quo” to persist if the Bahamas is to be competitive in the global economy. He pointed out that in moving to a digital platform he has been asked many times to “slow down and give folks time to adjust,” but, he said, “we cannot be slowing down. In fact, we need to be speeding up.”
And then he posed the question, a question to which all Bahamians should give very serious thought: “Should a global lender like RBC be committed to the Bahamas if the Bahamas is not committed to its own success?”
He warned that without change to bring the Bahamas up to world class standards it will continue to fail. The Bahamas, he said, cannot allow the “status quo” in education to persist if it is to be competitive in the global economy.
In his view the single factor “that is now and will continue to lead to income and wealth inequality in the Bahamas is the inadequate education and training of its citizens.”
Corruption, poor fiscal responsibility, detrimental mortgage and lending laws have had adverse consequences for the banking industry, he said.
A Tribune reporter interviewed Opposition Leader “Brave” Davis after the talk to find out his views on what Mr Rider had said. Mr Davis made it clear that he was not pleased. But he went further. He said he wrote the Royal Bank of Canada urging officials to take whatever action they deemed appropriate.
No one can fire a person for telling the truth, if indeed that was what Mr Davis was suggesting. We would suggest the bank write Mr Davis and advise him to reread what Mr Rider had said, digest it and for the sake of the Bahamian people do something about it.
We later talked with a Bahamian businessman, who had attended the function and heard the same speech.
“What surprised me,” he told us, “was that Bahamian businessmen were outraged about the presentation. I knew that they knew that what Mr Rider was saying was correct, but my impression was that they were outraged that a white foreigner dared to say such things.”
It would seem that after all of these generations the “massa complex” still courses through the collective veins of this country. This is another problem – in many cases it is a major problem.
And so Mr Rider’s good advice has been tossed through the window because he is white and he is foreign.
Well here is the same opinion – not foreign, but all Bahamian – expressed in this column 11 years ago under the heading: “Illiteracy threatens Bahamian economy.”
It was an editorial on the revue of the Coalition for Education Reform, written by Bahamian employers and trade unionists, who concluded that if not corrected the woes and corresponding low academic achievement of today’s (2007) Bahamian educational system will lead to “low economic growth and increased social instability.”
The Bahamian Coalition pointed out that too many of today’s (2007) public school youth on leaving school are unemployable. They cannot meet the requirements of a technological age. Nor are many of them well enough equipped to fill less skilled jobs.
This is what Bahamians – not a white foreigner —were saying 11 years ago. Not much has changed since then, except that there is no longer a breakdown from the Ministry of Education of the BGCSE exam results for the public to see just how dismal the averages – E and Ds – remain in the public school system.
It is the Bahamas and its people that will suffer – and are already feeling the predicted pinch — if this country’s leaders do not take Mr Rider’s and the Coalition’s warning seriously.