By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE private sector "like it or not" must be actively engaged in the Bahamian workforce's training, the Chamber of Commerce's chairman said yesterday, arguing that constant criticism is "inappropriate".
Mike Maura, delivering remarks at the Chamber's 'State of the Economy' conference, said: "The private sector, whether we like it or not, must be active and engaging participants on the education and training front, and the larger our organisation the more responsibility we have to the cause."
Mr Maura said the Nassau Container Port, for which he is chief executive, employs over 400 persons and is highly-dependent on technology and sophisticated equipment. "Of the 400 staff I estimate that less than 5 per cent have a university degree, and yet the port has been rated number one in productivity in the Caribbean," he added.
"The point here is that large multinational corporations doing business in the Bahamas have a duty to contribute to our national education reform and polish the rough diamonds. Publicly tossing criticisms is inappropriate."
That will likely be interpreted as a veiled criticism of the controversial address given by now-retiring senior Royal Bank of Canada executive, Tim Rider.
Mr Maura, meanwhile, said the Chamber is committed to real efforts to address the national education crisis. "We applaud the Ministry of Education's commitment and passion, and the Department of Labour's work on productivity. Unfortunately, the Government may not be capable of tackling the necessary reforms fast enough," he added.
Commenting on this Bahamas' push to become a full World Trade Organisation (WTO) member by 2019, Mr Maura argued that the private sector "must not simply participate in the discussion but serve as a resource, framing arguments important to our collective economic growth".
"It is important to note that very large multinational corporations and their associations, like the US National Retail Federation, which includes Wal-Mart and others, continue to spend tens of millions lobbying the WTO to eliminate barriers to entry in foreign countries," he said.
"In my opinion it is not in our collective interest, as part of our WTO negotiation, to permit a multinational 'big box' style operator like Wal-Mart to enter our market. There is extensive research which speaks to the Wal-Mart effect in small markets."
Mr Maura yesterday warned that the Bahamas must not "over-regulate" or go beyond its international obligations to its own detriment, referring to the proposed Financial Transactions Reporting Bill that seeks to modernise the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism framework.
"We commend the Government for its effort in ensuring that this jurisdiction remains compliant with applicable international standards; specifically, the Financial Action TASK Force (FATF) 40 Recommendations in this instance. However, we must be careful not to over-regulate or go beyond our international obligations to our own detriment," he added.