Successful businesses nail down a vision of exactly what they want to be and work toward achieving that. They identify their market, define it, monitor its evolution and take the necessary steps to cultivate and continue to satisfy it. We have examples of businesses in The Bahamas, not visionary in the sense of Elon Musk-like space travel fantasies, but in setting a vision and getting to the place they want to be. Commonwealth Bank, for example, wants to be ‘the leader in personal banking’. It does not try to be a trust company or the financier of big business or even the first bank to turn to for a mortgage. It became a $1.6 billion success story with more than 6,000 shareholders reaping dividends by defining and staying true to exactly what it set out to be, the leader in personal banking, nothing fancier - it succeeded by living up to its vision.
But the country in which that bank operates is a different story. As a nation, The Bahamas is a gypsy in thought, 700 meandering islands in a massive 100,000 square mile pool of open ocean.
It is time for The Bahamas to define and create a vision for what we want this country to be.
We cannot say we want to be ‘the best little country on earth’ or pretend that we are because being the best little country on earth is too hard to define. What would make it the best? Would it be the best because of health care? If so, the vision would read something like ‘The Bahamas, the best place in the world to live healthy’ or “The Bahamas: For your health.” Or would it be the best little country on earth for doing business? In that case, we would have to overhaul our regulatory processes, enable and expedite legitimate business, provide incentives for domestic and foreign direct investment, create economic zones, revise how Town Planning works, establish standardized frameworks and look at successful businessmen as leaders who inspire and create economic growth rather than a threat created by evil, self-serving people. If being best for business was the vision, the message would be “The Bahamas, the best little country for business in the Western Hemisphere.”
The country’s leaders could choose education, medicine, sports, environment, culture, or a combination that creates an unparalleled quality of life, but whatever the vision, it must be followed by direction and include a means for measuring its attainment. Otherwise it is like a football team that takes to the field wanting to win but having no strategy for gaining yardage or making turnovers. A goal to win is not the same as a vision with direction. That is why lines like ‘the best little country on earth’ or ‘It’s better in The Bahamas’ may be catchy but they do not create vision.
Vision is critical. It not only sends an external message to the consumer world, but reverberates internally, impacting the culture that can make or break that vision from coming true.
Let us say the current administration wants to be known as the island nation that is corruption free. That seems a reasonable vision given the emphasis the Minnis government is placing on finding and charging those who violated the law. Attorney-General Carl Bethel clearly has his orders and is carrying them out as the bull dog he is, the fierce, highly-motivated prosecutor attacking alleged past offenders. But while charging past offenders, making examples of a few of the big guys for what happened before is a starting line, it is a far cry from the finish line of having a vision to be the cleanest government in the region.
If the direction is to be recognised as a desirable place to live, work or play in a clean, fair and corruption-free environment, the vision requires going deeper than charging for past offences. It must take a turn that may include deprivation of certain freedoms. It could mean closed circuit TV cameras in offices where payments are made. It could involve rewards for turning co-workers in for breaches. It will require strong whistleblower protection. It also requires courage. The police officer who knows other officers are involved in a human smuggling, prostitution and illegal drugs ring must be protected if he is going to provide the information that will lead to charges against fellow officers. His life will be at stake, his family could turn against him for taking ‘unnecessary risks’ instead of participating in the money flow of the underground business.
Whatever we choose, it is time to have a vision and stop pretending IT is better in The Bahamas when we have no idea what the IT is.
Any day now the Prime Minister is due to give a national address, a bit like the State of the Union speech by the President in the US when he goes to Congress to report on the year’s performance by his government and the road ahead.
Dr Minnis told us in the run-up to last year’s election that this was “The People’s Time” and the voters believed him.
2018 is a critical year for this government. It stumbled through its first months in office and of late has started to take some of the decisions which hopefully will improve the economy.
What we need from him now - in his address - is a fuller description of what the government intends to do: it’s vision, warts and all.