Top KC sounds ‘dark side of Bahamianisation’ alarm


Tribune Business Editor



Sean McWeeney

A PROMINENT KC yesterday sounded the alarm over the “dark side of Bahamianisation” for breeding mediocrity based on “a sense of entitlement”.

Sean McWeeney, the former attorney general and now Graham Thompson & Company partner, told attendees at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Bahamas conference to “drop it in the nearest garbage can” if they believe they are entitled to high-paying jobs simply because of their nationality.

Demanding that Bahamians “set the bar higher”, and no longer depend on “protectionist crutches” to guarantee them a job he warned that this nation needs “to up our game” and “be the best at what we do” if it is to successfully compete with the likes of Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Singapore in the provision of financial services.

Mr McWeeney, emphasising that Bahamanisation was “an absolutely necessary thing” when introduced 50 years ago at the time of Independence and Majority Rule, said “there can be no denying” that the policy had played a major role in creating a well-educated, professional middle class that drove social stability during the 1970s and 1980s.

However, while praising the concept, he argued that Bahamianisation - in its implementation and inter- pretation - had produced some negative unintended consequences that were holding back the country’s development and economic competitiveness as well some of its citizens.

Addressing his comments primarily to the “millennials and Gen Z’s”, or younger persons in the Bahamian financial services industry, Mr McWeeney said: “I begin with this: We need to up our game. We need to work harder and we need to work smarter. We need to not just be good at what we do, we need to be the best at what we do.

“We need to do it better than they do it in Cayman or Bermuda, or the Channel Islands or Singapore. That must be our mindset. Productivity, above and beyond, must be our aim particularly for those of us who are just starting out or have been at it for only a short time.

“Now, [in] this quest for excellence, I strongly counsel you to rid yourselves completely of any sense of entitlement; of any sense that the mere fact of being Bahamian somehow gives you the right to anything. It’s not nationality that should anchor your ambitions but competence.

“It’s not a Bahamian passport that should give you a promotion to the next level up. Rather, it’s the fact that you have earned the promotion through hard work and the proven ability to get the job done better than anyone else competing for the job, no matter what that other person’s nationality may be.”

Recalling Bahamianisation’s objectives, Mr McWeeney added: “From an historical perspective, it was an absolutely necessary thing when it was introduced more than 50 years ago. Looking back at that time and the years that followed, we can see what a gloriously transformative instrument of state policy it was.

“There can be no denying that, nor can there be any denying that Bahamians of all races - blacks, whites and others - benefited from Bahamianisation enormously. God alone knows what we would have become or where we would have ended up had we not inaugurated Bahamianisation when we did, and had we not inaugurated it side by side with the most ambitious programme in our history to educate Bahamians at the university level abroad to prepare them for top positions at both the Government and the private sector.”

This, Mr McWeeney said, resulted in “the emergence of a whole new cadre of highly-educated, well-trained Bahamians” during the 1970s and 1980s who helped to drive financial services, the public service and other industries as well as spearhead the formation of a middle class.

“So Bahamianisation was a wonderful thing for a whole new generation of Bahamians. But, if truth be told, there was a dark side to Bahamianisation as a nation and it was this. It bred in some Bahamians a sense of entitlement, a sense that being a Bahamian somehow guaranteed them a job for which they might not really be qualified, according to the objective criteria,” he added.

“Sadly, this sense of entitlement still persists in some today. The sense that is a Bahamian [with] 60 percent ready skill sets or an 80 percent work ethic should be enough to get the job and keep it no matter what. So, this dark side of the Bahamianisation inculcated in some an ethos of mediocrity. A sense that all you needed was to have a Bahamian passport, and the basic minimum skills with no real drive or passion for excellence.

“If that’s your mindset, drop it in the nearest garbage can as fast as you can. We need to set the bar higher and insist on nothing less than world class standards, without protectionist crutches, like an over-reliance on Bahamianisation. We are bigger than that now. We are better than that now. We need to justify ourselves on merit and not mere nationality.”

Mr McWeeney also urged Bahamian financial services professionals to exploit any opportunities they obtain to work abroad and enhance their skills and career development. Acknowledging that this “may sound counter-intuitive”, and that some would consider this “a brain drain”, he nevertheless said such a move “can be a major boost to your personal long-term career prospects”.

“Many have gone before you successfully competing with their peers in the first world and are doing well. It’s an option then, a pathway for you to con- sider especially if you’re young and ambitious and wants to make that extra investment in your future,” the Graham, Thompson & Company partner said.

“Exporting yourself and your talent may therefore be something to consider in earnest.

“Just be prepared to work 12 to 16 hour days, especially in your early years when you’re fighting to hold your place on the ladder. The competition is fierce and intense, but the rewards can also leave you breathless in a good way. And if, and when, you come back home, your marketability will be that much greater as a result of your achievements in the industry abroad.”


Baha10 1 month, 4 weeks ago

Bahamianisation was never “necessary”, much less “wonderful”, instead a curse that allowed people like McWeeney with mediocre IG to arrive at work in time for Lunch perhaps never to return for the day without fear of repercussion, who now in retirement has the audacity to recognize in the 3rd person how such entitlement and outright laziness has allowed other financials centers to emerge from nothing and not only eat our Lunch, but lease us in the dust … suffice it to say the message going forward is correct, albeit too late … but if sever there was reason to “shoot the Messenger”, this is it!


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