Where is Bahamianisation taking us?
BAHAMIANISATION, emotionally administered, has destroyed this country.
That is not a popular statement, but it is the truth, and the sooner Bahamians face the truth, the sooner will we see in top positions more qualified Bahamians, not only trained to international standards, but with a sound work ethic.
Any businessman will confirm that the only way for a business to succeed is to surround himself with solid staff. He is not going to stand for an employee to tell him who to employ or with whom he intends to work, nor will he tolerate a government dictating his employment needs. However, the smart businessman will always choose a native of a country, because on the long stretch it presents less hassle, and, if, like the Bahamas, there are high work permit fees, it is cheaper.
For 25 years, under the Pindling administration, an opportunity was lost to convince Bahamians that they had to work and study hard to qualify for employment. They were encouraged to believe that being Bahamian was the only passport necessary for the top jobs and the high life.
Those who had to operate businesses through those years can tell some hair-raising stories about what hell it was to survive in this country. Even The Tribune was making plans to move on. But just because of our cussed nature we decided to stick it out.
In those years not only was being a Bahamian important, but one had to be a certain kind of Bahamian. Not only did you have to be PLP, but you were also graded on your colour. Growing up we often heard maids discussing "brightness." For a long time we were stupid enough to think that "brightness" had something to do with intelligence. We certainly got a good laugh at our own dumbness when we discovered that intelligence never stepped into the arena -- black Bahamians were grading their own worth on their skin colour -- from the darkest, who was not the favourite of the mother's brood, to the "brightest", who was the apple of her eye.
One day we saw this order reversed when an elderly businessman from Grants Town burst into Sir Etienne's office at The Tribune. He had been so emotionally wounded that he was near tears. He and Sir Etienne had been good friends for years, it did not matter that he was now a PLP. He was among the original party founders, who had a dream for his Bahamian brothers that got derailed when Sir Lynden Pindling snatched the lead and moved the party down the path of his personal "one man's dream."
Apparently, it was a PLP council meeting that day in which persons were being nominated for top positions. This gentleman, a successful small businessman, and respected elder of the community, who had every reason to believe he was worthy of a nomination, was abused by a young upstart for entertaining such a thought. The young man who had neither qualified nor distinguished himself in anything, demanded that the elderly gentleman, pull up his shirt sleeve and hold out his arm. The young man, also pulled up his shirt sleeve and held his arm next to the older man's. One was chocolate brown, the other was ebony black. The young man then announced that a new day had dawned and blackness had won the day -- he was the one with the black arm.
More people in this country were awarded contracts for which they were not qualified, while others suffered hypertension because they were appointed to government positions for which they had no ability. The country suffered, the people suffered and today -- with D-minus averages to run our country -- the whole nation still suffers.
At the moment we are witnessing an unseemly scene in which a civil servant is being encouraged to believe that a position is hers as of right. It is as if she has taken ownership of the post.
Bahamians have to understand that for this country to succeed and its people to move ahead no one owns a job. They are only entitled to a position if they are considered the best man or woman for that opening. They might have the paper credentials, but another essential ingredient might be lacking, such as consistent and hard work on a daily basis, not an occasional spurt of effort, followed by a long "vacation."
We know many good artisans in this country -- but the problem is that there are not enough of them. For example, if you wreck your car, the happiest day in Mr Kelly of Fox Hill's life is when he can deliver the repaired vehicle to your door looking as though it had just left the factory. Then there is our faithful plumber, also of Fox Hill, and the electrician, the locksmith and so many others. They distinguish themselves because they are not only good at their job, but they take pride in their work and understand the meaning of reliability and service. No foreigner could ever replace these men. The Bahamas' tragedy is that there are not enough of them. This is what is found at every level of the labour chain -- from the most skilled professional to the lowest artisan. There are just not enough of the good ones.
The Bahamas is moving ahead faster than many of its people are willing to go. No nation can get very far with schools turning out D- graduates. Employers have been warning the country for many years that unless something is done to change the attitude of the work force, foreigners will always be needed. Eventually they will swamp the market.
And so we wish Bahamas Human Resources Development Association good luck as they wrestle with this serious problem and prepare a situation paper to try to solve it.
August 10, 2010