LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: The Bahamas at 50!

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: The Bahamas at 50!
Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Economic Committee Head Hubert Edwards.

Some observers often refer to The Bahamas as the “Greatest Little Country in the World”. Others have used this reference with variation. An objective and honest assessment, taking into account all the circumstances of the country, should readily lead to a conclusion that this is largely an aspirational statement. However, I believe there is no reason why this needs to remain so. From an economic and social development perspective I am convinced that The Bahamas has had, and continue to have, the potential to more significantly outpace others in the region and to match strides with much larger countries around the world. 

I have always argued that the use of the word “little” in the above expression should be excluded.  As an aspirational outlook focusing on size is in my view limiting. The Bahamas has the potential to be truly one of the “Greatest Country in the World”. Despite the current challenges faced by the country, it is almost peerless within the region as it relates to the standard of living and economic performance and opportunities but is underperforming its potential.

This reality is part of the challenge faced in being recognized as one of the great countries of the world. Over its existence as a country with full self-determination The Bahamas has been “good”, and in many instances “very good”. As a collective, having regard for actual actions, or lack thereof; actual decisions or lack thereof; actual outcomes tolerated; and the actual state of affairs – primarily economic and social – we have seemingly not yet made the collective commitment to transition to “great”.  

In other words, The Bahamas’ good fortune over the years may have had a braking effect on the needed momentum to achieve its full potential. By way of example and contrast, when Singapore initiated its intentional journey to become one of the greatest country on the globe it could not have been described as even a near-average country. With its unique challenges of unsettling racial tensions and at the time serious underdevelopment left by the English, its future prospects of being anything better, left unaddressed was beyond negligible. Singapore has proven that with an intentional strategy; a national consensus; and leadership at all levels of society committed to the national strategy it is possible. 

I am convinced that The Bahamas has the ingredients necessary to create a similar trajectory but this requires a serious transformation in approach to national development. As we reflect of the country over the last fifty years it’s reasonable to conclude that the largely piecemeal approach to date is not sustainable. There is a need for bolder, more enthusiastic, challenging and inspiring declarations of where the country expects to be in the future. This should be coupled with disciplined management to secure the essence of such declarations. As a natural outflow the propensity for plans, programs and strategies to yield to the tensions of other objectives, which renders results suboptimal must be actively curtailed and any limiting pressures, outlook or mindset eliminated in the best interest of the country.  

The Bahamas at fifty is a time for great celebration. Much has been achieved transitioning from external rule to internal self-governance; from minority to majority rule; from being “managed” to full self-determination and independence. The development of social institutions, the building of an independent government machinery; engendering vibrant commerce and nurturing a substantially stable and growing economy, are all factors worthy of serious celebration. The country’s achievements in the areas of sport; education; culture; as an exemplary touristic destination; and despite recent curtailment a financial jurisdiction of international repute are outstanding. These achievements must not be taken lightly and should be consistently celebrated. Those who fought for social advancement, labored to address inequity and inequality, and stood on the front lines of uncomfortable moments and circumstances should be heralded and singled out as examples of what it means to be nation-builders.

But this should also be a time for deep reflection. A time to look back and ask serious questions with a view of executing the next fifty superior ways than has been done up to now. It is a time to measure performance against potential with a commitment to remedy the gaps, the failings, the stumbles, for the greater good of all. Fifty years of independence is certainly a moment for jubilance but we should make space for deep analysis. The signaling of renewed efforts with the National Development Plan is therefore positive but this time it cannot be allowed to suffer the fate of past initiatives. On the occasion of turning fifty the prospects of moving from good to great; shifting from perpetual failure to advance beyond planning; charting a national path empowered by broad consensus across all critical facets of society must become real and indelible. 

When one considers the current economic circumstances of the country; the state of national infrastructural stock; the circumstances in education and health care, amongst others, there is much work to be done. The experience during the pandemic has shown how vulnerable the country is economically and otherwise. The upside of this experience is that we are now better informed as to where effort must be brought to bear and the level of attention needed, across the board.  The Bahamas at fifty, less than two years removed from the most significant global financial and health crisis in the history of mankind, must now ready itself to take the next big steps in nation-building. 

I submit that the focus must be on big-ticket matters such as greater “economic emancipation” across the populace; curtailing and remedying areas of the observed decline in the national social fabric; amassing a network of world-class healthcare infrastructure; and improving the effectiveness and productivity of public services. The country must become arrested to the task of creating viable strategies and systems for the advancement of education, taking us from the often mentioned, even if arguable, “D-average”, to levels of competence that will fuel and be relevant to future economic developments. Education is the catalyst to fundamental national growth and development and an important equalizer of individual circumstances and therefore its outcomes must become more effective as we chart the next fifty. 

The Bahamas at Fifty must take seriously the conversation proposed by the current Prime Minister on how economic dignity will be achieved for the majority of the population. This does not argue for hand-outs but for facilitative approaches which allows those who are able and willing to maximize their potential as citizens and contribute productively to the advancement of the country and benefit from second chances, in alignment with the national consensus for the country’s advancement. The Bahamas at fifty must commit and grapple with social cohesion and the future destabilizing effects of lack of decisions around immigration and integration. There should be a shift in the outlook. While applying the rule of law without fear or favour the time has come to approach this area as a strategic national asset while guarding against the negatives that have pertained to date. 

The tasks ahead are by no means easy but I am convinced that as a country The Bahamas can achieve whatever “loftier goals” it sets for itself. As stated by the Prime Minster, Hon Phillip “Brave” Davis, in his swearing-in speech: “There is much work to be done; but I know that by working together, we can succeed and build the kind of prosperous, independent Bahamas that our founding fathers dreamed for us.”

At fifty it’s time to truly shackle ourselves to the essence of this message, of advancing the country, together. At the same event The Deputy Prime Minster, Chester Cooper, underlined this when he stated: “I know what can be achieved in our country. We must work with all Bahamians to build a better future. We must make these things our commitment to the Bahamian people. This is a great country, a resilient country of faithful, hardworking people. There is nothing we cannot achieve, together.” 

Therefore as we approach the anniversary of independence, celebrating fifty years I entreat all who are convicted with all that is in the best interest of the country to acknowledge the calling of the motto and move “forward, upward, onward, together”.  The primary task rests not in just achieving the visions of the past, together expanding them, to truly become one of “the Greatest Country” in the world. Happy Independence Bahamas!

Written by: Hubert Edwards



This treatise, ‘The Bahamas at 50!’ by Hubert Edwards (ORG) is BRILLIANT! Its overall objective that our perspective can and should be one of advancing the objective of ‘the best little country on earth’ to one of the ‘best countries on earth’ is absolutrly convincing! It reflects on our perceived current regional position, speaks to a salient cause as to our relaxed initiative to improve on our current accomplishments, highlights some of the areas that need aggressive attention and leaves us with the notion that ‘we can do this!’ His synopsis of where we are at 50 is an absolutely positive one that should be promulgated to each and every Bahamian! Well done Sir!

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