REMARKS BY PUBLIC SERVICE MINISTER, HON. D. SHANE GIBSON AT THE UN PUBLIC SERVICE FORUM IN MEDELLIN, COLUMBIA

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Minister D. Shane Gibson at Conference.
Minister D. Shane Gibson, center, is seen delivering the Bahamas’ statement at the UN Public Service Forum on in Medellin, Columbia Wednesday, 24th June 2015..
Remarks by
Honourable D. Shane Gibson, MP
Minister of Labour and National Insurance
And Minister of the Public Service

at the
Expert Group Meeting on Innovating Public Service Delivery for Sustainable Development

2015 United Nations Public Service Forum Day
and Awards

Medellin, Colombia
24-25 June, 2015

Mr. President
Mr. Chairperson
Colleague Ministers
Senior Government Officials
Fellow Presenters
Participants
Ladies and Gentlemen

I bring you greetings from the beautiful islands that comprise the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I also thank you for your invitation to celebrate innovations in the public service and to share with you some of the things that we are doing in my country.

Your hospitality during my last visit to attend the 18th Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labour of the Organization of American States made me eager to return. This time I return in my capacity as the Minister of the Public Service.

Ladies and Gentlemen
Over the past 42 years of Independence, The Bahamas has experienced an exponential growth in the number, diversity and level of education of its citizenry, rapid transformations to its landscapes as we witness the development of mega-properties, and has undergone dynamic changes in its global relationships. Not to mention, of our 700 islands and cays, approximately 20 are populated, not including privately owned cays. Further, of a population of approximately 380,000, about two-thirds reside on New Providence which is about 21 miles long and 7 miles wide. In a nutshell, this sums up the complexity of the challenges facing The Bahamas as everything must be replicated on each island and the overcrowding of the capital must be addressed. These are all further compounded by the downturn in the global economy.

In response to our growing needs, the Public Service has undergone many changes, but the tides of change MUST continue to flow. In the interest of sustainable national development, a dynamic and modern public service is essential to meet the changing demands and expectations of our society and those with whom we do business. Unfortunately, the Public Service has moved too slowly due to a resistant organizational culture which has been established over the years. Our Act, policies and processes are over 50 years old and we are still too paper bound.

Ladies and Gentlemen
If we fail to address this problem in a more focused and comprehensive manner, the Public Service would simply not have the competencies to support a developing country. Therefore, this Government is committed to addressing public service transformation with all urgency:

A top priority is Youth Employment. Prime Minister the Right Honourable Perry Christie, in his latest budget speech, renewed Government’s commitment to addressing youth unemployment and the creation of sustainable jobs. This requires preparing Bahamians to perform at high levels.

That’s why the National Training Agency was created in 2013 to build a competency-based training and job placement system which addresses the actual requirements of the workplace. And it’s just the beginning. The Bahamas is proud that the structure and clinical work of the National Training Agency have received regional and international commendations.

This government is also committed to the Promotion of stable Industrial Relations. The Bahamas has a strong Union presence and in April the National Tripartite Council Act, 2014 came into force. The Council comprises representatives of the workers, the employers and the Government and its primary goal is to ensure a more stable industrial relations climate.

Efforts have also been made to respond to those in Need while Preserving their Dignity. Recently, the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development launched RISE (Renewing, Inspiring Sustaining and Empowering). This Conditional Cash Transfer project has been described as a “life-changing initiative” aimed at “breaking the cycle of poverty”. Monies for rent, food and utilities are placed in a bank account for families in need, and then accessed using a debit card. This initiative is a collaborative effort between the Ministries of Health and Education.

Then there’s E-Government. The Ministry of Finance through its Department of Information Technology has supervised the implementation of many aspects of Government Business on-line, to reduce processing and wait time.

Ladies and Gentlemen
The Bahamas Government is also taking steps to increase the efficiency of the public sector through the creation of the National Development Plan, spearheaded by the Office of the Prime Minister. To ensure the success of this plan, there will be wide consultation and the final product will be national and non-partisan. This Plan will focus The Bahamas for the next 20 to 25 years in the areas of investment and development, recommend informed decisions about the best approaches for reaching our goals, align all Ministries and Departments for consistency and coherence, shape the budget allocation and identify actions for the public sector.

However, we recognize the need for a comprehensive review. That’s why the Government has obtained a Consultancy by the Commonwealth Secretariat (COMSEC) to conduct a diagnostic study on upgrading and restructuring the Public Service.

The initial report indicated, among other things, that our strengths include the talent, resilience and innovative spirit of our people, our commitment to an improved Public Service, and the National Development Plan Initiative which will be key as we move forward. The report also identified weaknesses including succession planning, training and development, management and leadership, outdated procedures, risk assessment and management, and policy development and integration – all of which contribute to what we now call “the hollow middle”. That is, a dearth of competencies.

Here’s how we intend to tackle this problem. All ministries will develop strategic plans, which will undoubtedly include the use of information technology, youth development, succession planning, and accessibility of information, quicker response times, customer service and requisite competencies for sustained development. We must also review and revise our Public Service Act and align our policies.

Moreover, the Prime Minister is adamant that we begin a Public Service College to address the development of skills of senior management in the Public Service from Permanent Secretaries down, to fill the hollow middle.

Ladies and Gentlemen
One day our generation will pass the baton to the next generation. Therefore, it is our obligation to continuously examine ourselves, build capacity among youth and re-tool our current employees so that they remain on the cutting edge for a world class Public Service. We must acquire the correct knowledge, and hone the right skills and attitudes.

I encourage, and look forward to, continued dialogue with you all for the sharing of ideas and best practices in accordance with regional and international standards. I wish you all well as we continue to find ways to improve.

Thank you.

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