By: Lindsay Thompson
NASSAU, Bahamas – Cabinet Ministers this week were given a first hand look at how to transform the country into a more efficient and competitive society, based on recommendations from senior public officers.
Various perspectives on human capital, the environment, infrastructure and E-Government were outlined during presentations at the British Colonial Hilton on Thursday, January 17.
The presentations by senior officers were delivered in a two-phased Applied Strategic Planning Exercise facilitated by the Ministry of Finance.
Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing commended the senior officers on their efforts and said the issues outlined would be addressed by the Government in a timely manner.
Financial Secretary Ruth Millar noted that the presentations must be treated as building blocks to achieving and maintaining competitive equality if not, competitive supremacy, as “our survival depends on it.”
She said The Bahamas could be transformed like Singapore, pointing out that on its separation from the Malaysian Federation in 1965, urban slums proliferated, crime rates were high and only half the population was literate.
Singapore, she noted, has since become a model for economic development which other nations seek to emulate. The Asian nation exports technical assistance and readily shares its public sector expertise across the world.
In 2005, when the Ministry was assigned responsibility for liasing with the Baha Mar Company on the implementation of Phase I of its Cable Beach development project, Mrs. Millar said it was amazed at the magnitude of the proposed development and almost overwhelmed by the contemplation of its simultaneous implementation with other major projects throughout the nation.
“Simply put,” she noted, “assuring the successful implementation of the government’s obligations posed an enormous challenge to the public sector to meet the effective and timely delivery and coordination of supplementary investments and public services across the entire public sector and this would be in addition to carrying out regular services.”
Mrs. Millar said the government needed to take a hard look at how it went about doing its business and to develop both a vision of where it wanted to take the public sector and a road map for getting there.
She noted that the government became aware of an Inter-American Development Bank publication entitled, “A Fresh Look at Development”, which rated 18 countries on the attributes of stability, adaptability, implementation and enforcement, and efficiency of policies. Chile was ranked the highest.
“As Chile, like The Bahamas, is a very open economy that has been consistently considered among the best location in the region for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), we thought it would be useful to hear from the Chileans about the underlying strategy for their success and accordingly invited them to provide technical assistance for developing a strategy for our use,” she said.
“We also recognised that if we were to successfully satisfy the government’s obligations we needed an anchor to hold everyone together and to proceed in a deliberate and focused way,” Mrs. Millar said.
She noted that strategic planning is not just beneficial for the investment projects but also for carrying out daily operations.
“We just needed to mine the information and coordinate our actions in a deliberate way,” Mrs Millar said.
In this vein, several seminars were held for the Oversight Committee, which were facilitated by well-known Canadian specialists on strengthening the administrative system, developing and implementing policy and leading and managing change.
As a result, a major initiative was organised to expose a large number of senior officials in an applied training exercise, so that rather than a few people at the top trying to come up with all of the ideas on what to do, many are doing so. The aim is to bring about a common understanding and a quicker transformation.
A two-phased Applied Strategic Planning exercise was undertaken, to address major issues that could be impediments to economic, social and management success.
Audrey Ingram-Roberts, facilitator for the Strategic Planning initiative, “The presentations speak well for the kind of transformation that the public sector seeks to carry out. We have good group of people here who are ready to lead the transformation in the public sector.”