Protecting Bahamian Jobs at what cost?

First Published: 2013-04-16

It usually starts with a speech about how Bahamians are being deprived of jobs in their own land or the like. Maybe it’s an "emotional" appeal for employers to do "what’s right", or a simple threat that work permits might be denied or not renewed and/or the fee (tax) will be increased, or a degree of each.

The fact is, Bahamians have prospered as a result of an open economy and the importation of foreign workers, even entry level staff.

And if The Government took its obligation to education seriously, these conversations might never occur.

The Ministry of Education‘s slogan, posted at their web site, is "Fostering Competence, Character and Citizenship in the Pursuit of Excellence in Education". Now if only the results matched, this conversation would go away.

Over the years, the present government (PLP) coined the phrase, "Bahamiansation" as a way of making people feel they are entitled to jobs, encouraging Bahamians to believe they are being denied jobs because they are Bahamian. And as should be expected this has created resentment, that is regurgitated every few years for nothing more than political self-interest.

The Financial Services Consultative Forum and it’s Immigration Sub-Committee for the PLP Govenrment of the day, released the following findings here… and here… Anyone the least bit interested in solving this problem should read them to get a better understanding of what is taking place.

While serving on that committee, one of our Board members began to see the paradox of the Bahamiansation policy, and it prompted the release of a minority report. You can read the report "Bahamianisation" (pdf) here…

In the final, The Bahamas faces two problems. One is a failing public educational system and the second is a depressed economy.

So what must be done?

First of all there has to be a concentrated effort to improve education, as the country has lost a couple generations. Privatising education would be a good place to start and then wait for the improvement to happen, but obviously this takes time.

Second, as the late Dr. Peter Bauer demonstrated "foreign aid, restrictive immigration and population policies, and trade barriers hinder economic growth.” ( Read more about how economic growth takes place in the following article, Economic Growth. A policy prescription for the government of The Bahamas.

For faster economic growth to take place the "political directorate must be mature enough to accept and promote their role as little more than facilitators for growth and not be directly involved in business activity."

Rueven Brenner noted in 1998; “We can be confident that the idea that governments can frequently do more than that (create institutions that make it possible for entrepreneurship and financial markets to flourish) is a consequence of government subsidized myth creation.”

The institutional framework is important, and if the government implements the wrong policies in a knee jerk manner thinking they can create wealth or employment, The Bahamas will soon relinquish its position as the economic power house of the region.

"Protecting" jobs for Bahamians, is a route to a declining economy. The alternative might be a difficult sell, but that’s what political leadership is for. Anyone can convince us that protectionism works as it appeals to our emotions. The reality is, as history teaches, it destroys economies and employment.

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