The Draft Final Report, A Strategic Framework for Optimizing Benefits from Trade Liberalization in the Bahamas, by Trevor Hamilton and Associates, Kingston, Jamaica, to the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce (dated July 23, 2002) made some very important points and failed to make others. Furthermore, it promotes the currently “politically correct” policies touted by national and international politicians and bureaucrats. As the following comments will demonstrate the “Draft Final” Report should be considered as a good “first draft” in need of additional work before it is accepted as a “Final Report”.
The following is a partial analysis of the Report that for reasons of brevity will not address the data or the FTAA/WTO membership issues.
What the Report says.
The Report contains lists of statements that include the following:
1. Domestic and foreign investment is necessary for economic growth. The Report never states why growth is an important and desirable national goal.
2. “Hospitality services” are described as “tourism, real estate merchandising and others”, the sectors that will attract investment. International finance is written off as a growth driver, the apparent result of the eleven bills of Christmas 2000. But those finance bills also adversely affect real estate merchandising.
3. Telecommunications will have to be modernized to become the “main technological” driver of the economy. The privatization of Batelco is mentioned but the written statement does not convey the urgency expressed at the Chamber’s seminar.
4. Government services must be upgraded. There is no elaboration on what this means.
5. The supply of skilled labor force is inadequate. There are many proposed projects and programs for on-the-job training, testing and certification. However, nowhere is there a discussion of the failure of public education and student performance (particularly males) or the reform objectives for that system. It is difficult to see how e-commerce can ever prosper or the economy grow without a very significant improvement here given the constant pressure and need to hire Bahamians.
The Report has extensive lists of projects for execution by the Government working with business and/or labour and presumably under the direction and with the assistance of a vendor like Trevor Hamilton. There is the Ten Challenge list, the six item Labour project list and the nine item Legislative list.
What the Report does not do.
However, the Report does not examine actual growth, give examples nor provide a development theory or model. No reference is made to any insights gained from a half-century of experience with programs intended to promote growth. The fact is that growth has eluded 80% of the world over the past 20 years. While it is difficult to disentangle the critical elements in any specific country, there are certain statements that can be made with authority.