Earlier I raised the question as to whether “Economic Dignity” is an emerging philosophical stance with potential for spillover into the wider region. I then proffer the question as to whether there are there leaders who are convicted to act in this direction. Both I believe are very important questions to contemplate.
As we look to the future and anticipate individual countries in the Caribbean, and a region as a whole, having greater economic influence and geo-political relevance, we have to look to the extent to which the people will experience sustained economic and social advancement. This possibility, without question will turn on the efficacy of leadership and the path such leaders pursue.
When therefore the Prime Minister speaks to a particular approach or philosophy, it should not be ignored. The question that lies in the wings to be answered is the extent to which there is full commitment and conviction to the ideas and on what basis can such commitment be reasonably assessed.
The Prime Minister of The Bahamas, like some others in the region, come from reasonably humble beginnings. He currently enjoys the reputation of being a great personality with the ability to connect to the circumstances of the ordinary man. How committed therefore should one anticipate that he will be, to marshalling the transforming changes which will lead to a better day for such persons?
In leadership and public speaking, you learn that personal stories are the most effective means of connecting with an audience, developing credibility and authenticity. The Prime Minister, as do others across the Caribbean, tells his personal stories often.
One such occasion was on being sworn into office. He shared then, “As a young boy growing up in Cat Island, I faced many hardships and obstacles…As a young man trying to find his first job, I faced doors that seemed always slammed shut...As a lawyer trying to build a practice, I missed out on many opportunities because I didn’t have the right connections. I know what it is like to be on the outside looking in...I am determined to take the wisdom gained from these experiences and use it to help others...”
Without question, this is a powerful overview of humble beginnings and unfortunate challenges. Convicted by such life experiences one would reasonably anticipate that there will be significant policy targeted at championing the cause of the people and, objectively, charting initiatives and programs that help to create a new environment, which will significantly reduce the incidence of such occurrences as he noted.
The pillars of “Economic Dignity” looms large when one considers the life experiences prime minister shared. Experience that often lesser-resourced and less capable individuals are unable to overcome. It is therefore not very difficult to understand why there is an attraction to the concept and why it has seemingly become a reasonably central element of the prime minister’s economic discourses.
The Prime Minister has outlined what I believe to be the essence of his desired outcome for his leadership. A desire to create circumstances in which there is greater economic equity, greater focus on human dignity and a set of outcomes where, as he often states, "the many" benefits, more than had inured up to this point, and there is greater evidence of provision for human dignity.
Seemingly, a desire to create circumstances built on the principle of government being facilitative, with the individual being responsible for their own heavy lifting, all in the direction towards greater economic equity. “Economic Dignity” appears to be the philosophy of choice to guide this effort.
If “Economic Dignity” as a concept was to become a reality, it is my view that it would serve the country well in terms of having a broad framework against which development can be forged, managed, and measured to ensure a more balanced social and economic advancement.
While we must remain mindful that it is largely an American concept and is premised on a fundamentally different social and taxation framework, there is no doubt that it strikes at the core of a number of critical factors, present from pre-1967, which are still actively at play and are debilitating to national development.
In his lecture, the Prime Minister recognized that elements such as unreasonable government support of private efforts and an entrenched status quo has subsist for more than fifty years. This honest acknowledgement should feature prominently in considering how to chart the way going forward. It will be important therefore, that the values driving future performance are effective in countering the obstacles to more persons benefiting from the continued development of the country.
It is critical that the country realize greater equity in opportunities for persons across all socio-economic groupings to pursue their individual dreams and thrive. It is only when the broadest swath of citizen and residents have opportunities to reach for their fullest potential that the country's growth and development will be optimized.
This clues us in on the fact that the Prime Minister might have a view that some tweaking is necessary, and such tweaking in my estimation is to facilitate the ability for wealth development in segments of the population which has to now either be essentially locked out or extremely challenged in progressing.
Would it be reasonable to conclude that the Prime Minister’s intent is to change or at least influence the trajectory and output of governance in the county? Gene Sperling, challenged on the idea that the Obama focus on health care was a distraction in not being focused on the economy, asked, whether “the fear felt by millions of Americans of being one serious illness away from financial ruin was not considered an economic issue”.
Sperling often speak to the fact that we measured economic success by metrics such as GDP instead of determining whether the economy was succeeding in lifting up the sense of meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and security of people. No doubt, the country, and the region, could easily align with this ideal.
By invoking the idea of “Economic Dignity”, is this a clear signal of how the trajectory will change? Has the prime minister’s personal experiences render him sufficiently convicted to follow through on these ideas and thinking?
Are there clues to be gleaned from his closing statement when he noted, “National development needs us all to pull together, for the betterment of everyone. By working in partnership, we can spend the next 50 years building the kind of Bahamas that each of us knows in our hearts, is ‘Better’”?
Certainly a Bahamas where the wider masses can readily declare that they enjoy, commensurate with their efforts and commitment, equitable chances of success, social and economic advancement must be at least a part of the foundational prerequisites necessary future growth. Growth that truly uplift the masses. Moreover, certainly such an outcome would be a clear example that the wider region would be attracted to.
Hubert Edwards is the principal of Next Level Solutions Limited (NLS), a management consultancy firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hubert specializes in governance, risk and compliance (GRC), accounting and finance. NLS provides services in the areas of enterprise risk management, internal audit and policy and procedures development, regulatory consulting, anti-money laundering, accounting and strategic planning. He also chairs the Organization for Responsible Governance’s (ORG) Economic Development Committee. This and other articles are available at www.nlsolutionsbahamas.com.