MITCHELL ANSWERS QUINCY PARKER’S QUESTIONS
cialis nurse times;”>The following questions were posed by Qunicy Parker, Business Editor of The Nassau Guardian following the address of Fred Mitchell MP to the House on the Budget. Mr. Mitchell’s remarks were made on 3rd June. The answers to the questions are found below:
1. The COB institute – what do you imagine it will be and mean for the country, region?
For some time I have been concerned about the lack of training for incoming officers. The Ministry under my direction and with the support of the government seeks to hire five new Foreign Service officers every year. This is to avoid in the future the knowledge gap which developed during the years of the Ingraham administration when there was a virtual hiring freeze and continued during our first term (2002-2007). By the time that decision was reversed during our last year, the FNM won office in 2007 and they started the hiring again. The problem is that the entry requirement is simply a good first degree and we have no way of independently testing the suitability for the job and the roles you have to play including a psychological and social profile of the individual applicant.
I am in favour of a test which each applicant has to pass in order to get onto the Foreign Service in addition to the good first degree.
Then I think what is required is a three month stint at an institute which should be developed in conjunction with the College of The Bahamas, part of its public administration programme perhaps, which will teach each new Foreign Service Officer some basic things like style of speaking and writing, protocol, reporting relationships, your role as a public figure, history and institutional memory and a commitment to promoting this country and its values overseas and at home. This would also include how to deal and interact and serve the public.
I have asked Donna Lowe, an experienced Foreign Service officer to work with the college to develop such an institute and programme.
She is also tasked with the implementation of the Foreign Service Orders and the weaning of the Foreign Service from the public administration generally.
It is likely to be my successors in office who will take this further but I am seeking to set the foundation.
The idea is to make the Foreign Service of The Bahamas among the most powerful proponents in the region in keeping the interests of our country and the Caribbean at the forefront of Latin American and Caribbean affairs. The formal establishment of the Foreign Service and the Institute are a step in that direction.
2. Sheila Carey, former Charge in China is coming home – you say you’re a man in a hurry, so what’s the rush? What is it you’re trying to get done? And why the sense of urgency?
I am now sixty one years old. The life expectancy at birth of people who were born in 1953 is pretty close or past. Each year my classmates in high school and from primary school pass away or are crippled by illness as we age. People I fought with in politics, my contemporaries and my examples are leaving the scene. So it is clear what is in front of me.
Secondly, I have had a number of conversations with the Prime Minister about plotting the way forward and where I would like to be at the end of my political career. I want us to win the next general election and I want to work with the Prime Minister and my colleagues to do so, working toward handing the country off to a dynamic group of liberal democratic thinkers with values of tolerance and respect for individual freedom, team play and the rule of law.
Unlike some others, I do not fully accept that what the PLP has is a PR problem. My view is that there is a deficit amongst our base in our understanding of what they expected at this point and what can and has been delivered. So we are all working like the Dickens to make sure those issues are corrected. My view is that it’s actions that speak louder than words.
As a subset of that conversation with the PM (I have spoken about this publicly as well) is the issue of the public administration and one of the particular obstacles to executing public policy. I have a young kid who voted for me who we have been seeking to get on the public service for three years. We have a space in the service but after three years we have not yet accomplished it: one thing after the next, lost files, application to be done over again, financial clearance expired and on and on. Try explaining that to a 20 year old who believes you are the minister and you can get it done. That is but one small example. As we get closer to general elections, I suspect it will become even more difficult. I am dedicated to tackling that broader issue of the public administration and the execution of public policy on a timely basis.
So it is against that back drop that I made the statement. We now have a change of command at the PS level at the Ministry and it is important in the system that both PS and Minister are on the same page and it’s the responsibility of the PS to move the public administration to carry out without let or hindrance the policy initiatives of the government so long as those instructions and initiatives are lawful.
This society is too deliberative in its decision making. It is has slowed down our successes. The fact that there is a hostile media environment does not help either.
I was particularly disappointed on a political level about some of the folk we recruited for the PLP and who were elected to public office on our ticket. They turned out not to be liberal democrats but rooted in a strange and backward looking ideology which I simply do not understand. It is better for them to go off on a frolic of their own, rather than damaging the PLP brand with “reprobation’ and approbation.
One shocking example was their position on equality in the law for women.
We have to move on with the soldiers of that next generation who have a heart for politics and an understanding of the compromises that need to be made to move forward. You have to say that people like Ryan Pinder, Mike Halkitis, Khaalis Rolle, Jerome Fitzgerald, Hope Strachan, Damien Gomez, Mike Darville, Cleola Hamilton, Danny Johnson, Dion Smith are amongst those new recruits that seem to have their heads and hearts in the right place. So we have to work with the great team we have and the new recruits who will want to join us, new men and women in the next general election. We in the present time are all in a hurry. 2016 is the eve of the election and there is not a moment to wait.
Our goal is to make this place richer, more equitable, more peaceful and a secure, stronger and self-confident Bahamas.