A playbook is what professional teams use before they go into battle. It is a necessary tool to devise strategy on how to win. As we scramble as a nation to see how we can dig ourselves out of the economic mess we find ourselves in, it is truly time for all hands to be on deck to see how we can weather this Category 5 economic “hurricane”.
In recent weeks, committees have been formed and, from what I have heard, they are operational and reaching out to the public for input and suggestions. Hopefully, they will be reporting back in a more timely fashion than the committee which was tasked to investigate marijuana decriminalization in The Bahamas.
Perhaps this is an area that needs to be recommended to the Cabinet for fast-tracking. In an earlier column, I commented on the vast acres of Crown land, particularly in our southern islands, which could be used for farming and the development of a much-needed agriculture industry. In most of these communities, the population has shrunk and continues to atrophy. Take for example the communities of Long Island, Cat Island, Crooked Island and Acklins, where we pour millions of tax dollars into the upkeep of a handful of inhabitants. Yes, I will likely be on the receiving end of some backlash for this “taboo” suggestion; however, the bottom line remains that we just cannot and should not continue down this road of lackluster economic innovation.
Perhaps we should consider legalizing the growth of marijuana and exporting the product to countries that use it for both medicinal and legally recreational purposes. I am certain there is a huge market for it, especially in those countries that have a short growing season. As I mentioned in a previous column, this herb has been legalized in most parts of the world, so why don’t we take advantage of this growing market, put our people to work and create badly-needed revenue in the treasury? We could even use our famous marketing slogan – “It’s better in The Bahamas”.
I am almost certain that there will be persons opposed to this, but I think our tourist product needs revamping. It appears as though the days of our trusted marketing ammunition of sun, sand and sea may have had its day. It is imperative that we consider more creative ways of surviving and not continue to rely so heavily on our tourism product. To put it lightly, these times require much more than thinking outside the box; we must be on top of it. This sentiment also applies to our financial sector, which is under constant threat of blacklisting, as the Europeans prefer their citizens to keep their money at home. In addition, when we are not threatened with the possibility of blacklisting, international banks here, such as the Canadian banks, continue to send their operations to our cousins down south, causing the loss of Bahamian jobs.
Every year, between five to six thousand of our children leave school with little prospect of finding a job, unless it’s a low-paying one, as they have not been equipped with the skills they need to empower themselves and to become entrepreneurs and leaders in new niche markets that have yet to be tapped into.
This pandemic is teaching a cruel lesson that we need to get back to basics, with specific insistence on addressing the fact that we must learn to feed ourselves. Schools need to start turning out farmers rather than bus boys and housekeepers; farmers who can go out and earn a living.
Again, there is acreage available that can be leased and given to these young agriculturalists. BAMSI is a good place to start.
The problem is we tend to think in five-year cycles tied in with our national election, rather than 50-year cycles. On that note, where is our country’s national plan? The Chinese are a fine example of the importance of having an actionable plan. This country continues to approach their development of both industry and society with an incredible amount of foresight and benchmarked goals. It is evident this has been successful, as they maintain one of the strongest economies in the world. Practically everything is made in China, including the mackerel and tuna fish we lovingly consume on a daily basis.
It is high time that we bite the bullet when it comes to addressing where our country is going economically and there is no better time than now, as we try to dig ourselves out of this hole COVID-19 has put us in.
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.