There are significant reserves of Bahamian capital, human and financial, currently abroad. That capital has been attracted to various overseas opportunities and markets able to utilize and often better reward such potential. This has resulted in a brain and financial capital drain on the country.
None of this is unique to us. Yet, The Bahamas must devise its own strategies to repatriate these resources, providing opportunities for such capital to be rewarded. Just as we target foreign direct investment and qualified international talent, we should do likewise with both Bahamian investment potential and talent resident abroad.
Of necessity, our greater, though not singular, emphasis is on attracting foreign direct investment to help capitalize our growth and development. Our developmental equation also requires world-class Bahamian talent.
This will require improved educational and training opportunities for Bahamians at home. It must also include an aggressive, consistent and sophisticated programme of recruitment of Bahamian talent around the world. This should include a database or registry of such talent from around the world.
The global Bahamian talent pool is considerable for such a small country. History and geography have, in many ways, been good to us. We have often returned the favour. Because of our strategic location and historical experience we have developed a resilient nation and a creative and diverse talent pool.
Despite an often indulged penchant for insularity, there is a cosmopolitan spirit to The Bahamas. Three things are inevitable for Bahamians: death, taxes and getting a passport.
Despite xenophobic sentiments, inward migration has generally been beneficial to the country in terms of diversifying our genetic pool. Scratch the surface and most of us are a few generations removed from being from somewhere else, despite the pretensions of some.
The delusion of a superior or singular Bahamian identity or pedigree is historically and genetically dubious. The Bahamas DNA Project is revealing the fascinating extent of our genetic diversity. Like America, we are a relatively new and evolving people. Being a true-true Bahamian includes an acculturation into the values and ethos of the Bahamian spirit, not a genetic identify test.
It is a matter of pride and maturity that The Bahamas elected as Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, a Father of the Nation, the son of a Jamaican father and Bahamian mother. Those who deemed him insufficiently Bahamian demonstrated an unBahamian spirit antithetical to our larger national experience.
As a dynamic and global crossroads, we have produced a talent pool able to punch way above our small population. The Bahamian David has Goliathan ambitions, cleverly using core strengths to create outsized achievements.
In a revealing analysis of the medal count following the 2004 Athens Olympics, for a country of under 400,000. The Economist discovered that in terms of medals per million of population The Bahamas was not only first in the world. It was also significantly ahead of the parade of nations in achieving Olympic glory. As our medal count continues to climb so does the number of Bahamian Rhodes Scholars.
One of those scholars, Christian Campbell, recently won the best first collection prize at the Aldeburgh poetry festival in the UK for his book of poetry, Running the Dusk. The book was described by one festival judge as “the clear stand-out” among the many volumes read for the award. Campbell received a cheque prize of £3,000 and has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for best collection.
Janine Antoni, hailing from Grand Bahama has had her work displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as well as other notable museums and galleries. She has also received several prestigious awards including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship.
Our recipe for success includes two key ingredients: Much of our talent has been nurtured at home and further developed overseas. We have had considerable global exposure and training, participating in international competition in various arenas from the arts to sports to academics to the business world.
Moreover, we should better acknowledge and further enhance the seeds, fertile soil and home-grown ingredients for our world-class success. The double equation of nurturing our talent at home and abroad has a third element in an ever-expanding equation of success.
Financial remittances from overseas nationals to their home nations are a significant portion of the gross domestic product of many countries. Similarly, the repatriation of human capital and talent will help to significantly boost our treasury of talent and training opportunities for Bahamians.
Devard Darling’s generosity is an example. Born in Nassau, this professional football player in the U.S. began the “As the One Foundation”, which sponsors the Devard and Devaughan Football Camps. The camps promote the interest of young Bahamians in American football.
Myron Rolle, the scholar-athlete, Rhodes Scholar and professional football player, is also lending his talent to his Bahamian homeland. He has launched the Myron L. Rolle Foundation and plans to open a free health clinic in Steventon, Exuma.
The clinic will be called the Myron L. Rolle Medical Clinic and Sports Complex after this young man with Bahamian roots who was named in September by Sporting News as the second smartest athlete in sports in the United States.
In addition to philanthropy at home by Bahamians overseas, The Bahamas is a highly-rich economy with significant and often untapped potential in multiple growth areas that may be filled by Bahamians abroad.
There are potential consultancies for those who may decide not to return home permanently, but who have a variety of specialty services to offer. Others, returning home, may seek to fill various jobs requiring specialty skills as well as a second and often third language or more. Yet others may want to open their own professional firms and businesses.
As the country continues to develop, significant specialty areas remain under- populated by Bahamian talent. There is a demand for a variety of skill-sets for major infrastructural projects.
Among others, these include project management, specialty engineering skills as well as individuals with experience in designing and producing environmental and social impact assessments for small island states. Other areas include expertise in sustainable tourism and heritage preservation, a range of environmental and marine sciences, as well as communications technologies and the life sciences.
The country should also be looking for Bahamian talent at home and abroad to administer and provide professional services to various agencies such as the Nassau Airport Development Company. A programme for the Bahmianization of NAD should be a part of the company’s mid- to long-term planning.
As The Bahamas continues to prepare for the development and management of our own air traffic region, the development of investment, consulting and job opportunities for Bahamians, at home and abroad, is a matter of priority.
Such a strategic focus on cultivating and providing training for Bahamians may serve as a model for other areas of national life. It will also provide enhanced opportunities for a Bahamian talent pool teeming with possibilities and desirous of avenues for success.