Saturday, November 29, 2014

The wild world of Consultancy.

Ever worked for an organisation, where consultants walk in and out like a revolving door? As one of those persons that had the door greet me and hit me on the way out, you tend to smile at the nature of the work.

As a management consultant, I have been both whipping boy and saviour to both the same and different organizations. But in all times I left a place better than where I met it, or at least I'd like to think so!

Bahamians tend to rag on "Consultants", in particular Bahamian consultants that align themselves with political parties. Bahamians typically see them as cronies, hustlers, gravy train riders and just all out vermin. We often refer to them as the special group of "friends, family and lovers!".

As someone on the hustle myself, you tend to take the ribs, jibes and abuse with a grain of salt. Not because I'm either of the friend, family or lover persuasion. But because you have to take that burden into a game where it has been sullied and made mockery by people with legitimate reasons to do so.

Plus, when you factor in how really insulting and derogatory that particular friend, family and lover statement means, particularly when you see the same old "consultants" awarded numerous government contracts, from any standpoint (because it does not take a Nobel Laureate to appreciate if something is useful, working or not), one really has to be relaxed and calm amidst the regular jostling for prominence in this very broad field of consultancy in The Bahamas.
But, it does raise a particular concern about: What exactly does a consultant do? Better yet, what are consultants supposed to be doing?

In short: We can only do what you want us to do. We can't undo anything unless instructed to do so either. And in your organization, we are only bound by the rules of engagement you set for us.

Especially contractually obligated agreements, most consultants in the field for more than 5 years tend to appreciate sticking with the original agreement unless otherwise formally changed and understood by both parties. This stems the flow of corruption, theft, abuse, malfeasance, lowers the risk of failure and keeps both sides of the agreement satisfied.

Trust me when I say this: We don't want to lose your money if we can help it. Neither do we want a dissatisfied client spreading negativities about our brand that can be avoided. Also, neither should you want to waste time dissatisfying a consultant that, even within a few short days, understands your business model, what you are doing, how you are doing it and even if they don't tell you, know enough of what the acute and problematic details and intricacies of how even you yourself are bringing more harm to your company.

Just a few short months back a colleague of mine sent an email to all of the Bahamian based consultants that he knew, asking them to form a coalition of sorts. Which is a good, first step because we don't have a recognizable body that represents our industry in the Bahamas.

I took the opportunity to research some of the names copied in the email and was quite surprised that many of them were under the age of 50, including myself. Their fields of expertise ranged from small business services, to information technology, to legal services and accountancy and international trade and market research. It was a very diverse group of individuals.

While noticing that their skills and areas of expertise ranged, it led me to the first notion about the aura of a consultant: There is no one, short cut consultant and cookie cutter style of doing things.

Some persons have this perception that a consultant is supposed to be all knowing and all versed in all sectors of the universe. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, consultants in very many respects know very little of the particular business model utilized by a government, civic organization or company. They may have sector specific expertise, but specific organizational knowledge cannot be ascertained until you actually engage a consultant.

So, disabuse yourself of this perilous notion that a consultant is supposed to solve all of your problems with a flick of a switch. It can't happen. It does not happen. It is not supposed to happen, and you would let yourself down at every turn when you hear of one, see one or watch one operate in your respective workplace.

A second most perilous notion, which almost seems paradoxical to the aforementioned, is that some folks confuse the scope of a consultant.

Sometimes, and this is not just from my experience but colleagues express the same thing to me, is that consultants have been hired to conduct work in other areas not of their initial expertise. For example, a financial consultant with his expertise in banking being brought in to help an NGO re-organize their books, is quite different from a market research consultant being brought in to negotiate cross-border agreements with your supplier.

The unwritten rule of thumb is that you never tell a potential client no. You have to work with what the market gives you at times. But this is both dangerous as much as it is an enlightening experience to broaden your scope and learn more about what these folks are doing out here these days.

The burden in this case is equally placed on both parties to explain the parameters of what is expected for any particular project, initiative or engagement. But more-so the consultant has to have the professional integrity to be up front and honest and say: Hey, I see that you need this done, but it really is not my area of expertise; may I refer you to someone else?

The services sector is also changing rapidly, and some say for the worse when we factor in mass layoffs and low job creation.

The days of going into an office and speaking to your accountant or lawyer is long gone. If you don't catch him or her on the way out of a luncheon or seminar or at the airport, you probably would be wasting your time trying to set up a formal meeting at their offices. So, quite frankly, any and everyone with a college degree that has minimal work experience is a consultant or can be one because he has the time, hunger and reason to take on such a profile.

The same goes for consultants in the management and technical related fields, especially those that manage several different projects that deserve immediate attention in several different places.

For KEMP GLOBAL and our associate sub-contractors, I encourage them to go out and meet the people at their place and at their time. I take my show on the road as well, because I have to and it gives my firm a personal charm. I will come to you, on your time and your convenience.

It not only makes it easier for us where we don't have to spend much on accommodations, hence we can save on utility fees, but it also is a chance to go out and see the problem our clients have, right then and right now without second hand information and without having X-Ray vision through the telephone or getting a "feel" of a conversation of our client at our offices. This is important to us, because we really want to and need to see what it is you are doing.

Thirty, or maybe even twenty years ago, one would also have to wait to see their service provider via setting up formal meetings. Nowadays, due to technology and the fast paced world where results oriented practices is the fashion as opposed to the older days where establishment and name recognition really mattered, if you are not in place to deal with a problem as it arises, it is highly unlikely you will be kept on for any project. So, the more we are out there, the better.

In a nutshell, we have to be out there. Out there with a good name and a hard working spirit to boot. We prefer it that way too!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A National Development Plan: What should be expected?

We have heard very little about the National Development Plan for The Bahamas. People from all quarters of the Bahamian society have clamoured, begged and pleaded for someone to commit to creating a proper one for a new Bahamas. For years, the calls have gone unanswered. Until now!

The government of The Bahamas has launched the initial phases of The National Development Plan. The plan is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, and costs for its production has been slated at over $450 thousand.

A national secretariat has been created, with Director of Financial Services, Dr. Nicola Virgil Rolle, slated as the chairperson heading a team of six.

The plan itself is in the planning stages (I hate to sound "punny", but it's true...). However, the thought of such, how it will be designed, the agencies involved, the process it should take and the overall outcome for Bahamians is something that should make the citizenry excited about the possibilities.

The usefulness of a development plan for the country also has strong merit. For far too long economic planning and development in The Bahamas has been virtually nil. Subsequently, a new department has been created under the Office of The Prime Minister, with carriage of this department laying with the Minister of State responsible for Investments, Khaalis Rolle.

There were previous attempts at providing a pathway forward with regard to national planning born out of the private sector, albeit from an aspiring politician, John Bostwick and his "Bahamas Vision 20/20".

The good part about Mr. Bostwick's "Vision 20/20" document was that it was pregnant with ideas. The document put in written and clear form what most Bahamian people saw as important for national development. However, the document was void on the "how to", the "how much" and the "which ways and means" should we proceed. Also, it wasn't as much of a plan as much as it was a statement of wishes and hopes for the future.

One can say that Mr. Bostwick's 20/20 vision was created without universal consultation, insufficient funding along with an expedient approach to an initiative that just takes a great deal of doing. But one cannot argue against the sincerity of his attempt, and one would hope that some of his ideas are embraced in the context that if it makes sense, we should investigate the possibility of these things coming to be.

In addition, The College of The Bahamas, as it continually moves towards university status, have long since had in concept research facilities and advisory consultancies with regard to national development. In fact, the college has been extremely candid in their bids to be involved in the development and planning of The Bahamas. The research put out from the college has been scant due to underfunding and the very disturbing matter of the college being without leadership with a clear mandate, not just for research, but leadership overall.

The college will be a part of the process even though they do not have a seat on the board of the secretariat. We hope that this is a slight omission and that someone will be there to represent the college when the process begins in earnest.

So, here we have it: The national development plan project being officially launched at The College of The Bahamas; funding, and no doubt technical support, being provided by The Inter-American Development Bank; a secretariat formed with a seasoned civil servant at the helm with a supporting team of six; a moribund governmental department being given new life under the office of the prime minister; and a slew of ideas from the public and private sector just waiting to be fleshed out in a systematic and mechanical manner that makes sense.

But before we titter with glee, we must be mindful, as is Dr. Virgil-Rolle, on the pitfalls that a process like this may encounter. And with that we should add a few more notes along with that to boot.

For starters, we hope that any document, work or theoretical rendering offered up through this process, does not end up on the shelf along with the other reams and reams of documents, as Dr. Virgil-Rolle suggests that we should not want to happen. This is why my initial reaction to this undertaking was: Will this plan and the works produced prove to be useful as a final product?

Without a doubt it must be seen as useful, and public buy-in essential. To that end, we should strive for a superior product, one that goes deep into the recesses of our culture, attitude towards social living and government and find the root causes of things and seek ways and means to correct them.

We are under the assumption that this national development plan is being designed with the sole purpose of building a better, common life for all of us. So the final product must be one that speaks to that primarily, and not one that speaks just for speaking's sake or offers up what conventional wisdom from the current structure says is good for us.

Another point for consideration is with the notion of something like this can be done by June, 2015. I'm not certain that a properly done, well reasoned, well researched and well drafted plan that has any intentions of execution on any portion can be completed in that short space of time.

For example, extensive consultations with experts, both local and foreign, need to take place. Extensive research, engineering studies, international and national risk assessments, scientific studies and other various means of studies must be produced from these consultations and a focusing of this information must then be channelled. In addition, financial analysis, economic impact assessments under different scenarios and stress indicators need to be taken into consideration along with various counter-measures and policy recommendations when something works too well, works half-way, doesn't work at all, or is deleterious to the entire framework of national development.

During the 2002-2007 political administration, there was a study done on how to enhance the human resources of the civil service. The time it took to analyse, detail, collate and present a document that made sense, even without the necessary recommendations for policy changes and legislation drafted, took more than 2 and 1/2 years. This was just with regard to the proper alignment of the human resources of the civil service, and not anything with regard to technological modernization, product and service efficiency, or facilities maintenance or how does one finance all of this.

More fundamentally, you need data. Both historic data along with actionable and working data in real time. Data, statistics, quantitative studies and qualitative logical-frameworks have historically been neglected in The Bahamas.

Just to give you an idea of what I mean, I was a guest on the talk-show "Connected" a few days back with a colleague of mine, Lester R. Cox, on Guardian Radio's, 96.9fm. Cox presented to the listening audience a study on social progress and asked the audience that, out of 150 plus countries, where they thought The Bahamas ranked in the world? The answer was that The Bahamas wasn't ranked at all, because there wasn't enough data provided from The Bahamas on any of the study's indicators.

I'd also have to add that when doing research on The Bahamas, or reading any working paper or policy document on The Bahamas, Caribbean, regional or world comparative document, other than broad based, macro-economic and financial data compiled through virtue of our budget process that the international organizations like the IMF, IDB, World Bank and the UN use to make their broad assessments, The Bahamas is always noticeably under-represented, or figures absent due to lack of available and reliable data.
This is just for starters when we talk about crafting a meaningful development plan that one wishes not to be placed on the shelf with the other un-read and under-utilized policy recommendations for The Bahamas.

From my estimation there is a lot to be done. A lot to be done properly if we are about to do what it is that was said will be done.

We shouldn't waste our time on a product that would just sit on the shelf. We should have a totally defined document based high minded methods and see it as a working and living document. A working, living document that induces action on first best information and not reduce itself and all of us to low-ball expectations.

Along with it being a perpetual work in progress, it should also be a check-list for things we are about to do and the things we actually want done. Not what a small sub-section of the structure feels would be best, but what we as Bahamians want and need done.

We deserve no less than that.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Repatriation: The trail of tears and fears.

No doubt the new immigration policies in The Bahamas has caused an uproar. It's not been a pretty site to see the vitriolic comments and ethnic slurs go to and fro, particularly on social media.

An example of this was when U.S. State Representative for Florida, Mrs. Daphne Campbell, attacked The Bahamas in a very unusual and mean-spirited way. Mrs. Campbell went on television in Miami on Channel 7 WSVN and asked for all tourists, all cruise ships operators and everyone that would listen, to boycott The Bahamas.

Mrs. Campbell is of Haitian heritage, and no doubt she is very proud of it as she should be. But to the extent that the fervour of her rhetoric insults the public conscience of Bahamians, based on inflated misconceptions, is where it should end.

The impetus of her vituperative and seemingly crazed assault on the Bahamian people was due to a short clip of Bahamian immigration officers performing their repatriation duties. In this short clip, officers were seen carefully leading Haitian children from homes that were abandoned by the adults in their attempt to escape capture.

Bahamian officials are trained to be responsible in this regard, and as they whisked the children away to safety from a volatile environment void of any parental supervision, they were placed into the care of The Department of Social Services until their parents could be located.

As a result of Mrs. Campbell's uninformed and vicious rant, one could only imagine that the return fire from Bahamians wasn't too friendly. It was so bad that a friend of mine living in Miami made mention of it to me, as he was concerned about not only the policies, but the relationship strains being placed on The Bahamas with Haiti and America.

This is not the first time in recent memory The Bahamas had to face criticism from dangerously uninformed "rabble-rousers" from outside of its borders, and more directly from Florida.

In 2013 The Bahamas played host to un-invited Cuban migrants on their way to Florida. As a result of their un-invited visit, they had to be detained in our detention facilities. From this, this group of very odd Cuban immigrants and their associates proceeded to then promulgate a video of their "so called" abuses at the hands of Bahamian Defence Force officers in the Detention Centre.

The video went viral, relatively speaking in Caribbean terms. Cuban-American led groups in South Florida banded together to promote the same ideas as did State Representative Campbell on The Bahamas: Boycott The Bahamas, denounce Bahamian immigration policies and basically do everything within their power to bully, harass and intimidate Bahamian officials into allowing illegal immigrants unfettered access and freeway through The Bahamas.

Fortunately, the video of the alleged abuses by the officers proved to be a fake. More fake than a $4 note. Fraudulent and baseless to boot.

In the video it was clear that the persons reported to be Bahamian Defence Force officers kicking, punching and spitting on the Cuban immigrants did not have a Bahamian accent, and it sounded as if they barely spoke English.

After it was discovered that the video of this alleged abuse was fake, the Cuban groups in South Florida, claiming to speak on behalf of the illegal Cuban immigrants in the Bahamian facilities, changed tune and then began to claim that the video was a re-enactment of events that did happen.

So, The Bahamas is not unfamiliar with uninformed attacks from persons seeking to besmirch it's name internationally. Just that this particular time with regard to the new policies from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has just been more direct in its approach.

In a nutshell, there is much to do about nothing with regard to the "new" policies on immigration. In fact, it is what we should have been doing before the problem festered into what we have now: A sub-human mess, with it being a drain on resources, coupled with the national and international security risk the flow of illegal immigrants pose in today's post 9-11 world.

For the first part, outside of the documented and legal migrants that come to The Bahamas to work, most of the time for large companies that want to hire foreign expertise for their own strategic purposes, most migrants and in particular illegal immigrants live here in sub-human and vulnerable conditions.

Particularly with regard to illegal Caribbean and Latin American immigrants living under the radar in The Bahamas, they are subject to make less than the average wage, and are open to random and targeted victimization due to their status.

In The Bahamas, we have a culture of so called "Shanty-Towns". Basically illegally structured dwellings in certain pockets of The Bahamas that are inhabited by illegal immigrants; mostly Haitians living in The Bahamas illegally. They also pose as sanctuaries for criminals and have their own community strategies for commerce and electricity; more often illegal businesses and ways of obtaining free public utility services.

Most of these Shanty-Towns are poor environments. They are owned by slum-landlords hustling for the almighty dollar at the expense of  national security, and most certainly these illegal immigrants pay rent to these slum-landlords.

There are reportedly a few cases around the islands where these Shanty-Towns are built on government, or "Crown-Land", owned by the state. These immigrants have also reported on many occasions that they pay rent to a landlord.

The sheer cost and net loss/benefit of immigrants is another cause for concern. No data or analysis has been brought to bear on how much does illegal immigration cost over the long term for The Bahamas, but it's something I am keen to look more closely on and in the process of doing so.

But for the American experience, and no doubt the methodologies can be used as a guideline for examining the issue, NGO's like The Federation for Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR) and The Heritage Foundation, have made a few estimates.

FAIR, in their 2010 study, estimates that:
"The net federal outlay for illegal aliens represents an annual expense of nearly $288 ($193 net) per household headed by a U.S. citizen. The average outlay at the state level for the same family is about $1,130 ($996 net), for a total of about $1,205 ($1,075 net).”
For an economy as large as The United States of America, for the average citizen to have a net-loss as a result of illegal immigration, should speak volumes to what smaller nation-states experience with regard to the burden of illegal immigration.

More importantly, the issue of illegal immigration is a national and international security issue.
Post 9-11, the world has changed. The borders in the USA and Europe are more closely scrutinized. One cannot simply travel to and through the USA as one wishes.
When we put all of that in the context coupled with the developments taking place in Iraq and Syria, with American born citizens and also reported Caribbean citizens becoming radicalized and seeking to join in with groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Jihad, one can only imagine the cause for concern for small-nation states in The Caribbean.
A more important concern is too for America, as The Bahamas is right on their doorstep. On their doorstep and with only an inkling of who is really living in The Bahamas, the manner in which they got here, the nature of their business and what their intentions are while here.  
Without a doubt what took place with regard to the slack policies, and sub-human conditions illegal immigrants found themselves living in The Bahamas, seeking to correct those issues from a moral and practical standpoint must be taken very seriously as we move forward.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A fine mess: The Bank of The Bahamas.

Through a newly established government corporation, Bahamas Resolve Ltd., The Government of The Bahamas has stepped in to save a failing bank: The Bank of The Bahamas.

For all intents and purposes, the bank failed. A failed bank that needed to be saved by the government. A government that was a 65% shareholder in the bank, the largest shareholding, essentially making it a government institution. No matter how you try to make it sound as palatable and as diplomatic as you can, it really boils down to failure of the most epic kind.

Under any other circumstances other than the bank being a primarily government owned bank, the bank would have gone under and we would be having a very different discussion. A very different discussion, indeed.

But, before we begin to say: "I told you so! The government shouldn't be in the business of business!!" I wish to say that we really can't exercise that luxury in saying that, because it just isn't the issue that we are presented with now. Yes, people would have the moral high-ground to say that. But, this isn't what we are presented with, as terrible as it sounds to have to state the obvious.

Over the course of the last several months, the Central Bank of The Bahamas's Governor, Wendy Craig, expressed deep concerns over the non-performing loans at Bank of The Bahamas; particularly the non-performance in commercial loans.

The bank has a massive portfolio of underperforming commercial loans on it's books. A sum total of $100 million dollars in outstanding commercial loans is being transferred to Bahamas Resolve Ltd. in an attempt for the administrators of Bahamas Resolve Ltd. to chase down the borrowers, while simultaneously clearing the bank of these loans.

Reports have it that the loans borrowed are shared between no less than 13 borrowers, averaging about $7.6 million dollars, or thereabouts, which leaves us to question how many other smaller commercial loans at the bank could be on the books that, while small in nature to the 13 borrowers that amassed the $100 million, would be enough to make things much more interesting.

Bank failure in The Bahamas is nothing new. In the mid to late 1990's, Gulf Union Bank went belly up. A lot of persons have long since forgotten what had happened to the bank; why it failed; and what happened to the depositors that lost money as a result of the failure.

To cut a long story short, Gulf Union bank had found itself in too deep with some of the loans in its portfolio. With regard to one case in particular, a borrower secured a $3 million dollar plus loan through a supposed subsidiary of a parent company and with the assets of that parent company, but legally there was nothing binding between the companies other than a personal relationship between the owners.

These kinds of activities, among others, prompted Gulf Union Bank owner Sheikh Jabor bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar, to sell Gulf Union and all of its assets to another Qatari businessman, Sheikh Abdul S. Qureishi.

Sheikh Qureishi then proceeded to heap more pressure on Gulf Union Bank Bahamas by ordering more than $5 million to be transferred out of the accounts in The Bahamas to the sister company in the Caymans, and essentially triggering the real downfall and subsequent liquidation of Gulf Union Bank Bahamas.

Gulf Union Bank and it's subsidiaries in the Caymans were ordered to be liquidated as well, and that ends that.

But, as we remember the failed Gulf Union Bank, enter in now The Bank of The Bahamas giving out very large loans, relatively speaking, at a time when the economy was bad world-wide. So bad to the extent that their balance sheet deteriorated to such a point that regulators noticed something fundamentally disturbing about their position and particularly its capitalization.

News Editor from The Nassau Guardian, Juan McCartney, on his Facebook page summed up the fine and undeniable mess that the bank had put itself in that prompted Governor Craig to raise the alarm:
"For those unclear, the Central Bank mandates provisions for capitalization at around 12 percent. Most banks in The Bahamas are provisioned around 30 percent. BOB (Bank of The Bahamas) was provisioned at less than four percent. Hopefully the BOB  (Bank of The Bahamas) bailout works..."
The Bank of The Bahamas doesn't speak on, or give information on, their lending activities. Your personal banking information is kept private, as per the law. Even though it is a government ran bank with tax payer's money, it still has covenants of a privately ran bank. So, we can only have- legitimately- a macro-look at what regulators see through their mega-data compilations.

So, the government attempted to save it. Some call it a bail out. Others have cautioned not to use the term bail out, as a bail out indicates that money was injected into the bank to prop it up. As we understand, money wasn't directly injected into the bank.

Rather, through Bahamas Resolve Ltd., the government has created another government corporation, pumped it with bonds in order to absorb the bad loans, and thus absolving the bank from it's bad loans temporarily via issuing a letter of comfort that states essentially that the government would stand by this institution, come hell or high water through these difficult times.
This is the best scenario out of all of the other options. The first, least desirable option was to let the bank fold. This would not have been doable, and not helpful in the very least.

The second least favourable scenario would be to inject hard-core cash into the bank from the public treasury in order to bulk up its reserves. The public would have been upset, and if done, would have indicated to the public that the government was prepared to throw bad money into a terribly ran bank, with the factors that caused this problem to remain in tact. In addition, the government probably would have found it difficult to do so under the terrible fiscal constraints it has found itself in.

The good part about this best-case scenario, all things considered, is that it will put Bank of The Bahamas back into shape with a clean bill of health, without causing a bank run, or wasting public funds in a bad environment.

However, with the management and board still in place, some of the personnel that caused the bank to spiral out of control, a clean bill of health is most likely a deceptive one. It looks ok, sounds ok, has performed ok so the recent books state, but it truly isn't ok.

One can only think that the board and management are left in place to assist in the unwinding and resolution of this tangled mess. Which would be the responsible thing to do, considering how different the bank is from other privately ran banks. One can also only assume that through Bahamas Resolve Ltd., more governmental oversight and scrutiny will be as a result of all of this and one can expect more moves to come in the near to medium term as the unwinding continues.

Also to be considered is that while $100 million in bad commercial loans is being placed into the care and management of Bahamas Resolve Ltd., the government is essentially taking a 100% stake in debt that really should only be a 65% stake when we consider that the bank is only 65% government owned. This is something that the tax payer should have the full confidence on that it will be handled properly and that we are not left on the hook with something that really should be a shared burden with the other shareholders.

Lastly, and most importantly, the administration of Bahamas Resolve is a very critical issue. The administrator, to be named, and the staff, must be people of inveterate probity. They, especially the administrator, should have the gravitas, courage and strength to dig into this issue and go after these bad loans. They must be respected. Respected and feared.

As said earlier, only 13 borrowers constitute this $100 million portfolio in bad loans. So, let us be honest with ourselves, the average person not of the elites of both the merchant and political class, did not get one of these loans. Loans that average out to $7.6 million, or thereabouts.

Without a doubt this is a very sensitive situation. We can only hope for the best and provide guidance as the informed and active public, while wishing the Bank of The Bahamas the very best as it tries to position itself back as a bank of soundness, and one that can re-enter international markets with a clean bill of health and steady stewardship.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Transforming Public Transportation: Can we do it?

I'm not sure how bad public transportation is in other Caribbean countries, but in The Bahamas it is a cause for consistent public ire. Even other public bus drivers complain about each other; how they cut each other off in traffic, how they steal each other's customers and how some buses go outside of their route to cream off passengers.

In The Bahamas we call public buses "Jitney's". The more emotional of us elongate the word Jitney and prefix it with a few other choice and colourful words. Some of us even use special hand and finger signals to waive to our favourite bus drivers. How nice!

My previous next door neighbour has a fleet of buses, and daily he complained about the mess and the abuse he took from other bus drivers, passengers, other vehicles that he shared traffic with and all else road-rage worthy while he downed more than his fair share of "adult-sodas" at the local public house.

Of course, he had to be whisked safely away after a few hours of lamentations induced by his adult soda of choice. Thank goodness that he is a owner now and not a day to day driver anymore. Because one can only assume that the consumption of too many adult-sodas would leave any man struggling with too much sugar in his blood stream, which may make him unsteady during the day, to say the very least.

Anyways, for my case, and while I write about important things (at least I like to think they are important), I also like to take the time out to whine and moan about certain matters because I could. Because I'm the one penning this and not you, I just have to express just what my feelings on the public transportation fiasco we have in New Providence that public bus drivers are at the core of.
Just last week I was "trapped" behind one of those buses travelling on the Prince Charles Highway heading East. I am being bitterly honest when I say this, the bus driver stopped at least 7 times in the space of a half of a mile before I was able to get around it.

Some of these "stops" were no more than 100 yards away from the previous stop. Some even shorter.

Why all of the continual stops and starts? Why cause me to forget my prayers that morning and turn into a bitter, angry and spiteful man before my next stop? Why are these bus drivers doing this to me!?

I wrote something on the miasmal mess of public transportation a little while back, as well as highlighted a way in which we can solve this problem. The article was widely shared around The Bahamas and other national and regional sources: Getting around in New Providence.

Back when that previous article was written, New Providence was then also dealing with a major road development project that multiplied the problems of transportation times 10,000. So, not only were the roads a mess, we had to deal with the same herky-jerky chaos that we normally deal with on a day to day basis.

Unfortunately, while funding was "reportedly" provided for the upgrade to the public transportation system through a very small part of that road development project, with the project officially coming to an end, we are left with the same problem of a lack of a coordinated and carefully planned public bus system.

The major problem why The Bahamas has a lack of movement on a unified public transportation system was that the bus drivers didn't want anything that opened the door to them losing their particular routes. Of course, this left in place the status quo of everyone poaching off of everyone else's routes. So, I guess the status quo of some of someone else's route is better than the possibility of no route at all.

The second problem was with regard to building a stakeholder model that made sure everyone could play a major part in the unification of a public bus system and sensitively transitioning those that didn't want to be a part of it out. Of course, from the onset, and with so many drivers, this would never have flown under any other manner than the one I presented earlier and will reiterate and elaborate on later in this article. That's just human nature to keep one bird in the hand. This is before we get to the politics of it all, both national and personal rivalry.

The third, and equally important problem, was the lack of leadership on the matter. A lack of leadership born out of a void of will to get it done. For all things considered, it isn't an easy task putting public bus drivers in the same room let alone have them coalesce around an idea as heavy as unifying and organizing the public transportation system so the country can benefit.

An attempt to create a model for the public bus system was done before by a private group a few years back. The group designed a new route, with a fleet of new buses, and was touted as the solution to the public transportation mess. However, what it did was create another fleet of privately owned buses to add to the already nightmarish confusion. That's just what it is. Truth!

We deserve better than this. We can do better than this!

Going to back what I had originally posed earlier, I will add value to the first opinion and build around it.

For one, creating a unified system isn't undoable. The main concern for the individual bus drivers and licensees is with regard to supplementing their salaries during the transition, particularly for the drivers and licensees that don't want to be a part of the new and unified system.

Just to say: Construction, purchasing of new fleets, corporate modelling, staffing and traffic planning is a given. This is just what needs to take place as a result of an initiative such as this. This isn't where the rub is if the over-arching idea is to create a singular, unified bus system.

The rub comes when we do not take into consideration the bus drivers and licensees that may lose income as a result of phasing out the mess we have now into a newer, organized and workable system.

What should happen is that we can provide an estimation, over time, of what it costs individual bus drivers on a yearly basis and what they stand to lose in income during the transition into a unified bus system. If the average bus driver makes $25k per year, and the project should take 2 to 3 years to complete, then that is anywhere between $50 to $75k pay out. Whatever loan, guarantee or financing option undertaken, this should be factored into the financing agreement.

Sure, it takes money to do all of this in addition to paying bus drivers out. But if the end goal is to have a singular, unified bus system, then after the bus system takes into effect then paying off the financial obligations from a public monopoly would be straight forward and stable.

The second issue is with regard to the bus drivers and licensees that do not want to be a part of a unified bus system, and do not want to stop public bus services. The solution to this is to expand the industry for public bus charters with a no bus-stop requirement, and have them work as private and public charters.

For example, allow them to have licenses where they can organize arrangements with corporate offices, schools and governmental agencies for charter services. The charter service would be designated to office to home charters, with a mixture of regular bus-stop drops and privately marked off-road stops in residential areas.

This would cut down on the public nuisance that bus drivers create through their frequent and annoying stops in the middle of the roadway, while at the same time providing for a working public bus system in addition to making the streets more organized, safe and user-friendly.

More people would have to walk a few yards to their particular stops, but walking to an identified stop is what we should be doing in any event. Let us not lose sight of what is right and proper.

All in all, I feel the end result should be on the table regardless of when and if public consultations and discussions start with regard to finding a solution for public transportation. The end result being a one bus system country. No more, no less.