Executive Director of the Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Matt Aubry joined the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) Wednesday to discuss a range of social and political reforms he said are necessary to change the course of governance in The Bahamas.

Addressing GBCC members at their April business luncheon, Aubry suggested that The Bahamas is suffering from a range of systemic challenges, which have repeatedly stunted its progress. He added that combating these challenges would require residents and the government to collaborate and look beyond national development as merely existing within five-year cycles. 

“We need to believe that there can be policies, laws, levels of accountability that hold, regardless of which administration holds power,” Aubry said. “Ultimately, the power needs to be and should be, in a democracy, in the hands of the people.” 

For this reason, he said, ORG comprises a cross section of the population, from businesspersons to clergymen, educators to students, and politicians to members of civil society. Together, they strive to be the catalyst for implementing accountable and transparent governance that allows every citizen to share in the decision-making process and enjoy equal opportunity, Aubry explained to GBCC members. 

He noted that ORG identified three “priority pillars” believed to be essential to addressing some of The Bahamas’ core challenges: government accountability, improved education, and economic development. 

On the point of government accountability, Aubry discussed the importance of legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act, and Whistleblower’s Act, among others. He also stressed the need to rid the country of corruption and cronyism and limit government spending. 

“One of the biggest issues we see is monumental government spending without structure, without input,” he said. “That’s not to say that there isn’t information being used to make those decisions, but that’s not widely held and the by-product of that is an erosion of public trust.” 

On education reform, Aubry said repairing the nation’s “drastically flawed” education system would not only strengthen its workforce but also contribute to a decrease in criminal activity and unemployment. 

He acknowledged that education reform and economic development work in tandem, stating that a greater, skilled workforce would encourage more foreign-direct investment and local businesses in The Bahamas. On the other hand, Aubry said a lack of job opportunities could cause youth to become less-motivated to pursue higher education or specialised skill training. 

“We need opportunities for future generations,” he said. “We’re losing such a resource. Of the 30 per cent who go through our education system well, a large percentage of them are going off and using it elsewhere. So, we have to figure out how we bring that ‘brain drain’ back. We also have to figure out how that 70 per cent could potentially be doing a lot more and could be more engaged.” 

Economic development, he said, would also mean various conversations between government and relevant stakeholders on how to increase the country’s gross domestic product and reduce its debt. 

While Aubry commended ORG’s priority pillars as a useful tool, he said the success of this approach would require future administrations to be transparent, accountable, consensus-oriented, responsive, effective and adherent to the rule of law. 

Aubry expressed optimism that good and responsible governance can be achieved in The Bahamas if all sectors of the community are afforded a seat at the table. 

“We all know that the car is broken,” Aubry said. “However, we tend to all be pushing on the car in a different direction. Our principle, the focus and the hope is that we line up behind the car, pick a direction and all push together. With that, we can move it a lot quicker than we are at this point.” 

ORG is a non-partisan, not-for-profit civic organisation committed to achieving a brighter future for The Bahamas through dialogue, insight, and solutions relevant to the country’s most pressing challenges. More can be learned about ORG by visiting orgbahamas.com or campaign242.org.