Parliament

Foreign Service Orders before Cabinet for approval

by: Lindsay Thompson, Bahamas Information Service

Foreign Service Orders aimed at making the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration more relevant locally and internationally, is before The Cabinet for approval. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Fred Mitchell announced this during his contribution to the 2013-14 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, June 5. The orders are expected to come into effect July 1, 2014, and will also include the award of Foreign Service Medals for those who have given extraordinary service to the Ministry. 
“It will for the first time, create a Foreign Service with rules that are separate from the Public Service. The idea is to make the Ministry more relevant to the constituencies it serves and more adaptive to wishes of the Government and its Minister,” Mitchell said. 
There continues to be serious challenges, he said, in the lack of understanding by the Public Service of what Foreign Service Officers do and the ranks, which they require to carry out their jobs with the requisite allowances.  “We continue to be unable to keep Foreign Service Officers in post because of the inability to compete with the private sector in wages and allowances,” Mitchell said. 
In the Foreign Policy arena, The Bahamas’ relations remain good with all countries, he said. Adding that he was pleased to announce that the Prime Minister has advised the Governor-General of the appointment of a new Honorary Consul to New York – Customs Broker and columnist Forrester Carroll.  He will take up his appointment on July 1, 2013. The Prime Minister has also directed the appointment of Marilyn Zonicle, Undersecretary at the Ministry to be an Ambassador-at-Large. 
This, he said, is a “well-deserved” honor and offered his congratulations as she continues to serve the country. “We are in the process of undergoing significant changes in the way we do our work at the Ministry which will require the movement of personnel in the coming weeks.   
“There will not likely be any further specific announcement about these save when the circumstances dictate.  All the required clearances are in place and I hope to be able to say something more definitive about our structural changes by July 1,” he said. 
Critical to his view, Mitchell said, is the need for officers to understand that they are in the business of serving the public and should respond and adapt to the phrase the customer is always right. “One thing I still do not understand how it is possible to work at a high level in a public agency, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and not know what is in the press for the day, even at 12 noon in the day.  
“I believe I have a loyal team and leadership in the Ministry.  We have the authority to hire additional staff and the complements in Protocol and Foreign Service officers should be increased within the coming weeks,” he said. 
According to Mitchell, key to this foreign policy will be the continued management of the relationship with the United States of America, The Bahamas’ closest trading partner and ally. 
“The relationship is a complex one. Our interests are similar but not the same.  We live in an American hemisphere and an American culture and yet we have our separate juridical and cultural identity.  We are small and they are large.  This is not often understood by all.”  
Mitchell said he’s just concluded discussions with the American authorities about The Bahamas’ concerns regarding the gun violence, which is wreaking havoc on their streets, and what further steps can be taken by them to assist in stopping this violence. It is a matter, which plagues their society as well. 
“We have a stake in making sure that our views are heard on this and other issues and we welcome the fact that the U.S. has announced that they will sign the small arms treaty at the United Nations as a first step in tracking how manufactured weapons make their way from the U.S. to jurisdictions such as ours,” he said.

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