High Commissioner for The Bahamas Ellison Greenslade writes on the Commonwealth of the Bahamas’s 45th anniversary of independence
On 10 July 2018, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas will mark its 45th Independence Anniversary under the theme: “We have come this far by Faith.” This is a most fitting tribute as it reminds us of the unquestioned faith we had as a people at midnight on the 10 July 1973 when we hoisted the Black, Gold, and Aquamarine flag of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to signal our birth as a sovereign nation. In a spirit of unity and goodwill, we were determined to chart our own course as we looked to a bright future as a proud country. Thanks to the vision and commitment of nation builders, Bahamians from all walks of life, and friends of The Bahamas, we made magnificent strides and can, today, boast significant positive developments and achievements over the past 45 years greatly contributing to the benefit of the Bahamian people and residents of The Bahamas.
Our proudest achievements include our long-term peace and stability as a nation; economic growth and development; significant progress in education, healthcare, social services and housing; and the continuous improvement of our brand as a prosperous nation with bountiful natural assets. Our credibility and good reputation as a holiday destination of choice continues to attract in excess of six million visitors to our shores each year. A large percentage of these visitors arrive by cruise ships which travel between the ports of Florida (US), Nassau, and Freeport Bahamas on a daily basis. It is not unusual for five mega-ships to berth in Nassau Harbour each day!
Notwithstanding our vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change (seasonal hurricanes) and the other economic risks associated with small Island Developing States (SIDS), we have continued our positive trajectory (not restricted to economics). We are a service-based economy and share many of the characteristics of small states, hence our primary economic activities are concentrated in areas of tourism, financial services, the maritime domain, and to a lesser extent agriculture. Despite our limitations, we are not negatively impacted by remoteness as our archipelago is in close proximity to global trading partners in North America and the Caribbean.
Despite our size, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas continues to attract attention in many arenas including sports, education, music and the arts. The accomplishments of our athletes in winning Olympic Gold medals, the educational achievements of our Rhode Scholars, our Grammy Award winning musicians, and the works of world-renowned visual and creative artists have made The Bahamas a household name.
As we celebrate our 45th birthday, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is not at odds with any other nation. A hallmark of our country is our willingness to communicate, collaborate, negotiate, and cooperate for unity, equality, peace and good governance across the globe. This commitment is evidenced by our active participation at the highest international and regional levels on the wide ranging global challenges. Therefore, as a proud member of the Commonwealth, The Bahamas stands firmly in support of the Commonwealth in its efforts to create a future which is fairer, more sustainable, more secure, and more prosperous.
The Honorable Prime Minister of The Bahamas, in a recent article, stated that our government has made a commitment to “providing a bright economic, social and environmental future for The Bahamas.” Therefore, as we embrace our 45th anniversary celebrations, we do so with a deliberate focus on: economic diversification, improvements to our healthcare system, building capacity in education, expanding social services, mitigating the effects of climate change, providing food security with a renewed concentration on agriculture, and the empowerment of our youth.
We are extremely pleased with The Bahamas’ footprint in Mayfair London. Mayfair is home to the Bahamas High Commission and also our official residence. Over 30 years ago, both properties were purchased by our government and since that date, we have enjoyed the amenities of a vibrant community and the benefits of an excellent location. Suffice it to say, we are very proud of our home away from home in London! This pride is fueled to an even greater extent by the warm welcome we received as a young independent nation when we joined the diplomatic community here in the UK and established a presence for The Bahamas in leased premises at Pall Mall. Her Majesty’s government embraced us as a fledgling young nation, supported us without hesitation, and thereby enabled us to develop and take our rightful place as an important member of The Commonwealth. Our growth, development, and maturity as a young nation was so pronounced that in May of 1985, The Bahamas hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nassau, Bahamas. A significant outcome of that meeting was the Nassau Declaration which gave traction to the momentum to free Nelson Mandela.
As we reflect on the challenges and accomplishments of the past 45 years, we call to mind our motto of “forward, upward, onward, together” and we invite the world, in the words of our National Anthem, to “mark the manner of our bearing “as we renew our “Pledge to excel through love and unity.”