The way forward for the Bahamas postal service
Now that the General Post Office has been relocated to the Town Centre Mall, some basic questions need early answers. Firstly, will box numbers at the Town Centre Mall location continue to be preceded with the letter “N” notwithstanding that the post office is now located outside of the geographical boundaries of the City of Nassau?
Secondly, during the recent Labour Day and Whit Monday holidays, post boxes were not accessible, as the mall, including the post office, was closed to the public. Post boxes have always been accessible to the public on a 24×7 basis, most particularly at the General Post Office where boxes were located along an open covered porch. Inaccessibility to postal boxes at the new Town Centre Mall location needs to be addressed.
Thirdly, will the Post Office Department maintain a presence in downtown Nassau where Bahamians and tourists alike might purchase postage stamps and mail letters stamp-dated in Nassau?
As regards postal services generally, we accept that, as would have been the case 50 years ago, there is an obligation for the government to ensure that every population center in The Bahamas has access to a minimum level of reliable mail service. But certainly such service should not require an annual $9 million subvention for mail boat contracts alone.
We accept also that remote and sparsely populated islands and cays in our chain of islands are likely to continue to require the government to subsidize deliveries not only of the mailbag but also of essential foodstuff and supplies to support life at these locations. But surely there can be no reason for government to continue to subsidize mailboat deliveries of goods to such developed and sophisticated islands as Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera.
We strongly recommend for the government to rationalize the allocation of its mailbag subventions so as to ensure that charges made against the public purse provide best value for dollars spent.
And, might the privatization of the parcel post delivery service provide an early win in the modernization process given the high efficiency of the growing number of private parcel delivery services?
An important step in the modernization of the mail service will necessarily take into account the need for the decentralization of the postal service. Decentralization will require a change in the policy that now requires all mail posted in Family Islands to be brought to New Providence for sorting and redirection to final destinations even when the final destination for a letter may be on the same island on which the item was posted. This ridiculous practice requires that a letter mailed in West End, Grand Bahama, destined to an address in Freeport, or one mailed in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, destined to Hope Town also in Abaco, must first be sent from West End and Marsh Harbour to New Providence for sorting and then redirected from Nassau to Freeport and Hope Town.
Early consideration should be given to the development of island and regional postal hubs which would provide for mail to be sorted on each island with local mail being directed immediately to its destinations, and the remaining inter-island and international mail being sent to regional postal hubs or to the central hub in New Providence for redirection to the next most logical destination.
Such a process would produce efficiencies by reducing the volume of mail coming into New Providence’s sorting center, speed up the sorting and delivery of the mail country-wide, and create new entrepreneurial and employment opportunities that would bring real value to the Bahamas postal service.