Growing the economy we’ve got

Economic growth is essential for Bermuda’s recovery from years of recession and fiscal mismanagement.

Growth is the Government’s Number One priority because only through growth — fuelled by new dollars flowing into the Island from abroad — can we improve the lives of more Bermudians more quickly than anything else.

No fuel — no growth.

We are focused on rebuilding tourism and expanding international business because they are the two main earners of foreign dollars. Bermuda needs those dollars to pay for virtually everything we consume, from groceries and school supplies to pensions and interest payments on the public debt.

The Opposition wants Bermuda to take a different path — a dangerous path in my view.

Last week, its spokesman for Finance dismissed the growth potential of international business and tourism, saying the Island should instead diversify its economy beyond these two pillars of our economy because they will not provide the growth Bermuda needs.

Their solution? Online gaming.

No one in this Government dismisses the virtues of diversification. Generations of Bermudians have looked for that all-important third leg to the economy for the stability it could provide.

But as a plan to bring economic relief to Bermudians suffering today, the Opposition’s ‘plan’ falls far short of what is needed.

What was particularly concerning about the Opposition’s statement was the absence of any commitment or belief in tourism and international business, as though they were yesterday’s story with nothing to offer Bermuda today or in the future.

It is a view with which we disagree, completely.

There are no defeatists in this government. We will not give up on tourism. Yes, it is an industry that has been badly managed for years, but we will not throw in the towel. Not this Government.

We believe tourism can work again for the Island’s people. Since coming to office, we have cultivated an investor-friendly attitude and environment. Confidence is building, with more promising hotel activity than we’ve seen in decades. And we have God-given resources of beauty, climate and skilled people that we are going to use properly. We’re going to keep at it until we get results that create the jobs and careers Bermudians need.

We are also going to continue building the international sector because it is the mainstay of the economy, generating the lion’s share of the Island’s income. The Opposition described the reinsurance sector as a “mature industry” that cannot provide the growth Bermuda needs, but this indicates a misunderstanding of the industry. Reinsurance is cyclical in nature. Today there is a surplus of capital, meaning the industry is not growing, but the wheel will turn — Opposition spokesmen ought to know this.

The Opposition’s apparent indifference to tourism and international business betrays a shallow understanding of how the economy works and what is needed to keep it performing. The economy is not a perpetual motion machine. It is like an engine. It needs to be maintained, oiled and repaired and, most of all, fuelled to keep it ticking over so that it can produce the jobs and incomes people need.

The PLP failed to do that, and Bermudian families continue to pay the price for their neglect.

The Opposition is fond of saying we are ‘anti-Bermudian.’ It’s a ludicrous charge, but I will take this opportunity to state that the Government is embarked on a significant campaign to reverse the damage wrought during the course of the Opposition years in power — damage that absolutely had an anti-Bermudian impact.

We are acutely aware of our responsibility to do what we can to end the hardship Bermudians are experiencing, and steer the Island clear of danger.

It’s going to take time. It is not like flipping a switch. The economy is not so simple. But we believe we have stabilised the situation and we can see that measurements of progress are starting to angle upwards.

We will continue to focus on growth. It’s about bringing forward gaming to promote hotel development, going after asset management business we lost in recent years, strengthening our reputation as a place to do business through regulatory reform and user-friendly policies, and working to get America’s Cup here.

It’s also about fiscal discipline. In any country, the least risky investment is viewed to be the government. If the government is poorly managed then the risk and uncertainty in all other investments increases. Poor management by the former government stifled investment in the Island — the fuel for growth. That fuel comes in two forms: pure capital and foreigners living here with capital to spend. Bermuda and Bermudians need that fuel to create new jobs and opportunities. That’s how it works.

We have a big job to do, but we are confident the results will come.

We understand the impatience of many to have those results now, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do, which is to continue planting the seeds to grow a better tomorrow for all Bermudians.

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Published Sep 19, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 18, 2014 at 10:19 pm)

Growing the economy we’ve got

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