Dismont: jobs are desperately needed
Beyond the Budget numbers there is a social consideration, and cost, to be totted up.
Martha Dismont, executive director of Family Centre, said she was on the panel at the Budget Breakfast to give representation to the people who are struggling in the current economic environment.
“Many of them are individuals who have struggled for most of the past six years, and many struggled even when Bermuda had a surplus of funds,” she said.
“We are looking to go a bit deeper than the numbers. We have to go deeper.”
Ms Dismont, speaking at yesterday’s event at the Hamilton Princess, reminded the audience that in times of recession there is an increase in “social conditions”.
Social conditions can range from challenging living arrangements and educational opportunities to social problems such as crime and abuse.
While Ms Dismont said she was impressed that the Budget deficit numbers were improving, she emphasised it was important not to lose sight of the people who are struggling to have their needs met.
For those people there has to be some relief “otherwise we are going to see a breaking point”, she warned.
“Those in the lower income, and the no income bracket, need to have the ability to benefit from a strong economy.”
Illustrating the point, she said the island continues to have an education system that struggles and there were at least 1,000 people beyond the walls of the hotel without education and with no sense of hope. While it was important to grow the population and with it the economy, it was also important to be able to give a sense of worth to those who are already here.
“That means jobs,” said Ms Dismont, and not only those tied to construction projects, but in other professions and career areas.
“We have to consider how to strengthen other parts of the economy. We need investment in our residents, not just construction jobs. We need jobs that give individuals long-term esteem and stability.”
Ms Dismont said that applying focus and resources in this way would mean that once the economy is thriving again there will be local residents who have the skills, education and confidence to fill available jobs.
She also pointed out that charities, and the 800 people working in the sector, need support.
“We have to invest in local residents and job skills, but also in the third sector that is working to take care of the people.”
Regarding concern about investment in education, Bob Richards, the finance minister, said a lot of money went into that area and highlighted the role that families and parents can play to instil within their children a belief that applying themselves at school was “a mission” that could help them overcome the hurdles they face on the way to securing jobs and careers.
“It is a family value problem. A lot of us are dropping the ball in that area,” he said.