Outgoing Chamber president says issues remain
John Wight has called for “frank discussion” on the major issues facing the island as he prepares to step down as president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce tomorrow.
Mr Wight, who took over as the Chamber’s head in December 2015, said proactive dialogue on areas including public education and the ageing population was critical to the island’s future viability.
Although efforts to find solutions to the long-term issues facing the island tended to stir up strong feelings on different sides of the debate, Mr Wight said it was critical that the community faced up to the task.
“Differences of opinion are part of a healthy democracy,” Mr Wight said. “The failure to address and discuss them is not.”
He added: “From public education to immigration reform, from the removal of the restriction on foreign ownership of local businesses to caring for our elderly — these issues will not go away without proactive engagement.
“And they will have huge consequences for the future viability and success of Bermuda. We must work together to craft solutions that benefit Bermudians and Bermuda’s businesses.”
He stressed why the key issues mattered.
“I am concerned for young people in our community who, for various reasons, are not receiving the education and training that they need to succeed in Bermuda’s new reality,” Mr Wight said.
“I am concerned for the many people without jobs who were made redundant through no fault of their own.
“I am concerned about seniors in our community who have raised families and contributed many years in the workforce, who deserve a happy retirement.”
He said top priorities were public education and the implications of the ageing population.
“Also high up on the lists of priorities is boosting business confidence,” Mr Wight added. “As I have said before, we urgently need more people paying into the financial system.”
At the Chamber’s annual general meeting tomorrow, Mr Wight will step down from the post in which he has been the main spokesman for the business community for nearly 3½ years.
Next month Mr Wight is set to take on an increased workload at insurer BF&M Ltd, when he adds the responsibility of chairman to his current role as chief executive officer.
Heading up the Chamber had been a great learning experience, he said, in particular in finding out the differing challenges of businesses of different types and sizes.
“It has been a tremendous honour to work with a committed executive team over the past few years on behalf of Chamber members,” Mr Wight said.
“It has been a great learning experience for me. In particular, I was able to understand the risks and opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses — critical to the future success of Bermuda.
“I am gratified that the Chamber has continued to provide a voice on behalf of our members and the broader business community on a wide range of events and topics, from the Bermuda Government Budgets to Pathways to Status, and many more in between.”
Despite the island’s challenges, Mr Wight said the future could be bright.
“While there is much to be concerned about, it strikes me that we have so much to be thankful for,” he said.
“If we are truly committed to doing what is best for our community, our best days may yet be ahead. It takes the willingness to work together.”