Dose of honesty required about economy

  • Dwayne Robinson is an Opposition senator with the One Bermuda Alliance

    Dwayne Robinson is an Opposition senator with the One Bermuda Alliance

Dwayne Robinson

The first step towards solving a problem is to admit that there is a problem. That is the attitude we should take with our economy because far too often issues are glossed over by propaganda, doublespeak and deception.

We have seen far too many statements such as Jason Hayward’s recent opinion article, which sought to condemn the naysayers and to put lipstick on a pig.

We have serious internal and external threats to our economic prosperity: an ageing population, declining tourist arrivals, external pressures on our international business sector, an ever-increasing cost of living, Bermudians looking elsewhere to live, and no sight of badly needed immigration reform.

There are also some significant facts that Mr Hayward wants people to ignore:

• The Government’s own economic reports have clearly stated that construction projects such as the St Regis hotel and the airport are the main drivers of an increase in gross domestic product

• Those same reports have also stated that increased government salaries and wages have also helped to buoy GDP growth

• The collapse of the retail sector and the loss of 200 jobs, although his omission of that is not surprising since Mr Hayward does not consider an industry that employs about 3,000 Bermudians as significant

• House prices that have clearly fallen sharply, probably leaving many Bermudians in a horrible state of negative equity

• The lack of success to date of fintech, the Premier’s flagship policy

What will happen when construction on St Regis and the airport ends? Will work at the Bermudiana Hotel make up the difference? The renovation of the Fairmont Southampton is welcome but that was not government-inspired.

In short, the Progressive Labour Party has no construction projects in the pipeline, so what will happen to GDP then? Will we have to rely on more government hires to keep GDP positive?

Mr Hayward said: “It is misleading at best for individuals to use the performance of retail establishments as a measure for the country’s overall economic performance.”

Of course, online shopping is a factor, but I would wager that Bermudians are spending less across the board because of uncertainty about the future and because, with all the new and increased taxes and charges, they have less disposable income.

Mr Hayward chooses to ignore underlying issues such as these. Why is that?

This government needs to be open and honest about the state we are in and make the tough decisions that are needed, regardless of popularity or internal PLP politics. It is time to stop dragging their feet on immigration reform. Bermuda needs more than just mixed-status reforms.

We need to start the conversation on comprehensive immigration reform with protections put in place to ensure Bermudians benefit first and foremost.

Our immigration can be catered to sourcing job creators/investors who can empower Bermudians to gain employment for themselves and create it for others.

This is not “opening the floodgates to foreigners”; it is creating a framework for the expansion of the economy for everyone’s benefit.

It is time to start a gradual scaling-down of the Civil Service so that Bermudians are not subject to increased taxes to prop up a bloated government.

These changes should start at the top with a smaller Cabinet and a merger of constituencies to reduce the number of MPs.

Again, we should open the conversation about whether it is feasible to nationalise Belco to have more control over fluctuating rates and the best energy framework for Bermuda. If not, we need to encourage more competition.

And open the conversation about the legalisation of cannabis.

These changes will take time; however, nothing starts without a first step.

Mr Hayward’s opinion failed to admit that there are underlying problems with the economy. Hopefully, the finance minister will not have such a head-in-the-sand attitude when he delivers his Budget next month.

Dwayne Robinson is an Opposition senator with the One Bermuda Alliance

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Published Jan 16, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 16, 2020 at 8:07 am)

Dose of honesty required about economy

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