Chamber hits out at under-fire Deputy Mayor
Chamber of Commerce chiefs yesterday defended international business after under-fire Hamilton Deputy Mayor Donal Smith hit out at the sector on a religious TV programme.
And the Chamber also took a swipe at Mr Smith's “offensive and derogatory” language about gay people — increasing pressure on Mr Smith, who is currently overseas to promote the islands to foreign businesses, to quit his post.
Mr Smith said on the Seventh Day Adventist TV show Issues that international business had contributed to the fragmentation of the island's social fabric.
But a Chamber of Commerce spokesman said: “While the community debates the recent comments.....the Chamber would like to once again emphasise that the contribution of international businesses to the Bermuda economy is, undeniably significant.”
The spokesman added: “It serves no purpose whatsoever to engage in a verbal attack on a sector that contributes so much to our economic survival.”
The spokesman pointed out that the international business sector directly contributed 25 percent of the island's GDP, according to 2012 figures issued by Government, and, when indirect spending was taken into account, around half of the GDP.
The spokesman said: “These companies rent properties, employ thousands of people, use local service providers, provide significant funding to many charities and the list goes on.
“In addition, their employees spend a significant amount of their own income buying goods and services on the island.”
He added: ““We have seen the tremendous negative effects of job losses over the past few years, some of which have been the result of jobs being moved to other domiciles.
“In the light of this, as Bermudians, we must all work as hard as we can to retain the business we have here and support any initiative to attract other businesses to set up in the island.”
And the Chamber — which represents employers in all the key sectors of the island's economy — also slammed Mr Smith's controversial attack on gay people.
The spokesman said: “In addition, as an organisation that represents a broad spectrum of the Bermudian business community, we are against any form of discrimination.”
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy last Friday called for Mr Smith to resign over his comments about the gay community and international business.
Mr Smith's “homophobic” outburst was also blasted by the Rainbow Alliance, set up to protect gay people from discrimination.
Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge later distanced himself from Mr Smith and said his remarks “in no way reflect the thinking and sentiments of the council of the City of Hamilton.”