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Immigration policy threatens recovery


The Royal Gazette’s columnist, Government consultant and former PLP Senator declared that ‘there are no simplistic solutions to our immigration problem’.

While this is perhaps useful as a political redirect, Mr Brown’s simplistic analysis failed to acknowledge or address a number of critical facts.

Perhaps most glaringly, Mr Brown’s party has been implementing solutions looking for problems, the most simplistic of which were the six-year term limits no exceptions and the discriminatory land licences for mixed status families.

Mr Brown’s statement on immigration appears to be a doubling down on his previous week’s claim that ‘It is without question that the global economic crisis has more significantly weakened our economy than anything done locally by this Government’.

With PLP partisans such as Mr Brown becoming increasingly isolated in their defence of the PLP’s economic policies, they are having to resort to progressively more tenuous yet more definitive claims such as these.

Both of Mr Brown’s columns are shockingly uninformed and demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of Bermuda’s sole economic pillar by an aspiring policymaker. It is by no means ‘without question’ that external forces drove Bermuda’s rapid economic contraction since term limits came due.

That the jobs’ exodus occurred as term limits were triggered surely can’t be written off as coincidental. This lack of coincidence is illustrated simplistically by the following questions:

If the global recession is the primary driver of Bermuda’s economic downturn, and financial services is our sole remaining economic pillar, why is Bermuda the only place that has seen a contraction in (re)insurance jobs and capital during the global recession?

If global issues contracted Bermuda’s (re)insurance industry, why then did Ireland and Switzerland both see gains in capital, company formation and (re)insurance jobs during this period; gains which are offsets of Bermuda’s contraction?

If these global issues were hurting (re)insurance, why were these positions not eliminated but relocated outside of Bermuda?

If global financial issues were the driver, why did Ireland a country with far more severe public sector financial problems than Bermuda had at the time (but perhaps not now) see an inflow of investment and jobs?

Why did these gains come as the first round of term limits kicked in?

Why did the global recession not hurt the balance sheets or capital adequacy of the (re)insurance industry, which remains well capitalised even after multiple natural catastrophes in 2010 and 2011?

These questions demonstrate that it is not without question that the PLP have contributed perhaps even triggered a rapid contraction in the Bermuda (re)insurance and its affiliated industries.

There are plenty of other questions, and data points, as well as statements by company managements which point directly to the PLP Government’s actions as having done harm to Bermuda’s economy and Bermudian jobs.

The lack of a US tax treaty with Bermuda certainly is one factor, but those of us in the local financial services industry watched from the inside as companies accelerated their Plan Bs in direct response to the PLP’s term limits policy, anti-International Business rhetoric and general unwelcoming tone.

The PLP was warned from the outset that precisely what has happened would happen. Yet now they want to absolve themselves of culpability and lay it at the feet of the global economy?

Bermuda has lost, and is continuing to lose, the vitally important critical mass of intellectual capital which established one square mile within Hamilton as the innovation centre of global insurance and reinsurance. We cannot thrive without a concentration of intellectual capital on the Island with long term stability. Term limits prevents precisely that.

Cayman Islands now looks to be experiencing a come to Jesus moment over their own term limits misadventure. However, here the PLP remain doggedly wedded to a slightly watered down version in the face of as close to a universal chorus as you’ll ever get to abandon it.

The PLP seem more interested in trying to preserve the depleted political capital they’ve invested in term limits than retaining and growing the real investment that Bermuda is losing every day because of it.

Furthermore, and not unrelated to our economic decline, Bermuda has an ‘immigration problem’ because we choose to have one.

Decades old politics built around envy and a national inferiority complex created our immigration problem. These have manifested themselves as a fear of outsiders taking our opportunities and our wealth, rather than actually creating and expanding them as is the case. Our immigration policy reflects that misunderstanding.

Bermuda politics should be aspirational; built around a deserved national confidence as a result of historically punching above our weight.

Our immigration problem exists because amid a declining Bermudian population we no longer provide a path to citizenship, nor an environment for the retention of intellectual capital the most important asset any company possesses in an increasingly competitive world.

The past few years should have made it self-evident that immigration and Bermudian prosperity, social stability and economic growth are inextricably linked.

Immigration policy has become our economic policy. Term limits promotes a high turnover transitional job model for our international companies, rather than a secure environment for those who are contributing socially and economically to our community.

We want the jobs, but not the people. And we want it all on our terms.

Those days are over.

Our companies are global. Where they locate their staff is a choice for most roles now and not something determined by local legislators and civil servants.

Recently the Premier head-faked to this political reality with overtures to a very narrow opening of PRC grants to long term job creators. While a positive sign, this alone is not a solution, particularly as it adds another layer of subjectivity, selectivity and complexity to a policy which needs to be clear, fair, stable and reasonable.

Bermuda’s immigration policy has become little more than a political lever to pull at election time, and is therefore subject to the rapidly changing whims and moods of the governing party, and latest Minister.

The Premier recently bizarrely claimed that our immigration policy was ‘dynamic’, ‘nimble’ and ‘flexible’. This kind of denial or delusion isn’t productive.

Our immigration policy is arbitrary, subjective and uncertain. Not to mention that it’s the greatest threat to Bermuda’s economic recovery and long term prosperity.

Most importantly however it is also something completely within our power to address.

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Published September 30, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 30, 2011 at 10:18 am)

Immigration policy threatens recovery

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