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The Budget: it’s not cricket – but then again it is

Batting for Bermuda: David Burt, the Premier (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

When I read this year’s Budget in the relationship with the state of the economy and society, I had to fall back on my cricket analogies. The comparison I give would be that my opponent has declared at 350 and my team are on 110 and we just lost the fifth wicket. What do we do?

If I were the captain, and recognising victory is the only option, my orders to my batsman are not to save your wicket. Then again, the command would not be to take wild swings, either. The order is: put your head down, keep your eye on the ball and, with bat close to the pads, go for the runs. You can’t be tame if we intend to win.

Thankfully and naturally, David Burt, the Premier is no fool in that regard. He knows the calls for austerity sound nice and he knows his political detractors will offer him plenty of solutions on how, where and what to cut. He knows also that the only real answer is growth — not by any means, but by inbound investment.

Borrowing to stimulate will be like throwing away your wicket; you get a few runs, but in the end, you wind up in debt and you lose. No pun on the America’s Cup, which was good. But aren’t we left with a $39 million debt? The party is over and we can talk about how nice the party was and money well spent. But what about the morning after when you have to pay off your credit cards.

Then there are the types of inbound investments such as that of the graphic example of Tucker’s Town, which fuels construction and services, and has a residual follow-on, as they continuously rely on foreign injection to maintain, and yes they do grow the economy, but are in some ways a displacement of Bermudian value and assets, which will be similar in many ways on the business commercial side with the new 40:60 rule.

Bermuda has a comparatively small local economy that is sophisticated but not lush and only marginally sustainable; real estate will probably top as a local interest. We can expect growth with that type of investment, but don’t expect a bull rush.

Then there is the type of inbound investment that earns foreign capital such as international business, which injects cash and assets into the local economy that otherwise would not exist. These types of investment put pressure on our infrastructure but can grow the economy, assuming it has power similar to international business.

Yet everything has a downside. Even international business, when we consider how it was adapted, or properly put, maladapted with a population ill-prepared to take proper advantage of its benefits.

It is no direct fault of international business that much of the Bermuda society and education crumbled over the past 30-plus years when it should have flourished.

The key to that type of inbound investment that uses our shores to conduct global business, which is probably our only real saving possibility, is to have the mechanism that allows its economic benefit to spread in ways that add to the creation of an inclusive society. When this, like international business, is a private-sector enterprise, it requires benevolence to spread out to society.

Naturally, there is and will always be an educational component that equips the local population to switch its talents to satisfy a global market. Part of that education is to train our mindset to see ourselves as managers of what truly becomes our global asset. Included in that proposition is to realise that we need a global workforce; its participation is to our benefit. Having thousands and thousands of people engaged in our enterprise actually makes us wealthy when it is managed effectively for our good.

So back to cricket: the game is on, the umpire (electorate) has handed the ball to the opponent and the new team have a few hundred runs to make with only five wickets remaining and only a couple of recognised batsmen to come.

It is no time for favourites. He (the Premier) has to use the batsmen that know how to find and score the runs, or they lose the game. It’s as simple as that.

I think the captain knows; it’s now up to the players.