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Our xenophobic youth don't understand that we need expats and their money

So I ran into a guy last weekend who had just come to Bermuda, has high net worth, has clients with even higher net worth, and is here to consider bringing business to Bermuda.

The dude, who is a guest worker in my country, was at a local nightclub simply trying to have a brewsky and chill, check out the local nightlife and enjoy himself.

I met him outside the club. He left in a rush because he was made to feel most unwelcome by a few of our coveted, coddled, spoiled, entitled, YOUNG BLACK MALES, who basically accosted him and told him that they can kick him out of Bermuda if they wish.

I can go here because I too am a black male, just in case anyone has an issue with me telling the truth.

This dude was minding his own business, didn't bother anyone's girlfriend, didn't bother anybody, didn't step on anyone's toes yet was forced to leave for his own safety and well-being. This is how bad it is getting folks. Something has to change.

A number of things have happened in Bermuda over the past few years that have:

n Made a significant number of international businesses leave Bermuda and relocate elsewhere;

n Caused the size of the workforce to decline from 40,000 to approximately under 37000 at present. Sadly, the number might reach 36,500 by year end if the slowing trend continues. If there is an acceleration in the closure of companies and the decline in both Bermudians and guest workers in the workforce, which is quite possible, the size of the Bermuda workforce could be 36,000 or less by December 2012. Clearly drastic action is needed, now.

n Sent a message into the international business arena that Bermuda is no longer welcoming, inviting, and interested in having them do business in Bermuda;

n Caused unemployment to increase;

n Caused a significant number of guest workers to leave which has caused rents to come down and created a plethora of vacant apartments;

n Caused many businesses to close or relocate elsewhere;

n Had a trickle down and ripple effect that many people didn't think likely;

n Generally exacerbated the effect of the recession (basically made things worse than they might have been in spite of the state of the global economy).

Another outcome of sending such unwelcoming messages to guest workers and international business is that it has fuelled the already significant xenophobic sentiments held by too many Bermudians, who simply don't realise that in order for this country to work, be profitable and sustainable; we need foreign investment and for a percentage of the workforce to be guest workers (like it or not).

It comes back to mathematics; a science that I now realise is not understood by many. It is also a question of a lack of education, exposure, global perspective by some, basically, its ignorance.

After only being here two weeks and having endured that most unpleasant experience, the gentleman in question deduced the following:

n We don't make much in Bermuda and don't have much to export and from which to generate revenue, foreign investment and/or gross national product.

n The idiots who accosted him were most likely untravelled, less educated, unexposed buffoons who have no clue that when they treat people in this manner, it could ultimately cause their moms, aunts, cousins or themselves to lose a job; because eventually businesses may downsize or shut down or if it is a tourist; they will simply not come back and tell all their friends.

n Not many islands our size have a $1.2 billion dollar national debt (his words; not mine; although its true).

n On that evening, totally as a result of his experience with the young fools; he was about to pack up, return home the following day, tell his company and high net worth clients not to bother doing business in Bermuda.

Regrettably, too many people in this country don't understand how our economy works or how it needs to function in order for us to reduce unemployment, fill all the apartments, and give Bermudians at all levels financial hope.

I'm in no way saying that we should disadvantage Bermudians in favour of people from elsewhere. What I am saying is that in order to keep businesses afloat, in order to have enough paying clients for restaurants to stay open, in order for us to have enough spenders to keep retail stores open, in order for us to have disposable income circulating through the economy, we need to attract high net worth persons and companies that take clients to lunch and dinner to generate businesses, companies that will spend on golf outings and various other things to generate wealth.

If we do not create the conditions for these companies to want to be in Bermuda, to want to move staff to Bermuda, to be able to move key personnel to Bermuda, to want to hire some locals, well, they will not come to Bermuda and those that are here will look at alternative destinations such as Cayman, Ireland, the British Virgin Islands, and the United States.

The silly boys who treated my new friend in this manner also don't realise that we NEED people to come here and spend money. The way to encourage this is not by being rude, offensive, obnoxious or inhospitable to any visitor, whether they are a guest worker or a tourist.

Geesh, why do we have to spell this out? Where did we go so wrong?

But we cannot put all of the blame for this on Government. Every citizen has a duty to be welcoming, polite, friendly, approachable, helpful, cool, simply using that good old fashion Bermuda charm.

We need to make people feel welcome, appreciated, understood, accepted, free to experience all that Bermuda has to offer, with the hope that business visitors, leisure visitors and 'would be' investors will want to come to Bermuda and spend, spend, spend.

I have spent a lot of time trying to undo what these stupid bullies did to this man and by the time this submission is published he should be encouraged to do business here, bring more business here, convinced that not all Bermudians view him and other visitors in the same way that those young fools' behaviour suggested.

Many people think that we should get rid of all the expats and then try to build our economy from scratch without them. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way, without the expats we cannot build our economy.

I hope and pray that those of us who don't understand this will accept it and get with the programme A.S.A.P, so that those of us who do understand it can get on with the business of rebuilding our economy.

But part of that means getting the workforce back to that magic number of 40,000. Since the birth rate in Bermuda is declining, we don't have enough Bermudians to throw into the mix to get us to 40,000. So, we need guest workers to make up the difference.

I will make you all a promise. Look at things the way they are now, with everything depressed, with unemployment at its highest level ever, with people stressed and cash strapped, with people losing houses and more beneath the poverty line than at any time in our history.

Try what I'm suggesting instead. At the end of five years tell me which version of the economy you prefer?

Better yet, did you like the way things are today, or did you prefer the economy we had up until around 2007/2008, when things started to go awry?

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Published March 02, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 02, 2012 at 8:12 am)

Our xenophobic youth don't understand that we need expats and their money

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