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Bermudians come first in immigration reform

“The truth is an offence but not a sin.”— Bob Marley

Below are some of the constant narratives expounded by those closely related to the OBA:

“We need more boots on the ground.” ­— Opposition leader Craig Cannonier

“Swing open the gates to the outside world.” — Michael Fahy

“The PLP placed a lot of political importance on comprehensive immigration reform when in Opposition.” — Nick Kempe

Let us take a closer look at some of the realities.

Comprehensive immigration reform

Similar to the question: “How long is long?”, so too is the question, “What is comprehensive immigration reform?”

For ease of understanding, CIR can be broken down into two or three major columns. As mentioned in 2019-20 Budget, there will be funds earmarked to help streamline and improve the in-office immigration processes in order to be completed in a more efficient timeframe.

Another crucial leg of CIR, will address the issues of mixed-status families. This was part of our campaign pledge to address during our first term in office.

Without a doubt, the most critical leg of CIR will be implementing measures to ensure that Bermudians have protection, to seek and retain employment in their own country.

There are far too many instances of employers attempting to bring in guest workers, by claiming that they cannot find qualified Bermudians or attempting to pay low wages.

Interestingly, what is most alarming about the claims that the Government is dragging its feet on CIR, is that two members of the OBA sit on the CIR committee and they recognise the need for these processes to be examined and carried out in an extremely meticulous manner.

As the saying goes, measure twice and cut once. As a labour government, our guiding principle is the upliftment of Bermudian workers, no matter their profession.

Protecting the workers goes hand in hand with Bermudians, themselves, ensuring they have the required skills and qualifications to fill the wide range of jobs available. This government's job is to provide reasonable avenues and access to funding for citizens to achieve those qualifications.

Global realities

Our financial sector is constantly under threat by external forces from the likes of the UK, OECD and EU regulations. Accordingly, many firms have begun redomiciling their operations back to the US, UK and continental Europe.

Another threat to our financial sector is that there are constant mergers and consolidations of major firms. As prime example, recently Tokio Millennium Re was purchased by RenaissanceRe, with a net loss of approximately 30 jobs.

Unfortunately, neither of those above-mentioned issues are likely to cease anytime soon.

This simply means that our IB sector may continue to shrink, resulting in both guest workers and Bermudians looking at redundancies.

The net result being less economic activity on island such as rented office space, rented houses, vehicles on the road and groceries being purchased.

So when we hear the parrot-like cry for “more boots on island”, the question has to be asked: what industry will demand hundreds, if not thousands of new jobs/boots on island?

That indeed, is the pertinent question, to which there is no clear answer from any sector.

To be perfectly clear, there is no legislation preventing investors from coming to Bermuda to invest in any business. There is, in fact, legislation that encourages it.

So where do we go from here?

Financial technology

Let us have a read of what our cousins in the Cayman Islands have been up to shall we?

Alden McLaughlin, the Caymanian Premier, told the Cayman Compass for its December 30, 2018 edition: “We modernised our intellectual property and copyright laws and encouraged the growth of technology business, including financial technology or fintech business. These efforts are paying off with the Cayman Islands becoming a jurisdiction of choice for fintech and similar businesses with digital assets ...

“The private sector, including locally owned businesses such as Cayman Enterprise City and Tech Cayman, have embraced the opportunity and are attracting these businesses to our shores. Government continues to play a key role.”

As shown above, the very same Cayman Islands, that Michael Fahy tells us to be like, are pursuing fintech as their third economic leg.

Here are some quotes by Sir John Swan about fintech, published last month in The Royal Gazette February 1, 2019:

“Fintech and blockchain technologies have great promise for Bermuda if we get it right and I think we can.”

“That is why we must support the Government in their efforts to bring the industry here.”

“I am giving support where I can and ask everyone to do the same.”

So will those same critics, such as Michael Dunkley, the former premier, now say Sir John has no idea of what he is talking about?

Is fintech the silver bullet to save us? Again, being brutally honest, the answer will be no. But should we dissuade businesses from coming here?

Back to basics

We have to look back at what made us succeed as individuals, families, and communities. At present, we have a large proportion of guest workers in job categories that Bermudians previously dominated, such as; auto mechanics, barbering, construction and hospitality, to name a few.

Let's think about it like this, if there are 350 auto mechanics working full time, then that indicates a clear demand for this profession.

However, as fewer and fewer Bermudians get trained and qualified for these jobs, then more and more guest workers will be brought in to do jobs that we ourselves should be doing.

As a prime example, recent statistics show that in 2018 over 100 additional Bermudians secured full-time employment in the hospitality sector.

If we can see progressive movement in that sector, we should, with concerted efforts, see the same positive results in other sectors such as; accounting, barbering, construction and plumbing, if and only if, we get our people, especially our young persons, interested in these fields.

There are plenty of professions that provide stable and economically fulfilling rewards. Occupations that can, in actuality, lead to six-figure incomes and eventual business ownership.

National transformation

Our mission is to bring transformation to our people by implementing progressive programmes such as: more funding for Bermudians to retool at the Bermuda College; work release for high school students; more government contracts allocated to small businesses; and comprehensive immigration policies that truly put Bermudians first.

It is for our Bermudian people, to take advantage of these transformational programmes.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at cfamous@plp.bm

Building up: as fewer and fewer Bermudians get trained and qualified for jobs in certain trades, more guest workers will be brought in to do jobs that we should be doing (Photograph supplied)

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Published March 02, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated March 02, 2019 at 7:07 am)

Bermudians come first in immigration reform

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