Escape plans rather than family plans? Something is wrong with this picture
“A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”— Mahatma Gandhi
It was recently reported on February 21 that for the third consecutive year Bermuda has recorded the grim statistic that we recorded more deaths than the number of births. It was not a sensational news story, so the majority of us might have missed it. However, this doesn’t mean it is not important.
In fact, this is the sort of challenge that a responsible government would be actively trying to address beyond closing schools. Keep in mind, this is the same Progressive Labour Party government that fought the One Bermuda Alliance tooth and nail when it wanted to close one school. However, a few short years later, the PLP is advocating closing eight schools.
During the OBA’s term in office, growing the population became one of the most important and controversial issues. This is vitally important problem because a declining population poses a significant risk to the future of our country.
To start with, a declining population literally means Bermudians are dying off. Closing schools is cosmetic dressing for a major challenge confronting our island. Who will care for the elderly? Who will contribute to the pension fund to keep it sustainable?
The longer the die-off of Bermudians is allowed to continue, more drastic measures will be required to remedy the problem. Sooner or later, we are going to require that the island allows a significant number of immigrants to reside here or incentivise Bermudians to have more children. It is likely that it will need to be a combination of both.
Bermuda has a big problem regarding the issue of more children being born here. Children born to foreigners working here do not necessarily belong here, unlike in most countries. Therefore, when that child becomes of age, they must leave the only home they know rather than stay here, contribute to our society and have children of their own.
The PLP whipped the island into a frenzy about immigrants flooding our shores during the OBA’s time in office. This act has it firmly painted into a corner. However, in another display of blatant hypocrisy, the PLP is quietly reversing its stance on some OBA policies by adopting a very similar version of “Pathways to Status”. Unfortunately for Bermuda, this is another classic case of doing “too little, too late”.
Time is working against us. The consequences and drastic effects of a declining population is severely impacting our economy.
Bermuda, make no mistake, we will continue to suffer the results of this PLP blunder. If we do not have enough people on our shores contributing to our economy, the crushing debt created by the PLP will need to be paid for by fewer people.
Further consequences will be that our home prices will continue to be a fraction of what they used to be and businesses will continue to close because of them being unprofitable as a result of fewer customers. Business closures provide less employment opportunities and the negative downward cycle will continue with no end in sight.
There is at least one option that the PLP does not appear to have contemplated. Thousands of Bermudians have left our shores because they see no hope here. Because of poor PLP decisions and mismanagement of the economy, our island cannot accommodate our old or take care of our young. Our people cannot retire here; nor can they afford to raise children here.
We have to find a way to encourage young Bermudians to stay in our country and grow their families. The best way to achieve this is to have a thriving and prosperous economy that instils hope and opportunities.
Talk to the average young Bermudian and they will inform you that having children in their own country is too expensive. They will let you know that they have a hard time caring for themselves without the added thought or pressure of affording a wedding or the financial responsibility of starting a family of their own. They are more likely to tell you they have an escape plan rather than a family plan.
Our depressing and rundown economic state is providing the most effective PLP birth control. In other developed countries, governments provide incentives for population growth. However, thanks to the PLP, we have limited financial ability to do this because of our crippling debt and a declining economy.
Compounding this disaster is that our people on the lower steps of the economic ladder are struggling more than ever to care for the children they already have. Yet we hear absolutely nothing from the PLP, which that has always presented itself as the champion and fighter for the underclass. It is now crystal clear, or at least it should be, that the PLP pretends to be the warrior for the lower class and working poor for votes, only to ignore and disregard them once elected to leadership and power.
I am drawing attention to this continuing failure of David Burt’s PLP. It says it is looking for direction from the Opposition. Therefore, it is invited to take from this as it will.
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017, and more recently a candidate in the 2020 General Election in Smith's West (Constituency 9)