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When South should read North

Regional sentiment: David Burt, the Premier, centre, is in Guyana for the Caribbean Heads of Government meeting (Photograph supplied)

Nothing surprising arose out of our Budget. It was almost predictable given the new tax regime for international business, the Government would forecast a balanced budget for the upcoming year. Gaining the Entrustment to negotiate full membership in Caricom is another matter that will have a direct impact positively or negatively on the future of the economy.

How we manage both will determine the health and prosperity of the country. It’s easy to forecast a balanced budget; after all, it is only a projection. The hard task is managing a balanced budget, which requires a degree of fiscal prudence and at times constraints on spending.

The idea of regional integration poses a different question aside from management, and that is its practicality. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador, after suffering a difficult economic depression, decided to join the Canadian Confederation, becoming its tenth providence. Newfoundlanders are fiercely proud of their culture and independent heritage, yet it was the practical thing to do, and the regional experience has seen both the Maritime provinces and Newfoundland benefit from the collaboration.

Newfoundlanders enjoy the same health and educational benefits as all Canadian citizens. Foreign students pay almost double the rate paid by Canadians. Canada has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, which includes senior care and disability — and it is virtually free.

Halifax is experiencing a population growth of 60,000 people a year and the trend is expected to continue. At the same time, the Caribbean region is experiencing emigration where, like in Bermuda, people are moving away in search of better opportunities.

The natural result is that the Maritimes are becoming richer and attracting more investment, while the Caribbean remains economically stagnant by comparison.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, where do most of our children prefer to be educated? Where do we go for significant medical treatment? I would submit North America is where our people go — and Canada is included.

If we wish to see economic growth like that of Halifax, being near to or associated with that growth is just simple logic. Likewise, being associated with non-performing economies is questionable at best.

We seem to make political decisions that are based on emotion rather than common sense. I read a comment once where a person posted that there is fear in Bermuda of associating with “darker” countries. That should never be the case, but even if it were true, that would be a cultural bias. When it concerns the wellbeing and prosperity of the people, the higher consideration should be based on how they can succeed and in what kind of environment can they thrive.

We should care less about whether it is Canada, the United States or the West Indies, or whether it is a predominantly Black or White country. The question is, in what environment do my people flourish? We already have one clue: the vast majority who have left are in England. They did not go to the Caribbean. Why not?

This is why the issue of having a referendum on the matter is important. We are talking about the destiny and future of a nation of people, not just the aspirations of a political party. It is very hard to get this point across to the present generation of politicians who have grown up to believe that the party is the Government. Added to that madness is the thought that “whatever the party decides is the people’s wish”.

We are living up to our motto, Quo Fata Ferunt. If indeed we do have a balanced budget, it will not be because of our wisdom; rather, it will be because of the international imperative to levy tax.

However, this decision of regional immersion is entirely ours, and we can only pray that wisdom prevails over sentimentality and politics.

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Published February 28, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 28, 2024 at 7:13 am)

When South should read North

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