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National pride hit by parasitical new Bermuda

Foreign investors became kings after people were willing to accept 30 pieces of silver

Bermuda has materially changed and the differences that have occurred within just a couple of generations are staggering and are yet to be fully appreciated. I have a Wall Street friend who remembers as an outsider trying to get in and penetrate the investment attitudes of former times. As a foreigner trying to invest in business opportunities in Bermuda a few decades ago, he recalls how difficult it was.

As he puts it, Bermudians were too strong-willed and acted as if they did not need anyone, certainly not to the extent that they had to give up much. We owned our banks, major department stores, wholesalers, supermarkets and the construction industry.

The 60/40 ownership rule worked and, as a carry-over from our old pirating days, investors dumped their cash and we managed to control whatever was built by that foreign money.

The large hotels were perhaps the first chink in the armour and the beginnings of change. As we abandoned our little hotels and guest cottages, we handed over tourism to these new foreign-owned resorts. Piece by piece, the local element of control began to roll away and, by the year 2000, local ownership of the grocery business had already shrunk to about 51 per cent.

The Bank of Bermuda was gone, while the other banks begged for foreign investment just to remain afloat.

Our political pundits began calling for the relaxation of the 60/40 corporate ratio and, indeed, we created legislation to bypass the old protectionist rule.

If we thought that was the end of it, we forgot the term “the bottomless pit”. Along with this shift in local-power dynamics came some subcultural diseases, which replaced once-proud determinist Bermudians, who were in charge of their destiny, with those willing to sell opportunity for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.

The foreign investor became the new kings in the land, while locals — who like parasites feed on the ideas of others and who lack a vision of their own — became too willing to steal, manipulate or otherwise hand over opportunities that rightfully belonged to their own blood and family to foreign entities.

All for a fee.

But that is the nature of a parasite, biblically referred to as traitors, and as we scramble to find a sustainable livelihood in a changing world, this happens to be one of the unfortunate character traits that have become a reality of the new Bermuda.

It is double-edged: ideal, foreign investors bring about social harmony and the less ideal investor creates dissension to monopolise. However, it is we who cause them to either have to respect or disrespect our integrity as a country or as countrymen.

The days of honour even among thieves are gone. It used to be the case that a deal was a deal, all made in a handshake, taking an earthquake to break. Nowadays, you almost need to be married to a lawyer or at least have one always present to secure an agreement or idea.

Fortunately, we live in an electronic age, which does provide a lot more daylight because we can track participation thought and movement instantly; nothing escapes.

Our political leaders must understand the dilemma of the new Bermuda, while it has become an imperative in the modern world of globalisation to become more cosmopolitan. There is still such a thing as “Bermudian” and we must protect, to whatever degree sustainable, the element of local ownership and nativity.

It is our only hope in retaining any semblance of national pride.