Readers’ ideas: from cannabis to premium bonds
Slashing hotel room rates, implementing a blockchain-based system for infrastructure, using home-grown Christmas trees and building a cannabis industry were among ideas for boosting the economy that readers have shared.
The Royal Gazette invited suggestions last week on the day after Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, announced the make-up of the Economic Advisory Committee, which is tasked with considering submitted ideas and developing strategies to help the island emerge from the Covid-19 economic malaise.
Elizabeth Walter suggested a national savings scheme along the lines of premium bonds in the UK, which are managed by the state-run National Savings and Investment Agency and which provide the Government with a cheap source of borrowing. The 1.4 per cent interest paid by the UK Government on the bonds is used to fund monthly draw prizes of between £25 ($30.60) and £1 million, which go to bondholders.
Ms Walter also suggested a 10 per cent pay cut for senior civil servants, not applying to those at or below PS step 24, at which annual salary is $78,212, according to the 2020-21 Budget Book. “More money in the pockets of the lower paid to encourage spending and saving,” Ms Walter wrote. She also suggested no public-sector pay rises for two years.
Additionally, Ms Walter proposed a national living wage, cuts in import taxes to reduce the cost of goods, more government housing and the maintaining of the 60:40 business ownership rule to “keep Bermuda for Bermudians”.
Robert Stewart, the economist and author, said: “I sincerely hope that Bermuda can bounce back, and I am sure that we will. However, it is essential to terminate the dead-end policies that the Government has pursued over the past 20 years or so. We shall never recover if the same ill-conceived policies are continued.”
A discussion of needed policy changes would require an essay, he said, but they should focus on immigration, government spending and borrowing, public education, and the size and competence of the Civil Service.
Quinton DeShield is a Bermudian who lives in Angola, where he works to “create the jobs of the future while improving infrastructure”.
Mr DeShield, who holds degrees in both civil engineering and actuarial science, said his company GFox is designing what he described as a “digital blanket over infrastructure” that could be implemented in Bermuda. A framework, separated by mechanical, electrical and external works, as well as civil, structure and architecture, “would allow companies in Bermuda to use technology to fulfil the requirements to complete a project handover and future maintenance programmes”, Mr DeShield said.
He added: “For example, if an individual or company finds a solution by using blockchain to order water pipes for plumbers which is efficient and fulfils all quality checks they would be able to plug into the framework (chain of chains). This same technology could be used on structures that use the framework around the world.”
He added: “Some of the Morgan's Point project can be used as a science and tech park to encourage Bermuda businesses to set up and build the technology for the world market.
“Therefore we can be a leader in smart infrastructure which can incorporate fintech.”
The system could be designed to provide fixed, guaranteed future pension payments on infrastructure investments, he added.
Mr DeShield said he had submitted a detailed version of the proposal to the Bermuda Government.
Newton Adcock sees the crisis as an opportunity for the community to work together to spruce up the island.
“Looking around I see lots of small projects that would make Bermuda much more attractive,” Mr Adcock said. “The parks, and public roadside areas are overgrown, and have debris remaining from the last hurricane.
“I had been thinking that I would spruce up the roofs of the bus shelters, free! We could call it ‘Adopt a bus shelter'.”
He said he planned to call the Ministry of Public Works with an offer to spruce up the bus shelters in his parish, “hoping that some other good souls would take up the gauntlet and do other parishes”.
Other small jobs could be done by individuals, such as pulling or trimming weeds on sidewalks and roadsides, he added.
“I hope others can make suggestions after reading this in your paper,” Mr Adcock added. “If we each do a little, together we do a lot.”
Gerry McLauchlin lives in Scotland, but has told his family he loves Bermuda so much that he would like his ashes to be spread at his favourite place in the world: Horseshoe Bay.
As a frequent visitor over more than four decades, Mr McLauchlin suggests that hotels could cut room rates to boost visitor demand.
“You should encourage your hotels and guesthouses to reduce their charges in the short term,” Mr McLauchlin wrote. “This would stimulate tourism in what may be a time of uncertainty, once the coronavirus pandemic is fully under control and travelling abroad is permitted again.
“Lower accommodation prices, I am sure, would be an additional incentive to potential tourists who are wary about an overseas vacation at this time.”
Other visitors who benefited from air arrivals could help to compensate the hotels for loss of revenue, Mr McLauchlin added.
He said he loved Bermuda and added: “I am confident that you will bounce back from this horrible virus in the near future and will soon be thriving again.”
Mick Hickey said dollars spent on importing Christmas trees could be kept in the economy if we changed our Christmas traditions and grew cedar trees to be reused during each festive season.
“The consumer could reuse the trees each year and save money,” Mr Hickey wrote.
“The nurseries could employ more people. Finally when the trees get too big to be brought back inside each year they could be planted either on your own property, or donated for the Government to plant on the island.”
He added: “Who said Christmas trees have to be fir trees anyway?”
Another reader, who asked not to be named, said the island should legalise and tax cannabis.
“Let's drag Bermuda out of the stone age on this issue,” he said.
There were already large numbers of cannabis users on the island, he argued, paying large amounts for the drug on the black market, money that could be spent more usefully on other things.
“Legalising it will have an immediate and significant social benefit in this regard, freeing citizens to enjoy their chosen ‘vice' without having to sacrifice other aspects of their lives,” the reader added. “Easy to get going by importing product from Canada, with a view to eventually producing it 100 per cent on-island.”
Legalising and taxing cannabis would boost government coffers and make Bermuda more attractive to tourists, he added.
“There has been a lot of talk about developing North Hamilton,” the reader said. “Haven't seen much action. Why not make Court Street, north of Victoria Street, a pedestrian zone and have locals set up coffee shops like in Amsterdam? A great many tourists would love it.”