Income inequality linked to violence
Senator Renee Ming believes income inequality is “eroding” the country's social fabric, leading to “antisocial behaviour, gang affiliation, violence, and murder”.
In an address last Thursday, the Progressive Labour Party senator made the comments during the Senate budget debate in the House of Assembly.
“We must get a grip on this situation, and we must get a grip soon,” she said.
“We cannot continue to lose our young males in the manner that we have.”
“Not addressing the issue will create a “challenge and a threat to our way of life”, the senator said.
“Bermuda cannot be the place of choice for business if our society is not at peace.”
Ms Ming also discussed the island's latest homicide victim.
“Just this week we lay to rest another young man through senseless violence,” she said. “We need to understand why, and we need to understand in some cases there are things that we can do to ensure more equality for these young men.
“It doesn't matter how many cameras we put up — we have to tackle the root cause of this instability in our communities.”
The PLP, she said, has committed to collaborating with the community to address the issues. She also used her time in response to Senator Michael Fahy's statement on the budget to stress the PLP's support for the island's community clubs.
“We have hundreds of our youth that play for the various sporting clubs, which means that they spend time at these clubs, and this is part of their upbringing,” she said.
In return for “verified management controls”, the PLP would extend guarantees to the clubs for renovations in order to make them “self sufficient”.
“We want to see them independent.”
Mr Fahy, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, criticised the PLP's response to the budget as a “reply of committees”.
Highlighting a drop in unemployment numbers — from 9 per cent to 7 — Mr Fahy also touted growth in Bermuda's economy for the third consecutive year, the success of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and the growth in hotel bookings and cruise ship arrivals in his statement.
He also raised the contentious issue of immigration reform.
“One of the statistics that people do not like to talk about — and I will continue to bang the drum whether people want to hear it or not — is that there is a correlation here,” he said.
“The higher the number of work permit holders in Bermuda, the more Bermudians have jobs. That's a fact.”
Independent Senator James Jardine said that commercial immigration needed to be “seriously looked at” as a way to create jobs on the island.
OBA's Andrew Simons, meanwhile, looked back at the Progressive Labour Party's time in office, saying that while the island was in an economic boom and government was making more than it was forecasting, those additional funds were not invested in addressing serious social issues.
“It was hard to see these huge opportunities to tackle long-standing social issues in Bermuda ignored,” he said. “A simple example of this would be the underfunding of pensions.”
He also said that the Opposition's budget reply included several new initiatives without detailing how they would be paid for.