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Jeb Bush: thank you, Bermuda

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Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, left, and his son, George P. Bush (Photograph by Richard Meyer)

Jeb Bush wasted no time expressing his gratitude to Bermuda and its reinsurance market during the 62nd General Assembly & Annual Meeting of the World Federation of Exchanges at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club.

“Whenever I come to Bermuda, first and foremost, I have to say ‘thank you’ for developing a reinsurance market that makes it possible for homeowners to actually own homes in Florida and for us to get better at risk management,” the former Florida governor said yesterday during the WFE meeting, held on the island for the first time.

“We have created the raw materials from which the innovators here have created the instruments and financial services to be able to protect Florida.”

The remarks were made during a wideranging and freewheeling “fireside chat” with the former governor, his son George P. Bush and Thomas Gallagher, chairman and CEO of Miami International Holdings, which owns the Bermuda Stock Exchange.

Mr Gallagher said that he and the elder Bush have been friends for years.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida (File photograph)

Mr Bush joked: “Sometimes when I come here I think I won’t be allowed into the country given the fact that we’ve had eight hurricanes and four tropical storms and $200 billion worth of losses in 16 months.”

The connection between Bermuda and Florida ramped up considerably from 1992, after Hurricane Andrew tore through the US state and a shortage of insurance capacity followed, which led to the formation of a substantial reinsurance industry in Bermuda.

Former premier John Swan attended the session on Wednesday and, when called upon, explained how George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States and Jeb Bush’s father, played a significant role in the building of modern Bermuda, especially in terms of negotiating the US-Bermuda Tax Convention and shepherding it through the US Senate.

“Without your father committing himself to the destiny of our country,” Sir John told the senior Mr Bush, “we would not be sitting here today talking about Bermuda.

“So thank you on behalf of Bermuda. Thank you to your family on behalf of Bermuda,” Sir John concluded.

The elder Bush discussed the future of the relationship and how it remains vital to the geopolitical interests of both countries.

“Very few people understand the importance of Bermuda. It is becoming more important than before with the incursion of China and Russia into the hemisphere, particularly China,” he said.

“You are the first line of defence, the first line where you can identify these issues.”

He also noted that the economic relationship will continue to be key for both countries as natural disaster risks increase and the sophisticated (re)insurance markets of Bermuda evolve to meet those challenges.

The conversation, which was moderated by Mr Gallagher, quickly went farther afield and into domestic US politics.

Mr Bush, the 43rd governor of Florida who ran for president in 2016, spoke freely about President Joe Biden, Covid-19, immigration, the next presidential election, the surprisingly good relationship between President Bill Clinton and his brother, former president George W. Bush, and the 2000 election, all the time maintaining the theme of civility in politics.

“I am worried about his [President Biden] age. We have a problem in our country. We have a lot of people who are past their prime who cling to power. There are people in both parties that fit that criteria,” Mr Bush said.

“First and foremost, I would say, it’s time for the baby boomers to get off the stage and let in a new generation of leaders that are more similar in age to my son and your Premier.

“It is a tough job that requires a tremendous amount of energy.”

Mr Bush said it is an extremely unusual situation in the US now, as one candidate for president has “lost some of his faculties” and the other has been indicted multiple times.

“I would like to see a guy like [California Democratic governor] Gavin Newsom run against a guy like [Florida Republican governor] Ron DeSantis. They have totally different visions of what the world should look like, one is a progressive, one is a conservative. Let them have it out,’ he said.

He took shots at presidential debates in the US, calling them “so-called debates” and explaining that participants simply recognise the question and then say whatever they want.

“I think all of them did well in their own way, but I didn’t learn anything,” Bush said of the recent Republican primary debate.

His son added: “The debate was really a clash of who’s going to come in second. A lot of people are jostling for the cabinet, or who is going to be vice-president, because we know Donald Trump is not going to select Mike Pence again.”

In terms of the pandemic, Jeb Bush was critical of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the overall response.

“I think the CDC was resting on its laurels. It was recognised as the No 1 public health institution in the world, and it didn’t deliver. It should do better. It should modernise its systems,” he said.

“We don’t shut down the world. We knew this before. Now, it is abundantly clear.

“Having the flexibility to know what you don’t know and having the curiosity to seek out the truth, and being able to adapt when the policy doesn’t work, to recognise it didn’t work and move on — that is what we need.

“The amount of money spent, the debt, is a tragedy.”

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Published September 21, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated September 22, 2023 at 7:45 am)

Jeb Bush: thank you, Bermuda

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