Our symbiotic reliance on foreign workers

There is really only one word to describe our present government:  Disappointment.

It is incredibly hypocritical for our Immigration Minister Derrick Burgess to condemn free speech for ex-pats and suggest that in other countries ex-pats would be extradited for getting involved in politics.  All while that is exactly what our very premier is to have done when he acted as a pivotal voice for the black movement at Howard University while an ex-pat student in the US.  

What the PLP may not realize is that they’re painting a very unattractive picture on life in Bermuda for potential ex-pats.  Today is a day much different then yesterday, where the Internet has risen to give a voice to nearly anyone who wants one.  The Internet serves as a wealth of incredible information where the ability to sort and organization that information gets better each day.  Search engines have made it easy to enter ‘Ewart Brown Howard’ into Google and discover information like this Howard University Feature on the successful life of alumnus Ewart Brown. 

Some faculty members thought politics and medicine shouldn’t mix. “There were some professors
who made the case in a faculty meeting once that I should be expelled from medical school
because I was really a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he recalls.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing?  This while Mr. Burgess told the assembled media:

“Any country you go in — you do not get involved in their politics. That is a common sense attitude you should take. I would never do it and I have never done it. I would be afraid to.”

If what Mr. Burgess suggests is true, those professors surely would have succeeded in not only expelling our Premier during his time at Howard but also deporting him from the country?   Certainly he was more involved in politics then some Americans may have liked, especially on such controversial issues as discrimination against blacks.

Or is it more interesting to regard his comment that Mr. Burgess himself would be afraid to do so in another country.  When clearly Dr. Brown was capable of doing so, does it become a question of what he really fears is what he knows his government would do to those who do speak out?

Where the UBP once traded focus on and success in tourism for international business, the PLP is trying to do in reverse.   Are we risking the loss of our International Business community at the cost of regaining tourism?   We were once the revolutionaries of the tourism industry, leading what was known of the destinations due to our keen focus on improving it, just as we are the revolutionaries of the insurance industry today.  However just as tourism once fell, so too can International Business.  Take it for granted all you want, but the foreign money poured into this country daily may slow to a trickle as we cause our economy to dry up.

Sure, we’re at the peak of our game and our economy is well spoken of.  Yet again we forget that the Internet places reports of life in Bermuda at the hands of those we wish to attract.  Could condemning letters to the editor, blogs, freedom of expression for expats and even pressuring white Bermudians off the island make us look like we may be collapsing into much less of a free state to those onlookers looking in?  Just as our term limit policy is coming to fruitition we’re sending a host of reasons for why you shouldn’t come to Bermuda.

Are you ok with us shouting out “Expats! Watch your back!” in a threatening manner?  Is that not what we’re suggesting when we deport anyone who says anything critical of Bermuda?  Put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing of Bermuda and can choose from multiple destinations to go work, Cayman, Gibraltar, Isle of Mann.  When tensions have risen because of the continual blame put on expats for our stressed infrastructure when we are truly the ones to blame for our lack of foresight in planning ahead.

Just as tourism once collapsed when mass affordable long distance transit rose to become king, the exact same thing is happening with telecommunications today.   As video conferencing becomes closer to being like an in-person conversation and the Internet enables companies to collaborate better across distances, we have taken a haphazard approach to serving our community.  On top of that we add heavy restrictions on who companies can employ and for how long, which only further encourages companies to slowly migrate off island.  Sure there may be no “mass exodus”, but what happens if there is a quiet retreat?  Can we truly afford to see our international business industry dry up just as our tourism industry once did to the point where we have to fight for it back too?

Just as Dr. Brown suggests in the Howard Alumnus piece,

“I made the connection between racism and the health status of our people and pointed out that it was
no accident that Black people then and now suffer from a disparity that’s painful”

I’m making the connection between discrimination and the safety of or industry to point out that what wealth we do have may soon be squandered if we’re not careful.  Ask yourself, does making ex-pats feel unsafe for speaking out and the repercussions of them considering that should they mistakenly say the wrong thing, they’ll suddenly have to move back where they came from which could be very costly and difficult? 

Is not the only true believer of equal rights the one who won’t accept any form of discrimination?  If we truly believe in equal rights should we not stand against all forms of discrimination especially that which goes against our guest workforce?  Should we not be stopping our government from risking our major source of income? 

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