Calling for a soft close

Bermuda’s economy is in big trouble.  Does that make sense?   Bermuda’s economy is booming.  Government revenue is up, tourism is up, and jobs are up.  Our GDP per capita rating is unmatched in the world.  So what’s wrong? 

It’s great to know our economy is booming, however the question arises of what happens when that growth is too fast?  What happens when inflation spirals out of control, when “affordable housing” isn’t affordable, affordable rentals are impossible to find and our infrastructure is stretched.  What happens when traffic gets worse and worse and we are hard pressed to keep control of the growth we have?  Is our booming economy as great then?

If our present growth is unsustainable and a stretch on our infrastructure, is it a good idea to let 82 more companies incorporate on the island this year like we did last?   According to the Department of Statistics latest job market report, there were 553 more non-Bermudian positions created in 2006 than in 2005.  That’s 553 more people coming to our island, filling our homes, driving on our roads, consuming our electricity and contributing to our waste.  While we do appreciate the contributions of our guest workers, at some point we do need to realize that too much growth is just not good for business, nor is it good for Bermudians.

In the world of finance there is a concept referred to as a “soft close”.  A soft close essentially means that you close to new business temporarily while you take the necessary measures to manage your present growth and better prepare your infrastructure to handle future growth for when you reopen.   A soft close for Bermuda would mean that Bermuda would no longer take on any new exempt company incorporations and would work with existing exempt companies to figure out ways to reduce the numbers of non-Bermudians required on island.  A less is more style approach.

In the interests of getting a better handle on our growth, would a soft close be a good option for Bermuda and it’s people?  Would it give us the ability to address our housing crisis?  Would it give us time to rethink our infrastructure and how it operates so that we can find a way to get more for less?  If we truly hope for a sustainable future for Bermudians, should we seriously be considering the possibility of closing to new business while we focus on ensuring we can manage the growth we have now.

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