A great piece

Dale Butler has written a really great piece in today’s Royal Gazette outlining a great many issues with our society that many struggle with to change.  I recommend the read and applaud Mr. Butler for writing it.

The power to change our situation here in Bermuda lies in the hands of all of us and only if we stop pointing the finger of blame and begin working together will we achieve true change.

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"token black guy" of the boardroom?

The Bermudian government has proposed legislation that would give the Commission for Unity and Racial Equality (CURE) enforcement power over the percentage of Black Bermudians in management positions.  Would such legislation inadvertently do more damage than good?  Would such a policy make it more difficult for hard working Black Bermudians to get ahead?  Could it possibly create a culture of entitlement and potential resentment towards Black Bermudians?  Could such legislation ultimately lead to the creation of a “token black guy” of the boardroom?

The above clip is from the movie “Not another teen movie”, which basically was a comedic parody of teen oriented American movies created in the 90s.  This particular scene outlines the concept of the ‘token black guy’ which is the stigma of American teen movies that feature a sole black character whose only purpose is to make comments like “damn” and “that is whack”, but otherwise stay out of the storyline.  It is this particular scene that comes to mind when reading of the proposed CURE legislation.  While the intentions of the legislation are honourable, could it cause more problems than it hopes to solve?

What would happen to the self-esteem of a hard working black Bermudian who begins to wonder if the promotion he received is largely due to the color of skin as opposed to his hard work?  Would he continue to work hard or begin to doubt the merits of his efforts by wondering if he had truly earned his place in the management realm?

What would happen to those black Bermudians who realize that they do not need to work hard to get ahead?  Would the potential for advancement based upon the color of their skin give them a sense of entitlement to protest at any advancement of non-black individuals on the basis of equality policies over merit?  Would it result in unqualified individuals being advanced into arenas in which they are not suited; essentially putting them there to serve merely as a placeholder or ‘token’ and not a valued member of the team?

Would advancement of black Bermudians above other harder working employees on the basis of race create a rift between black and non-black employees?  Could this promote undesirable resentment towards black Bermudians?   Could such a stigma cause the efforts of hard working black Bermudians to be ignored and potentially make it much harder for black Bermudians to be taken seriously?  Could this do more to damage the efforts and ambitions of those who hold the desire to get ahead purely on their own merit?

The government’s intentions to propose legislation to offer a quick fix to our racial woes is an honourable one, but will it ultimately do more harm than good?  Will it make it harder for hard working Black Bermudians to get ahead?  Could it nurture a culture of entitlement and possible further racial division?  Is it likely that we will see the “token black guy” of the boardroom whose sole purpose is to stay silent and add little to the conversation?  Is this the kind of advancement we’re truly looking for in order to achieve racial equality?

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Is the customer always right?

When considering our island as a business, how imperative is it that we do the most we possibly can to address concerns raised by our customers so we can ensure their continued patronage?  Recently, concerns were raised by a prominent member of our international business community that our term limit policy is having negative effects.  These concerns were allayed in a less than ideal manner by our Labour Minister.  His words have raised the question of whether we take the best approach to addressing the concerns of our customers and ultimately brings us to question whether there is truth in that old adage “the customer is always right”. 

Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) Chairman David Ezekiel recently made claims in the Royal Gazette that the term limit policy is forcing many international business companies to consider relocating jobs off island and that less skilled jobs, primarily filled by Bermudians, will go with them.  Labour Minister Burgess contests these claims by suggesting that there has been no evidence of such and no one has come to the immigration Ministry to claim foul with regards to the policy. 

What is concerning of Minister Burgess’ claims is that he feels it is the obligation of the international business community to come to him.  When asked if he had reached out to speak with Mr. Ezekiel following claims in the newspaper, Minister Burgess suggested he hadn’t, saying “Mr. Ezekiel has my phone number” and that “if he has concerns he can call us”.   “We are in charge and we know what’s happening” claims Burgess, suggesting that he has met with two of the largest international business companies on the island who had nothing to say with regards to offshoring and any difficulties with the term limit policy.

However, can the opinions of just two companies be taken to represent the whole?  Mr. Ezekiel is making a number of substantial claims and, as Chairman of an association of companies, those claims must be recognized as representative of the greater body of companies that he represents, otherwise he would not be Chairman.  Should there be concern for how Minister Burgess’ chooses to frame his remarks and in the attitude displayed?  Is the Ministry truly “in charge” and should businesses be expected to call upon them rather than the other way around?

Do these positions indicate an absence of an understanding of common customer relations principles?  Indeed, are those in the international business community not our customers our island not much like a business?  Minister Burgess has suggested that the government recognizes that nothing must be done to jeopardize the continuing success of business in Bermuda but do his words suggest otherwise?

What would occur in the operations of a successful privately owned business where customer satisfaction is held to high regard?  If the “the customer comes first” approach is a good one to ensure that the business continues to achieve success among it’s patrons, is it one we should be striving for with the services we provide?  If a private business were to have a customer, or worse, a group of customers, come out and publicly claim that service was poor, would a punitive response be “they’ve got our number”?  Would a better and more proactive action be to immediately take steps to address their concerns?

Always remembering that our island is a business serving the international community, were the steps undertaken by our Labour Minister prudent in addressing the concerns raised by our customers?  How should we be recognizing and treating our international business community with regards to their concerns.  Should it be one of a proactive approach where we approach them or should they be required to contact us?  Is there any merit to that old adage that suggests “the customer is always right”?

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Policing resource shortage continued

Continuing evaluation of Senator Burch’s desire to have the governor delegate control of the police force raises today’s question of whether the responsibilities Senator Burch already has over the police force are being managed effectively.

An earlier piece concerning Policing in Bermuda noted:

Sen. Burch has made numerous calls for the Governor to do more to address Bermuda’s policing difficulties or hand over control, suggesting that he cannot do his job effectively because the Governor “is solely responsible for the Bermuda Police Service”.  Is the issue with policing a lack of control?

Acting Police Commissioner Roseanda Young suggests that it is actually government, not the governor, who is responsible for the number of officers on the island, along with recruiting, training and equipment.  That due to the resources available, response times of police officers improved as a result of realignment in terms of shifting officers locations of patrol and start times, not the addition of resources. (emphasis added)

Interestingly, in today’s Royal Gazette Superintendent Michael Desilva suggested that the aim of recent restructuring in the Bermuda Police Service (BPS) was to better use the limited resources the BPS has at its disposal.

“Much of the feedback to date from our officers centres around operational logistical issues, including the need for more vehicles. The perennial staff shortage in the BPS is also an issue.” said Supr. Desilva

“However, given the shrinking resource pool, the BPS does not — and should not — deviate from its training standards.”

(emphasis added)

Yesterday’s Royal Gazette quoted Assistant Police Commissioner as having addressed the islands drug problems by suggesting

“There is a significant problem which clearly outstrips the resources Police and other agencies have to combat it effectively.”

(emphasis added)

More recently, via a police officer who wrote in to the www.politics.bm blog suggested:

“[There aren’t] enough cars for the new CAT patrol units, or the extra people in the station during the overlap created by the new shift system”

“The people of Bermuda surely aren’t aware that the police pay contract expired in Oct 2004. This is supposed to be a three year contract expiring in Oct 2007. They haven’t even come to the table yet.”

So, in recap, we have the Acting Police Commissioner, the Assistant Police Commissioner, the Superintendent along with an off the record police officer who are all suggesting that lack of resources are a core issue as to why we have inadequate policing.  Yet none have supported Senator Burch’s claim.

So, here are the questions to ask yourself. 

One, why is it that our Premier feels it is important that he has a motorcade of 3 police officers when we have such shortages of resources which are causing increasing thefts, break-ins and violence? 

Two, if the government is ultimately responsible for resource allocation, as Acting Commissioner Young suggests, why do we have a wide segment of our police service suggesting that resource allocation is inadequate? 

Three, how is it possible or even acceptable that the police pay contract still has not been negotiated in what is approaching three years?

Four, if the government cannot adequately manage the responsibilities that it has now with regards to the police service, how could it be expected to manage additional responsibilities?

Are the responsibilities held by government over the police force being managed effectively or should the governor delegate greater control of the police force to the government?

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Solution to the drugs problem: more power or more resources?

According to Assistant Police Commissioner Bryan Bell, the solution to the drugs problem is to give police more power.  This while former police officers are suggesting that many of the issues stem from major reductions in the narcotics departments and less officers walking the beat.  Do these issues continue to point to a lack of overall resources in terms of manpower and problems with the structure of the Bermuda Police Service as suggested by former officers?

According to Mr. Bell

“A lot of drug dealers’ activities are run on cash. They have numerous ways of developing their wealth and attempting to legitimize their assets.

“One of the areas of discussion we are having at the moment is looking at a change in the legislation to provide for what is known as civil forfeiture of criminal assets.

“It basically means you can go after someone who you can show to the courts of having gained their money from criminal means without having to necessarily convict them of a criminal offence.

“It’s done in the UK at the moment with the asset confiscation agency.”

Interesting.  Googling asset confiscation agency turns up little.  What actually is turned up is the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) which, in June 2006 BBC News reported it as ‘failing’ and in January  of 2007 it was reported as abolished through it’s amalgamation with the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).  Reading these reports gives a clear indication that the largest failure of the ARA was that it cost far more to run than what it ultimately recovered and that court processes were arduous as authorities fought to seize criminal assets.  Would such an agency have success for Bermuda in curbing drug dealing as suggested by Mr. Bell?  What impact would this have on our courts to have a rise in even more cases and would this proposal ultimately be worth the cost?

Another suggestion came from Former National Drugs Control Minister Wayne Perinchief, who recommended that we copy Britain’s Anti-social Behavior Act to enable a speedy crackdown on homes used as drug hangouts.  But Mr. Bell interestingly suggests anti-social behavior order (ASBO) laws are extremely bureaucratic and involved hours of work before they could be put in place.

“The idea that you just wheel someone into the court and get an ASBO is not what happens in reality.

“Many councils have to employ lawyers just to maintain ASBO’s and the actual number taken out are still relatively small. “

How would an ARA have a different impact if it were to result in similar needs with regards to courts and bureaucracy?  Other criticisms of ASBO’s include the lack of anonymity offered to young offenders and that because ASBO cases are heard in civil courts, complaints do not have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt, but merely judged on the balance of probability.

Former police officers interviewed by the Mid Ocean News contest that current issues with the Bermuda Police Service stem from restructuring that have “reduced the narcotics and criminal investigations departments to half their size and removed community officers from its roster completely”, an “absence of an overall strategy for policing the island” along with recruiting and training problems.  All of which point to issues with regards to the ability to recruit and train manpower resources both locally and abroad. 

What is the solution to the drugs problem?  Should we be giving police more legislative power through the introduction of an Assets Recovery Agency or Anti-social Behaviour Orders or are these issues stemming from a lack of resources and problems with the structure of the Bermuda Police Service?

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What do today’s youth expect of their leaders?

Today’s youth have grown up in a different age than our elders.  For today’s youth, the closest phone is likely on your hip, the knowledge of the world is available at a few touches of the fingertips and any individual is increasingly able to not only consume thoughts from across the globe, but also produce them.  Does this generational transition cause youth today to seek a different kind of leadership than our elders?  One that better represents the style of life they’re quickly becoming accustomed to?  One which includes a process of governance which has consultation, explanation and participation at it’s core?  What do today’s youth expect of their leaders?

Today’s youth are looking for a different kind of leader and a different kind of leadership. A perfect analogy can be found in a recent study from the Annals of Behavioral Medicine which outlines how younger patients are more likely to follow treatment recommendations of a doctor who takes the time to explain a condition, present it’s treatment options and get patient participation in deciding amongst the treatment options. By contrast, older patients are shown to generally prefer a more traditional “doctor-centered” or “paternalistic” style where the doctor spends less time explaining a condition, seeks little patient input when it comes to treatment decisions and gets right down to business.

This analogy is startlingly fitting for describing the situation our people have with our island’s own doctor, our Premier Ewart Brown. While older generations may generally be more accepting of a “get things done” approach, younger generations are more likely to desire an approach that involves greater consultation, explanation and participation in decision making.  Of course, Premier Brown has gotten off to a good start in his attempts to consult with the youth through the online community Facebook, hosting Open Mics and going on College Tours

If Premier Brown is making greater efforts at consultation, why would so many of today’s youth describe him as “all about himself”?  Is it possibly due to the lack of the explanation and participation elements that youth also desire from their leadership?   Despite consultation with regards to the closure of the medical clinic, the Southland’s SDO and other issues, the full explanations of the ‘Doctor’s remedy’ and actual participation in the decision making process have been left out.  Is the doctor’s present approach more of a “doctor-centered” one or is it “patient-centered” and does the ideal approach for a multi-generational electorate cater to the distinct needs of each generation?

The youth are increasingly demanding more involvement in the guiding of our future.  They want to be consulted when there is a problem, they want to be provided options for solutions and they want a hand in the decision making process.  Is their ideal leadership much like a patient centric doctor; he’s the expert and the one doing the work, but they’re the ones deciding which risks should be taken.  Do today’s youth yearn for a greater form of democracy, one where the individual has greater rights and freedoms and a greater hand in guiding our collective future?

Indeed, the youth of today have grown up in an environment where information and freedom of speech are more readily available than it may have been in the past.  In today’s developed world, freedom of press doesn’t just belong to those who one one, it lies in the hands of anyone with a little technical savvy, which is largely the youth.  The youth aren’t satisfied with just any treatment for the ills of our island; we want explanations, treatment options and a hand in the decision making process.  The youth want to be engaged in shaping the course of their future. 

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Policing in Bermuda

Is very confusing.  What is the problem?  Is it lack of control?  Is it lack of resources?  Is it politicking? 

Sen. Burch has made numerous calls for the Governor to do more to address Bermuda’s policing difficulties or hand over control, suggesting that he cannot do his job effectively because the Governor “is solely responsible for the Bermuda Police Service”.  Is the issue with policing a lack of control?

Acting Police Commissioner Roseanda Young suggests that it is actually government, not the governor, who is responsible for the number of officers on the island, along with recruiting, training and equipment.  That due to the resources available, response times of police officers improved as a result of realignment in terms of shifting officers locations of patrol and start times, not the addition of resources.

Government MP Ashfield DeVent lashed out at the apparent response time improvement by contending that drug dealing occurs around the clock in his Pembroke seat.  He suggests “A few months ago when Police made a bigger presence in my area I was the first to commend them.” yet had also suggested that there were “people complaining that there was too great a Police presence”.  “Now I don’t see the Police and the drug activity is 24/7 — it’s in broad daylight.” he contends.  Is this due to the restructuring of resources to other areas?  Does it point to an overall lack of resources as officers must be moved from patrolling one area to another in order to cope?

Mr. DeVent suggests, “In regard to response times I would like to see the figures. There’s a perception among many people that they are not all that quick.”  But he then suggests that many residents don’t bother calling the Police because they feel nothing would happen.  If that is the case, why does he believe improved response times would make a difference?  Has it not been previously suggested that drug dealers post lookouts and scatter if the police arrive?  Thus, would response times make any difference for his constituency in comparison to the patrols that once occurred before resources were restructured?

If the issue isn’t so much about response times as it is the number of officers on patrol, does that fall under the responsibility of government as suggested by Acting Commissioner Young? 

Mr. DeVent has previously supported Sen. Burch’s call for the governor to relinquish powers over the police suggesting the Governor has ultimate responsibility for the Police service under the Constitution so must be held accountable for its failings. “The buck has to stop with him,” he said.   Yet earlier in the piece he suggests that government controls the budget and how much taxpayer money is allocated to fund the service so doesn’t that mean the literal buck stops with the government and not the governor?  Do resources not equate to funding and does this raise the question of whether it is adequate?

Is this a question of the government needing control over the police force or is it one of a lack of resources available for police perform it’s job adequately?  Is it possible the government is under-funding and under-resourcing the police service yet contesting that it isn’t doing it’s job effectively?  

Policing in Bermuda is very confusing.  What is the problem?  Is it lack of control?  Is it lack of resources?  Is it politicking? 

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Hustle Truck

Having given some 270 people short term work and graduated 26 on to full-time employment in some 4 months, the Hustle Truck program has now been suspended.  If you asked those 270 people given work or those 26 now fully employed, would they tell you it was a success or a failure?

The Hustle Truck proved at least one thing, that people on the streets aren’t lazy and there are many who are ready and willing to work if the opportunity is provided to them.  It’s goal being to achieve just that by allowing individuals from many different backgrounds, whether poor, down on their luck, living on the streets, trying to make extra cash or even trying to break an addiction, to find work.  The Hustle Truck is the opportunity for the individual to help themselves.

It is unfortunate the the scheme has now been suspended due to a row over pay.  Does this indicate that today’s Bermuda has become so expensive that just about everyone is having a hard time surviving, even those who are desperate for any kind of work?

Senator Gina Spence-Farmer described the Hustle Truck as a good idea, but questioned it’s level of planning.

“[Minister Burch] did not have a realistic plan in place to manage the people they were putting to work. You can’t just take people off the street and expect them to do spot work around the Island without proper supervision and support.”

How does one go about planning such an endeavor having never undertaken it before?  How do you deal with workers of varying backgrounds who are just desperate for a chance to work?   Could the process of trial and error have worked considering the program’s track record up until now?  Did those 26 now working full time lack supervision and support or is this a case of a few bad apples ruining it for the bunch?  Is this kind of scenario only limited to hustling?

Sen. Spence-Farmer is quick to suggest that the program did not get the commitment and resources needed to succeed, but is that truly the case?  What were the management conditions of the workers?  What resources were provided?  How could things have been done better?  What would Sen. Spence-Farmer have done differently?  How would she improve things if she were in Minister Burch’s shoes?

Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered.  For those 26 however, no doubt they’re simply happy they’ve found work.

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Sub prime thoughts

What impact has the Bear Stearns fallout had on the overall markets?  What positions did it have?  Could it’s fallout be any kind of indication of what will happen as other sub prime resets occur?  What are the answers to these questions and how will the markets fare in coming months?

Here’s a chart (via Google Finance) of Bear Stearns Companies Inc. (BSC) over the last 6 months compared to the S&P 500, the Dow and the Nasdaq. 

Note the timing of how the fallout of the two Bear Stearns hedge funds relates to the falls in the market?  How much lost investor confidence was tied to the Bear Stearns collapse?

How much were these funds worth?  Reading Bear warns loans have little value suggests:

The Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage fund reported $638 million of investor capital and gross long positions of $11.15 billion in the first quarter.

The Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies fund had $925 million of investor capital and gross long positions of $9.682 billion through March 31.

Does this put the positions of these two funds somewhere near $20 billion dollars?  How much of this was poorly managed and locked into sub-prime loans that began defaulting due to rising interest rates?

Let’s reexamine that chart of the adjustable rate mortgage reset schedule from my post Subprime fallout.

 

How long does it take for the resets of mortgage rates to subsequently start impacting the ability of people to repay their loans?  What percentage of sub-prime credit borrowers would have put themselves in this position financially?  How long can they live before their loan is defaulted if they’re over stretched?  How does the $20 billion positions of the two Bear Stearns hedge funds compare to overall exposure of mortgage rate resets?  How many companies could have similar poor exposure?  How much of an impact will we see if there has already been $160 billion in resets and there is much more to come?

Unfortunately, there are many unanswered questions.

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