An eye for an eye

It was Mahatma Gandhi who once said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.  I believe he was right.

The only thing more startling than today’s news that the government has bid to get into the cement business was comments raised by a friend of mine regarding the offer.  When speaking of the cement crisis and the buyout bid, my friend suggested that it was the right thing to be done in the interests of our island.   By his suggestion, the Bermuda Cement Company has for years held a monopoly on cement supply to our island at the detriment of our people.  Whenever trouble occurred in the negotiations between our government and the cement company, it is suggested that the cement company would disrupt supply as a tactic to gain leverage, thus disrupting construction across the island and holding government at bay.  Thus, by his suggestion, the recent move on the part of the government has little to do with a dispute about relocating the facilities as it does an attempt to take over the business and hand it to new owners.  The reasoning suggested as being that that privileged white people have owned and monopolized it for 40 years and thus it is time for a change in ownership, one that will hopefully bring fair prices and better supply to the people, especially if it is government owned.

It is this line of suggestive reasoning that really has me stumped.  Somehow the argument of past transgressions by the “rich white elite” has once again risen as justification for why unethical things should continue to occur today.   That’s right, unethical.  If it was wrong to do it then, how are things any better to perpetuate a similar injustice today.  It are these thoughts which remind me of the words of Gandhi.

So I asked my friend if this is the real intention of our government and if he truly believes is in the best interests of our people, than why be dishonest about it?  Why dance around the truth by making the dispute about the land and the requirement of relocating the facility when it’s really about government harboring the desire to confiscate a business for the apparent betterment of the people.  Doesn’t that scream dishonesty and a lack of proper ethics displayed by a government?  To which my friend replied that the company displayed a lack of ethics with regards to suggesting that it isn’t financially feasible to relocate the business on the basis that they make money with ease.  It was at this point that I realized that this was not a discussion that could be won on the basis of the arguments I was attempting to make.

Honestly, I don’t accept the logic of an eye for an eye.  Very simply, I fail to see how it could be justified that a government could even consider being deceitful, manipulative and unethical enough to conjure up a fake relocation requirement under the intentions of forcing a change in ownership of a business.  I don’t mark what was done in the past as right and thus I don’t accept present wrongdoings as acceptable either.

Furthermore, if such a change in ownership is truly believed by our leadership to be in the best interests of our island than why not be forthright about it?  If you believe it’s right, why not have the testicular fortitude to stand behind your opinion and not hide behind shady tactics?

The biggest thing that really gets me about all this and leaves me entirely skeptical about the entire process is that if our leadership truly felt that this company was abusing it’s monopoly could it not have simply moved to introduce reasonable artificial controls on the price of concrete?  Then if the cement company refuses there would be reasonable grounds to request that they sell the outfit to someone else without this whole land dispute debacle.

Unfortunately, who really knows what the real motivations behind this whole thing are.  Should the PLP win the election, those who wonder the truth should watch with a keen eye to see if the facility is relocated as was demanded by the West End Development Corp.  Should they not, then perhaps we will never know.

One thing is for certain, I grow increasingly weary of local politics and the eye for an eye mentality we so desperately hold on to.  It has come to a point where I have found myself questioning whether it is something I really wish to have any involvement with and whether this island is really a place where I wish to continue to reside.  While I have yet to find answers to these questions, they are ones that do not pass without a great deal of contemplation.

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3 thoughts on “An eye for an eye

  1. Where does this government stop? Why not nationalize Belco, BTC, or Butterfield & Vallis. Hey I have another idea, why not get into the insurance business, They can take over and give all the jobs to Bermudians. Nah, that wouldn’t work would it. This is a slippery path down the road to tryanny.

  2. I think the dishonesty and politics surrounding the cement issue are remarkable – regrettably, we are too blinded by eye for eye to uphold a higher set of values than we are seeing today in our community.
    Irrespective of the process by which Bda Cement got into the business in the first place, there is a price point that they cannot exceed, otherwise someone else will bring in cement – simple economics. Fair enough, the Bda Cement company has an advantage in the form of a dock side silo they built, but keep in mind that they put their capital into that and they pay rent for the privilege of the location; like any business black or white, there needs to be a return on investment commensurate with the risks, and one of those risks is that someone else can do it for less. I think they’ve done a good job of managing those risks, as we’ve had a pretty reliable supply and price structure for a long time.
    If you factor in the costs of tearing down the existing silos and building new ones, 300 yards away, the costs are significant. All businesses must depreciate the cost of their capital equipment, normally over the longest term permitted by accounting regulations. Depreciation is a function of the estimated useful life of the asset and ensures that the annual expense associated with the equipment is as low as possible; this allows a business to be more competitive in pricing. In the case of cement silos, the maximum depreciation period would probably be 40 years. To impose a restriction that the lease ends in 21 years and the plant is given to (as opposed to purchased by) the landlord, means the costs of the plant must be depreciated over 21 years, not 40. Even if the lease was 21 years with an option to renew, you could still depreciate over 40 years. This means the cost of cement under the new lease must be a lot higher and the risk of business failure from competition is therefore significant; profit margins would also be a lot tighter, meaning less return for higher risk – only a fool would invest in that. It will be interesting to see if a new entrant to the cement business located at WEDCO gets the same terms, if they don’t, WEDCO probably faces the risk of a lawsuit.
    WEDCO is of course free to dictate whatever terms they wish, they are after all the landlord. However, WEDCO also has a duty to provide the best facilities and return to all citizens as shareholders in WEDCO. They have a long history of unimplemented vision and poor financial performance out there. To dictate very difficult business terms to a good tenant and by doing so, to put your reputation and lease revenue at risk is just not good business. Who else will want to become a tenant at WEDCO with big capital commitments?
    Clearly, Jim Butterfield is a racial scapegoat. I am familiar with Jim Butterfield – he is a quiet, hard working man who puts a tremendous amount of energy and money into helping people in this community. Of all the white scapegoats to pick, choosing Mr. Butterfield reflects very bad judgment and demonstrates just how nasty this eye for an eye business has become in Bermuda.

  3. Personal vendettas prosecuted by the government and government interference in businesses critical to the economy???
    Is this really a message bermuda wants to send? Does it know who will be the audience for this? This is a dangerous road to tread in 2007.

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