Is foresight missing in policy planning?

If you’re in government and you decide to introduce a new law do you plan ahead far enough to be certain that you’ll be able to cope with the impact that new law will bring upon your infrastructure?  If not, what happens and if your infrastructure fails, who is to blame?

From today’s Royal Gazette:

[Minister of Immigration David Burch] said only 10 people, including a manager, are in charge of processing work permits. These individuals were unable to cope with the demand, which saw 9,599 work permits processed in 2007.

Here’s a thought, 9,599 seems like a lot of work permits for one year.  When looking at the Employment Brief from June 2007 it can be noted that of the 39,686 jobs in 2006, 9,813 were filled by “Other Non-Bermudians”.  So wait, the number of work permits processed last year equates to nearly 98% of the work permits that existed in 2006?  How could that be?  Certainly it could not be due to all new applicants, so what else could it be?

Let’s think back to 2007 shall we?  What happened in 2007?  Well, if you recall the controversial term limit policy, which went into affect in 2007, it caused anyone who has resided on the island for longer than 6 years to apply for key person status, an extension or be forced to leave the island only to require another person to be brought in to fill their position.  So, could the tremendous increase in the number of work permits have been caused by the introduction of the term limit policy?

So here we have the Minister of Immigration trying to rationalize how the department in charge of work permit processing was understaffed and unable to cope with demand.  That the process related to processing work permits wasn’t streamlined, that employers were wasting immigration’s time with improperly filled out applications and that immigration cannot wait to put in place a new $1.7 million computer system to fix the “broken system” from the 80’s that cannot cope with 2008 demand.

Perhaps hindsight is 20-20, but it is not like the introduction of term limits came out of nowhere: it was announced in 2001.  Nor is this the first time immigration had to deal with a backlog of work permit applications due to improper completion.  So, if 7 years ago we knew that there were problems with incomplete applications and 7 years ago we knew that term limits would be introduced, how was it not foreseen that the 6 year term limit policy would cause the demand for permit processing to spike and that these problems could resurface?  How was it that the process wasn’t made efficient and the new computer system was not added before the work permit law went into affect?

Should this have been foreseen and if so, who is to blame?

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