Perceptions can be deceiving

The following is an alternative version of my thoughts on the recent term limits meeting which I was considering for submission to the Bermuda Sun.

In some cases
perceptions are poor; in others they’re downright
inaccurate.  Immigration Minister Burch’s meeting with Bermudians in
International Business is a good example where perceptions can at times be
deceiving.  Work permit term limits came to being as a result of community
perceptions that granting of long term residency to non-Bermudians risks adding
to our social ills.  3 years in, perceptions suggest the Minister
isn’t interested in non-Bermudian views.  Perceptions lead our guests
to believe they’re not welcome just like international business isn’t
interested in investing in Bermudians.  If we learn anything from
this recent meeting it is that perceptions can be misleading and we need to
work hard to change perceptions if we hope to make Bermuda better.

According to the 2001 white
paper on long term residency Bermudians believed granting residency to
non-Bermudians would negatively impact the ability of Bermudians to own land,
find good jobs and attain affordable housing.  It would risk damaging
our culture while potentially incurring negative social and economic
costs.  Years into the term limit policy and a ways since non-Bermudians
were granted residency many of these things have happened anyway.  Perceptions
were that long term residents were the cause of these problems when in reality
our perceptions have been skewed.  How long should we invest in a
policy that isn’t achieving the goals it was set out to and may well be doing
more to damage our community than better it?

While the means for garnering
feedback from Bermudians in International Business may have been unsavory, does
the Minister care to hear non-Bermudian opinions?  Minister Burch
claims he has met and worked hard with individuals and businesses to make the
policy as reasonable as possible.  Claims supported by Bermudians standing
to say his efforts were evident.  Further for a policy created to
address Bermudian perceptions is there considerable value in collating the
views of Bermudians closest to the policy?  Are these individuals not
the best resource for views on whether the term limit policy works in the best
interests of Bermudians?

Perceptions have led
many non-Bermudians to feel unwelcome and that the value they add and could be
adding is underappreciated.  We place expectations on our guests to plan
their lives based upon mere months’ notice on whether their contracts will be
extended.  Seemingly treating them like replaceable tools as a means
to an end rather than as partners in helping make Bermuda better.  Does
this create a transient workforce discouraged from investing in Bermuda?  Do far more leave voluntarily long before being
term limited?  Does this hurt businesses
and hurt Bermuda?  Not only because we
discourage these individuals from becoming invested and involved in our
community but also in trading the well integrated for the un-integrated.  Could
anything be more damaging to our culture than this?

            Perceptions
are that Bermudians are being short-changed.  That job adverts are
tailor made for non-Bermudians, that opportunities are not made available and
barriers are put in place.  The Minister himself contends that this is
a minority occurrence, that in most cases international business companies go
above and beyond expectations to ensure Bermudians are given opportunities and
that companies are duly recognized and rewarded for it.  That Bermudians
who put in hard work and effort are usually recognized and rewarded and that
companies are desperate to find capable individuals to join their
team.  Unfortunately we just aren’t providing enough.

There’s little doubt
perceptions are poor and yet perceptions tend to control beliefs and override
reality.  There isn’t clear evidence that
long term residency is the cause of our social ills.  Despite perceptions the Minister appears to
be working hard to incorporate a variety of views and there’s value in gathering
Bermudian specific ones.  Most welcome
our guests and value their contribution but our policies and practices give
different impressions.   Many Bermudians believe
we’re being left behind and yet in many cases great efforts are being made to
ensure we’re not only brought along but encouraged to eventually lead the way.  Perceptions are not reality.  If there’s any take away from this meeting
it’s that we need to work hard on all fronts to change perceptions if we hope
to make Bermuda better.

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One thought on “Perceptions can be deceiving

  1. ” There isn’t clear evidence that long term residency is the cause of our social ills”
    Dennis..look around and see whom your boss is and or who works for them.
    Britania still rules the waves. I need a rum……………

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