First they came for the government pensions

This part of the throne speech reply concerns me. I like the general idea of a Bermuda fund which Bermudians can freely invest in but I don’t like the idea of seeding it with pension money.

Startups are incredibly high risk and most startups fail.  Don’t think so?  Take a quick look at CB Insight’s ever growing list of post-mortems of well funded startups that failed.  It’s a sobering read, especially for anyone stupid enough to try to actually build a tech startup like your’s truly.  Startups are a terrible investment for pensions and thinking that we can suddenly create a successful venture capital fund when none exist on island and we have zero expertise in it is concerning.

This would be a great initiative if we had a budget surplus, no debt and a sovereign wealth fund we could play with.  It definitely is what we should have created in the boom years rather than growing the civil service to incredible girth, throwing money at failed projects and running up debts getting Beyonce in to entertain us.  The problem we’ve got is that we have no reasonable source of funding left. We invested money we didn’t have in cricket and football, remember?

One of the big concerns I see with the opposition’s approach to solving our problems is that it too often seems to whittle down to “throw money at a big idea”.  It hasn’t worked time an again and we’re now heavily in debt.  We need ideas that don’t require money.  Less bureaucracy and more accountability in government would be a great start.

Instead, now that we can’t really borrow money anymore we’re hearing a new source of money being floated.  Government pensions.  It’s a scary and possibly slippery slope.  What happens if that fails?  Will they raid it again?  What about private pensions?  Are they at risk too?  One of my fears is that my generation will never see our pension contributions either public or private because they are either underfunded or at risk of being raided by a desperate government in need of funding.

What’s wrong with a progressive payroll tax?


“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income” – Martin Luther King, Jr


One of the topics mentioned in the Throne Speech was the introduction of a progressive payroll tax.

One of the keys to the continued recovery in 2017 will be the introduction of a progressive payroll tax to “ease the pressures on lower income earners.”

This is one of the topics that both parties are in support of that I think takes us in the wrong direction.  I’m firmly of the believe that rather than introducing a progressive payroll tax, Bermuda should pursue some form of an unconditional universal basic income.  I’ve previously written about it here and here and it is actually a concept I’ve been advocating as an alternative to tax cuts since way back in 2007.

Am I crazy?  Maybe.  The thing is in the last few years I quit my job in international business to become an entrepreneur.  It was a big risk which meant years of not paying myself and even now only making a fraction of what I used to.  I am lucky in that I was provided the opportunity for a good education and was willing to put in the hard work and make sacrifices. Most people aren’t as lucky.

The problem with tax cuts for low income earners is that it is like that old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.  It may help someone live a little easier but it doesn’t help if they want to take time off working to retrain for a better job or start their own business.  A universal basic income, basically an unconditional monthly payment provided to all residents, enables more opportunity than a tax cut.


Political advice for young Bermudians

I was very impressed but also saddened by Eron Hill’s recent opinion piece advising young Bermudians to be careful with regards to entering local politics.  Being a young Bermudian who has also been very vocal in expressing my opinion over the years I can feel and appreciate Mr. Hill’s dismay at the state of politics and its inherent risks.  Bermuda so desperately wants and needs its youth to get more involved and yet there are so many reasons that it can be a bad idea to do so.

I have seen those who are in politics for the wrong reason, or who entered into politics for the right reasons but rushed in and did not set up a solid foundation professionally, and when politics was done with them, found themselves unable to find work or clinging on to any political position they could as a means of survival as opposed to service to their fellow Bermudians.

When you get on an airplane they instruct you “in the event of an emergency, it is important that you secure your own oxygen mask first before attempting to assist others”.  It is sadly a fitting analogy.  You really can’t help anyone if you haven’t secured yourself first.

This is the reality of politics. So many genuinely get involved because they want to make a difference but it is easy to be targeted or taken advantage of if you’re vulnerable. The risks of getting involved too early is that you’re beholden to others who can control you or want to make life difficult for you.  Even after you’re established, you could face considerable risks. There are some who are involved more for how they can personally benefit than for what they can do to benefit Bermuda.  They might not appreciate it if you harbour alternate priorities such as wanting to put Bermuda first.

Before us, many have rushed on to the scene, demanding that those before them relinquish power and embrace a new generation. This has led to nothing but conflict and bitter divides amongst those who otherwise could have been great counterparts. Regardless of whatever party one supports, there is no secret that your affiliation, support, or connection with one party, or a member of that party can result in exclusion of opportunities, jobs, and scholarships that otherwise would have been afforded to you.

Having written this blog for years now my fear is that I’ve succeeded in pissing off and making enemies on both sides of the fence.  I have always tried to remain independent and as fair as possible in my views, though I am by no means perfect.  There are times when I myself wonder if I indeed have made silent enemies.  Does it perhaps rather neatly explain some opportunities that have passed me by or am I simply imagining things that aren’t there?  Bermuda is such a small community, can one be involved and voice their opinion without fear of repercussions?

I think this is what leaves many youth feeling disillusioned and unrepresented by the political process. The millennial generation has grown up in an altogether different environment that is foreign to older generations. We have had far greater connectivity with the world than any before us and have been raised with more of a sense of equality than ever existed before. I could today address our Premier as easily as I could the president-elect of the United States via mediums like twitter. Perhaps I wouldn’t be answered, but I very well could be heard by others. It is a new and foreign concept to have such a power to be heard and a struggle if one feels like their efforts fall on deaf ears.

Today’s youth want to be involved and given the opportunity to be heard. It is our future which is on the line especially as Bermuda is not as prosperous as it once was.  Many want to be involved but don’t want to be caught in the rivalry that seems more suited for college sports teams than determining Bermuda’s future.  Further there is the fear of personal risk as Bermuda can be a very small an interconnected place where people will use their relationships as leverage against you. Bermuda needs its youth to be involved, but at what cost?

I appreciate and agree with Mr. Hills advice.  I wholly recommend others do the same.  Build your career.  Experience and educate yourself on the larger world that is out there.  Secure yourself first before attempting to assist others.  Politics isn’t something to rush into no matter how much you’d like to help the island and your fellow Bermudian.

Helping our elderly

A big focus of yesterday’s throne speech was helping our elderly.

Emphasising that it is of equal importance to ensure seniors can remain at home “for as long as possible”, Mrs Ferson said the ministry would also be developing incentives to help seniors afford appropriate home renovations.

While this is admirable, in some cases it will have negative consequences for Bermuda’s youth and lead to more problems in the long run.

There are many cases of seniors who live in sizeable homes by themselves, acquired or built in the days before the boom.  It adds to the housing problem.  Those homes are not available on the market for young Bermudians looking to start families and establish themselves.

The problem is that many of Bermuda’s younger generation believe Bermuda is not in their long term future.  The island simply isn’t affordable anymore. If the island becomes so unaffordable that more and more youth leave, who will be left to fund the deteriorating pension system and provide for our elders?

I miss here transit and google transit

Travelling the world you tend to take things for granted.  For example, I became very spoiled in being able to rely on either Here Transit or Google Transit to be able to get up to the minute schedule estimates and trip planning almost anywhere.

You could just turn on your GPS, plug in your destination and get detailed schedule options of not only when and how to get somewhere but what transfers are required, where, and how long it’ll take.  It’s incredible and makes it incredibly easy to navigate many cities and places around the world.

Sadly returning home I’ve come to the realization that our transit information and schedules haven’t been shared with either Here Transit or Google Transit.  Thankfully we have to rely on, which would be encouraging, unless you’ve actually tried to look up anything on it lately.  For some reason all of the useful information that used to be available is no longer available thanks to the site redesign.  It isn’t exactly the dark ages, but it doesn’t feel that far off.

Here’s an example.  I’d like to go from Shelly Bay Marketplace to Paget.  So I go to  It is only two clicks to get to “Bus Routes and Maps” so some points are deserved there.

Ok, so now how do I know which routes will get me where I need to go?  There’s no map or info, only a list of routes.  We’ll take for granted that I’m not a tourist and click on the Route 10: Hamilton – St. George’s link.

This is what you get.  No map, only time estimates for leaving St. Georges and Hamilton, no details on the individual stops.  How is anyone supposed to know when the bus passes Shelly Bay Marketplace?  Beyond that, how is anyone supposed to know that this route goes past Shelly Bay Marketplace?  Wait, you want to go somewhere other than town?  Now you’ve got to figure out transfer times across more than one route. Good luck if you’re not a local.

Painful.  It’s a far cry from popping into cities like Budapest or Vienna, throwing in your destination and having all the work done for you.

I’m not sure if Tourism and the Department of Transport are aware of it, but it is entirely possible to submit transit information to both systems. Doing so would be very much appreciated and a great service to help tourism and individuals hoping to make use of public transport.





Reviewing opinions on the throne speech

Today’s Royal Gazette has a number of opinions from PLP ministers and political commentators on what they’d like to see in the upcoming throne speech.

On employment, Mr Brown told The Royal Gazette: “It is not the Government’s responsibility to create jobs, but to create the appropriate environment for quality jobs to be created.”

Mr. Brown is spot on here.  It is the government’s responsibility to create an environment for jobs, not create jobs themselves.  Speaking as someone who recently formed a business it is insanely difficult to form and do business in Bermuda, there is far too much bureaucracy and too many barriers. If we want to create jobs we need to reduce bureaucracy, costs and other barriers.

There had been “nothing” in the last four years on generating quality jobs, he said, which had “deeply affected” people enduring years of hardship.

While I think it is fair to say there hasn’t been enough done to create an environment that generates quality jobs, I think it is unfair to say nothing has been done.  At minimum, America’s Cup’s investment in the island and the improvement in tourism is creating some jobs. It is interesting no ideas were suggested as to how to generate jobs.

“We cannot have a healthcare system that is fundamentally driven by maximising profits. That is a recipe for increased costs. We need to adopt an approach close to what you see in many European countries, where healthcare is seen as a basic right — not a privilege. If they don’t do it, the next Government will have to.”

A key problem we have is that our system is incredibly inefficient, has no accountability and is driven by monopolies.  Speaking with an insurance rep I was told that BFM no longer offers “public” or “semi-private” insurance coverage.  The reason being? The new hospital was designed such that effectively all rooms are private.  Why?  It isn’t necessary and drives up costs.

When I had an accident a few years ago, I spent 5 days in the hospital.  I’ve been told that in Canada I would have been sent home after 1 day and had a nurse come around to my house to administer my drugs for the same injury.  Our model has horrible inefficiencies and it doesn’t look like there is clear accountability on costs.  Costs are passed on so the end user only sees increasing insurance bills. There is little to no transparency on where costs come from and seemingly limited review on cheaper alternatives.

Mr Perinchief said that the setting of interest rates needed to be wrested from private financial institutions, and into the hands of a government central bank.

Frankly I think a central bank is going in the wrong direction.  More bureaucracy. Instead, we should eliminate the Bermuda dollar and its associated currency risk. There are numerous countries that use the US Dollar as their official currency. This would eliminate the “Bermudian tax” that is placed on all conversions of Bermuda dollars to USD.  Subsequently, make it easier for foreign institutions to offer local loans in USD and we’d effectively end up with interest rates closer to USD.

Finally, he suggested examining a flat rate tax on international companies in the range of 0.5 to 2 per cent across their bottom line levels.

“We have the Googles in this country making millions if not billions — that won’t hurt them.

I can only shake my head at the suggestion of taxing international business profits.  The reason these companies are here is because we are a competitive tax environment.  If we add corporate taxes, we will no longer be competitive and companies will simply move to whoever is.  We need to be more creative then that. Companies who directly or indirectly create jobs on island are worth welcoming, however “brass plate” companies like Google give us a bad name and it is questionable how many jobs they create in legal and banking fees. An option would be to require traditional “brass plate” companies who have no presence on island to demonstrate that how they contribute to employing X number of employees on island either directly or indirectly based on their size or profits.

A system of proportional representation would also be of benefit, with a shift from the “first past the post system” that encouraged political polarisation.

No argument there.  Our current system does not work and leaves many disenfranchised.

Rolfe Commissiong, PLP backbencher and chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the establishment of a living wage, agreed to prioritising a living wage while reducing the disparity between blacks and whites.

A living wage is a terrible idea and would hurt small business and entrepreneurship the most. I’ve written before about my beliefs that we should instead unify the duty system to a single rate and use a portion of the proceeds to fund a universal basic income and another portion towards paying down the debt.

Speaking of a brain drain of young, black Bermudian talent leaving the island, Mr Commissiong added: “We need to see the sort of policy and legislative prescriptions, not only by this Government but the next Government as well, that will reverse this trend and make Bermuda attractive not only for foreign investors but for growing numbers of Bermudians who feel they can no longer afford to live here.”

Speaking as a young Bermudian of mixed racial heritage who has spent most of the last 4 years off island, the biggest problem is lack of opportunity and barriers we create for returning home.  I left due to a lack of opportunity and the decision that I would create my own. Returning home is a much larger challenge than I anticipated and I’m still not certain that I will manage.

There are many barriers to returning to the island that make it incredibly difficult. Costs are incredibly high. Opportunity is limited. Finally, we pay a lip service to putting Bermudians first and investing in Bermudians but in reality it doesn’t happen. The worst part is that it isn’t limited to international business. Bermudians and Bermudian businesses are more interested in working against each other than working with each other.  We are fighting amongst ourselves, holding each other back and frankly pointing the finger of blame at anyone and everyone else.