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.