Independence? Why now? What about critical issues like education, crime and jobs?

Senator Hayward represents and speaks for the government when he calls for independence.  As a union leader he didn’t, however as a senator he most certainly does.  By calling for independence in his labour day speech he has effectively put independence on the table for the government, at least unless the government immediately provides clarification.  The timing couldn’t be worse as it risks stalling and disrupting our recovery.  Why bring up independence now when we’ve got quite a few more pressing issues to deal with?  The PLP have all the power they need to tackle our islands problems. Why are they now suggesting that it isn’t enough?

Contrary to what many may believe, Bermuda’s economy hasn’t recovered.  It has been propped up by “stimulus”, temporary projects that create jobs and encourage spending. Yes, new hotels are being developed, the airport project is underway (for now) and America’s Cup happened.  These are all temporary and provide limited lasting effect in terms of jobs and growth.  We haven’t seen signs of sustained real growth, especially since our core driver, international business, has not been adding jobs in significant numbers.  We honestly haven’t properly recovered from our recession and too few really understand this.

Now is a horrible time to bring up independence.  It creates uncertainty about our political future.  Businesses hate uncertainty and they’re unlikely to grow if there’s uncertainty.  Businesses don’t really care who is in government, they care about how government actions affect them or could affect them. Independence raises a tremendous unknown on top of a significant number of existing concerns.  It creates uncertainty and instability that can cause potential inventors to reconsider investing in our island and businesses, rethink plans to continue investing or worse, make plans to remove investments. All one needs to do is look at what Brexit is doing to the UK in order to have an idea of the damage that can be done by political uncertainty.

The PLP are not in a position to offer a credible outlook for a successful post independent Bermuda. To be frank, they have a terrible track record in government from a financial perspective and there are many unresolved allegations of unsavory actions and evidence of poor governance.  The early steps of the government are suggesting that they don’t seem very interested in acknowledging their mistakes, holding people accountable and showcasing that they are a new and different party that has learned from their actions.  Nothing of this establishes confidence that an independent PLP governed Bermuda will be a more successful and business friendly Bermuda.

Touting independence as a means to “remove ourselves from colonial rule” and “set our own agenda” when we are already predominantly self governing and control most aspects of our agenda is short sighted.  Yes, there are valid cases at which we should consider independence, such as if our economic well being is threatened by remaining a part of the UK.  However, independence for sentimental value will not offer improvements and will come at considerable cost.  Really, the core things we gain are control over foreign affairs, the military, police and judiciary.  Why do we need direct control over any of these things?  Why do we want our government, no matter who is in power, to be given that much power? There may be a time to have that discussion and pursue independence however now is not a good time.

Let’s remember the issues at hand.  Independence won’t fix education.  Independence won’t solve crime or eliminate gangs.  Independence won’t fix our economy.  Independence won’t eliminate our debt or NANCI.  Independence won’t create jobs.  So, with all these urgent issues needing attention, why would we distract ourselves with independence?  Yes, it may remove the final vestige of colonial rule but will it really change any of our urgent issues? The PLP need to be focused on getting our house in order and delivering on their election promises long before considering independence.

Needing independence “so we can set our own agenda, so we can create our own system and so we can see our people get ahead” when the PLP already have full control over all of these things reads like an excuse.  There are critical issues that need to be addressed.  We need to get our economy back on track.  We need to fix education.  We need to address crime, gangs and violence.  We need to balance our budget.  We need to create jobs.  These are all very immense and challenging tasks that won’t be easy.  Raising the prospect of independence now with the reasoning that the PLP doesn’t have enough control sounds a lot like the PLP are lining up excuses for not being able to deliver on their promises.