The sad truth is that we need more immigration, a lot more.

The sad truth is that though we may certainly feel like the island is over-populated, we have burdened ourselves so heavily that we need more people, not less.  We either need to massively increase immigration to the island or face the reality that health care will get incredibly more expensive to maintain and the government pension fund will dry up.

Many people really don’t understand the crisis we’re facing regarding population and demographics.  Above is a chart built from the Bermuda’s Population Projections 2010-2020 report provided by the statistics department in 2014.

The key takeaway?  That red line representing people aged 65+ is growing substantially while the grey line representing young healthy workers is declining.

This is incredibly important because our health insurance costs have for years been buoyed by young healthy expats who largely paid far more into insurance than they withdrew which helped drive down premiums.  This is especially important when consider the Standard Health Premium which drives the base of private and government insurance rates.

Also important is the consideration of the Bermuda Government’s Contributory Pension Fund.  The more aging seniors we have, the greater the burden on  a scheme that as of 2014 only had 43% of the funding required to pay out pensions and contributions not increasing this number.  With a lower ratio of workers to pensioners, this will get worse until there are no more pensions.

These are incredibly important points that many people don’t understand when they buy into populist notions that we are “over-populated” and we need to restrict immigration.  This is the exact opposite thing we truly need to be doing or we need to be prepared to face the reality that life in Bermuda will get quite a bit more expensive from here on in.

The first 90 days: according to plan or a plan forgotten?

Have the first 90 days of the new PLP government shown that they have a plan and are credibly executing on it or has it seemed like the plan is forgotten?  Premier Burt has been busy on US and European tours promoting Bermuda.  Meanwhile at home, each minister seems to have different priorities, rushing to make progress and implement change.  In the midst of this, the PLP’s original 100 day pledges seem to have been forgotten.  Is there a steady hand guiding the direction of the Bermuda government or is it a free for all where everyone does their own thing?  If there is no plan or the plan is ignored, what does that mean for our future?

Premier Burt has been busy selling Bermuda externally and ensuring we’re on the right page for important issues such as our OECD rating and have a voice in Brexit.  This is absolutely applauded as we need to ensure we send the right message to our international community.  He has also been busy promoting Bermuda to potential investors in hopes that we can reignite real growth in our economy.

In Bermuda ministers have been racing in the first 90 days to deliver changes.  While some have certainly been welcome, the pace of it has at times seemed rushed and not well thought through.  Each minister seems eager to deliver but the direction seems lacking in guidance and structure indicative of an overall plan.  As a result we’ve witnessed a series of gaffs that risk damaging the island’s reputation and sending the opposite message than what the Premier has been trying to send with his tours.

For example, there have been a number of concerning developments thus far:

  • The prospect of independence being raised at an inopportune time may have cooled investor enthusiasm.
  • Recipients of financial assistance being attacked as having a “culture of entitlement”
  • Bermuda is more than golf, rugby and sailing” which seemed to discount the valuable contributions these activities make and the rumor that America’s Cup was referred to as a “Mickey Mouse Event” on the Sherri J show by Tourism Minister Jamahl Simmons just as the prospect of hosting future similar events is bubbling.
  • The seemingly endless stream of “unfilled budgeted positions” now being filled without clear evidence of how they’ll be paid for and how we’ll possibly balance the budget with an expanded civil service.
  • The rushed tabling of the immigration reform bill which looks to basically remove consideration of any non-constitutional human rights protections on immigration issues.  This certainly doesn’t look good from the outside looking in.

So it can’t be said that nothing is happening, but what of the PLP’s plan for the first 100 days?  Has it been forgotten?  Thus far only 4 of the 21 pledges of the PLP’s first 100 days have been completed with only 10 days remaining.

Some of these likely just need a communications update so it is rather surprising that they’ve seemingly been forgotten about.  Others have shown progress and likely are on track but communication on progress is lacking.  Others still, such as the good governance pledges, have been concerning in their mysterious absence from being mentioned since the election.  The PLP made a plan to complete these pledges in the first 100 days.  Having completed so few and paid so little attention to it in the first 90 days is discouraging and not exactly a great omen for our future.

This leads to one of the biggest concerns raised pre-election about the prospect of what each possible government could yield:

Protectionist populist notions seem to drive the PLP’s agenda which can be good for short term political gain but disastrous for long term growth.  To their credit, the PLP have quite a few ideas in their Vision 2025 but they are short on details and feasibility when implementation is the hard part. To lead effectively, you have to do more than come up with the idea. You have to execute on it.  Execution of ideas is where the PLP struggles.

The lack of progress on the PLP’s 100 day pledges in the PLP’s first 90 days is a tremendous concern for what it says about the next few years.  Execution of ideas is essential.  Having well thought out plans to do so is essential.  Following those plans and communicating progress at every step of the way is essential.  Having everyone coordinated and working from the same page of the plan is essential.  We haven’t seen evidence that this is happening.  Premier Burt is admirably selling Bermuda off island as a modern, progressive, world leading place to do business while at home we’re sending out messages that counteract his efforts.  It leaves one to wonder where is the steady hand guiding the direction of the Bermuda government to ensure we have a plan and execute effectively on it?

The massive risk of jumping straight to tabling the immigration bill

In absence of the availability of the actual proposed “Bermuda Immigration [No. 2] Act 2017” one can only speculate as to what is being proposed. We’ll have to wait until it is publicly available to make a more concrete judgement.

However, the optics are plain terrible. Why rush straight to proposing a bill with no prior warning, announcement or “bi-partisan immigration reform” consultation?

Let’s be honest. The PLP have a mandate to fix the loophole regarding discrimination based upon place of origin. That’s wholly understandable and it isn’t a surprise if their aim is to fix it. The problem is if we mess up the approach such that we send a message that we’re promoting discrimination against non-Bermudians. This would be a massive misstep and could be terribly damaging.

Why in the world is this going straight to a bill? Why the rush? There are many 100 day pledges unfulfilled, this wasn’t specifically listed as one nor listed as part of the platform. Why do we urgently need to table a bill on this?

The risk here is massive and I don’t think that should be understated. It doesn’t matter what the underlying intentions are, the problem is that if you don’t manage perceptions it can blow up in your face. This was the OBA’s biggest failing and frankly, the PLP have shown a few times now that they didn’t learn from the OBA’s mistakes.

By contrast – take a moment to review how Col. Burch outlines the mail processing facility situation. The way he’s outlined the problems, how we got here, the options and the reason why an urgent solution was chosen is impressive. That’s an example of how an urgent situation should be handled, and minus a urgent solution, it’s also an example of how non-urgent situation should be handled.  Why risk controversy unnecessarily when we’re already in such a fragile position as an island?

Opportunities for Bermudians to replace non-Bermudians

These sorts of comments are interesting:

“With jobs for non-Bermudians continuing to grow while Bermudian jobs are lost in the tourism industry, it is clear that a new approach is needed to ensure that Bermudians come first in jobs and opportunities in our own country,” the Minister continued.

“The Government, working in tandem with the Department of Immigration, the Department of Workforce Development and stakeholders, will conduct an industry-wide skills and needs assessment of the tourism industry to identify areas where unemployed or underemployed Bermudians can be trained to fill or be promoted into jobs currently held by non-Bermudians.

“For Bermuda to realize its fullest potential we must have a well-trained, highly-qualified Bermudian work force where the only limit to growth and advancement is the ones that individuals put on themselves. To achieve this goal, we must ensure full alignment between the worker skill sets, industry demands, and the education and training being offered. (emphasis added)

Sometimes these things are made out to be big projects when really they can take just a few minutes of data analysis.

For example.  If we look at the Employment Surveys over the last few years, “Service Workers, Shop and Market Sales Workers” category is most fitting of the majority of “tourism” jobs.  We can look at the numbers filled by non-Bermudians to determine where there is demand that we could be providing improved training.

Here are the top 10 jobs filled by non-Bermudians in the category.  Note that the largest categories saw massive declines in the recession and are only starting to recover.

Looking at these numbers, the biggest areas of growth are inside kitchens in the form of chefs, cooks and kitchen assistants as part of wait staff and as cleaners/nannies.