Bermuda Election 2017: Big on slogans, short on solutions

“Forward together, not back”

“Standing strong, putting Bermudians first”

Bermuda’s future is looking bleak. We’re 3 weeks away from the election and each party is busy trying to discredit the other while neither has proposed tangible solutions to our predicament.  What little is out there represents the OBA touting their slow and steady track record but they lack any discussion of new plans and new ideas. The PLP, by contrast, have their Vision 2025 which is big on ideas but short on how to actually achieve them.  Hopefully things change before the election and we see solid platforms released soon with credible ideas and plans. If not, Bermuda’s future doesn’t look so good.

From the perspective of this blog, the greatest concerns for the next government are

  • How we manage our debt and deficit
  • How we manage our economy
  • How we manage our morale of our people

The debt and deficit are of huge concern and yet garner limited discussion.  We are so deep in debt and unfunded pension liabilities that it is hard to see how we’re going to work our way out of it.  We’re at risk of running towards bankruptcy as rates rise.  We can make things considerably worse if we take on more debt and can’t reduce our deficit. We risk pushing ourselves into a corner where drastic solutions like mass layoffs, currency controls and nationalizing private pensions become economy crushing realities.  There aren’t nearly enough people talking about this.

The OBA’s approach thus far has been to not rock the boat. They avoided reducing the civil service through anything but attrition and they’ve avoided raising debt aside from that required to pay interest and roll over previous debt.  It’s a low risk approach that hasn’t won them great accolades but has been working thus far, albeit incredibly slowly.  Unfortunately they likely will need to manage to stay in government for the next few hundred years it’ll take for the strategy to pay off.  They haven’t suggested they’d do anything differently.  Is it safe to assume an OBA government would be more of the same?

The PLP are frankly terrifying when it comes to the debt and deficit.  Don’t get me wrong, if Eugene Cox were still alive today and in charge of finance it’d be easy to sleep at night. However, finances after Eugene Cox were a nightmare.  We’re billions in debt and have very little to show for it.  The PLP’s track record is concerning because their answer to almost any problem is to throw money at it.  We don’t have that luxury anymore.  The PLP haven’t said anything about what they learned or what they’d do differently.  They frankly spend more time blaming the OBA for adding to the debt while conveniently sidestepping the question of how they would have cut the deficits they left behind and avoid more debt.  I truly pray that they are sitting on a credible strategy for addressing this that they’ll reveal shortly.  If not I fear a PLP government will put us on a path to national bankruptcy or drastic solutions and then national bankruptcy.

The economy is also a big concern.  We’re not in the midst of an amazing recovery and instead we’re still limping out of the recession.  International business is facing increased global competition and low rates that has led to consolidation in the industry.  Job numbers are still low and barely growing. The days of reinsurance being a growth industry are over as it has matured over the years.  Increasingly companies are having to start thinking about how to be more efficient vs. how to get more business and this is much harder to do.  On top of that, Bermuda has a big target on it’s back from politicians in the US and EU that introduces considerable uncertainty about our future.  Our economy has really only been kept afloat through stimulus programs like the hospital project, America’s Cup and soon the airport.  It is likely we wouldn’t be faring all that well if we didn’t have this stimulus.  We have to grow our way out of our predicament while simultaneously reducing costs and increasing efficiency, where are the plans to do so?

The OBA’s approach to the economy seems to be finding creative ways to stoke the fire with stimulus as well as public opposition while struggling for solutions to reignite growth. Beyond that they’re on a campaign to raise awareness of both our international business and tourism products.  They’re busy copying other jurisdictions with things like LLCs and casinos but where is the innovation? Doing business in Bermuda can be painful, bureaucratic and expensive.  We simply aren’t terribly competitive and while the OBA deserves credit for introducing a variety of positive small steps, they haven’t produced plans for how we can innovate and lead once again.  What tangible and innovative ideas does the OBA have to reignite growth or increase efficiency?

The PLP deserves credit for doing many good things when it comes to international business in their time while they also deserve credit for doing things that made the recession significantly worse.  Solvency II equivalency and TIEAs comes to mind as something where the PLP didn’t take their eyes off the ball and positively set up our future. However, poorly thought out policies like term limits were a disaster.  If 70% of people on work permits received a waiver from the policy then it wasn’t just ineffective, it was a joke. It did nothing to solve the underlying problem of providing more opportunities for Bermudians.  It was a politically expedient solution fueling populist notions that Bermudians were being put first when they weren’t.  In the end it was a failure and it contributed to the drastic downturn in jobs in the recession.

The PLP claims they are “putting Bermudians first” but that only seems to apply when it suits their political aims and doesn’t represent long term well thought out solutions that actually put Bermudians first. 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.  What concrete well thought out plans do the PLP have to grow our economy or make it more efficient?

The morale of our people are the biggest concern as an angry populace can scuttle the best of efforts to recover the economy and tackle our debt.  Many Bermudians feel left behind and wonder if Bermuda is in their future or if they’ll have to migrate elsewhere.  Populist and protectionist biases drive people to believe that nationalism will provide better results in an age where we’re heavily dependent on global trade and commerce. These biases drive misunderstandings and fake news in this new age of the internet which has changed the scope of how people become aware of issues.  As such, it is incredibly important that people are involved in the decision making process far more than ever before and properly informed of what they’re deciding so that populist and protectionist biases don’t result in the local equivalent of Brexit or Trump.

The OBA have largely been out of touch with the people but to their credit have shown signs of learning from their mistakes. The OBA that was elected and the OBA we’ve seen over the last few years were very different from one another. As a result they’ve made some pretty big gaffs that have riled up the populace. One of their biggest problems they’ve faced is communicating with and involving the people in the decision making process. Many people feel left out of the process and feel the OBA isn’t focused on making the people’s future better, only that of the privileged class.  This is a serious perception problem that the OBA needs to address.  It was promised in the last election but we haven’t seen enough of it.  What indication is there that another OBA government will live up to those expectations?  The OBA claims “forward together” but they haven’t demonstrated enough thus far that together means all of us so how can we believe it will happen with another OBA government?

The PLP are very in touch with the people but too often capitalize on it for political gain at long term cost to our future.  Blocking parliament over the airport deal was a great example.  The cost to our reputation for stability wasn’t worth it and the fallout from it was disgraceful.  We truly need to put Bermudians first in the long term.  The PLP’s insight into what is broken and how Bermudians end up disadvantaged and discriminated against is valuable. However they tarnish their cause when they conveniently shift their positions for political gain.  Worse, their attempts to redefine “Bermudian” as only encompassing a certain segment of the population do more to divide us against one another than unite us to put all Bermudians first.

Frankly I’m discouraged with the prospects for the coming election.  Yet again we’re being presented between the choice of who is the least worst option rather than who is the best. We’re being bombarded with a disgusting amount of rhetoric and pointing fingers and almost no real solutions.  Neither party is living up to their slogans. The OBA haven’t lived up to be who they campaigned as and certainly don’t yet instill enough confidence that they’ll fulfill the pledge that by electing them we will move “forward together, not back”.  The PLP don’t yet instill enough confidence that they’ll fulfill the pledge that by electing them they will be “putting Bermudians first” vs putting the party first.  I hold out faint hope that things change before the election and that each party will wake up and start campaigning to deliver a better future together that puts Bermudians first.  Each party publishing real tangible platforms outlining their visions and plans for the future would be a good start.

 

Will AI and automation kill jobs?

This discussion keeps coming up and I thought I’d copy a comment I posted on a facebook thread here.

The first ATM machine went operational 50+ years ago in 1966 and bank tellers are still around today. The technology didn’t simply eliminate all jobs, it created efficiency that allowed banks to focus efforts elsewhere.

The days of a business dedicating large portions of their time to banking are gradually disappearing as advances like ATMs, internet banking and other inventions take hold. As a result, the cost of banking has reduced and allowed smaller businesses who would otherwise not have been able to survive to flourish.

We’ve been developing tools that replace labor in mass for centuries. From the printing press, to farming tools, to large machinery on to automated factories.

In each case it has never been a revolution that eliminates humans completely from the equation and instead is an evolution where we find an equilibrium. There is always a balance to be found of the cost of automation vs. the abilities of humans to do the work.

We won’t see as much of a rise in artificial intelligence in the form that replaces humans as we will in augmented intelligence that assists humans in becoming more productive. We need to figure out how to prepare for this and leverage the opportunities it will provide for people to be significantly more productive.

Our focus needs to be on supporting greater entrepreneurship to take advantage of new efficiencies and supporting the ability for workers to retrain to take advantage of new labour demands. A basic income is one of the greatest means to enable this.

America’s Cup unlikely to return?

The Royal Gazette has an article up downplaying the potential for America’s Cup to return to Bermuda.  Those who have followed its progress would know that this has always been a possibility.

My understanding is that the decision of where to host comes down to 3 core considerations.

  1. The team who wins ultimately decides where they want to defend.
  2. The defenders need to find a venue willing to host who sees enough benefit in it (eg. San Francisco had the option and turned it down because it didn’t make financial sense for them)
  3. Most of the teams are trying to convert the America’s Cup into a profitable business and build viewership.  New Zealand is the only country that is presently fanatical about the America’s Cup and likely doesn’t need this as badly.  The winner still ultimately has a considerable amount of say in the direction and future of the event.
This leads me to a few thoughts on the business side of things.  It is widely known that many factions in the America’s Cup are trying to convert it to being a more profitable venture similar to Formula One.  In order to do so they are heavily reliant on building solid TV coverage.  
The few reports on coverage so far is that it has not been ideal. This suggests they need interest through encouraging more teams and more events spread out over time. Hence the world series events and the reduction in boat sizes to encourage more teams.  The more competition, the more potential interest and viewership.

Thus we’re seeing an aim to shorten the competition from a 4 year cycle to a 2 year one.  Likely more focus on the world series and enough focus on the finale to sustain a big climax.  I believe that ideally they’d aim for a host of the finale on the East Coast of the US or alternatively Bermuda as the timezone sites well enough for coverage of the US during the day and EU in the evening which has the best potential for building viewership.  Chicago or anywhere else on the east cost still stand out as potentials.
Once the viewership is large enough then it can really be hosted anywhere but for now, the America’s Cup is a fringe sport.  Google Trends shows it pretty clearly when you compare America’s Cup to Formula One over the last 5 years.  They clearly want to convert the blue line to be more like the red one and the tiny spike of the last event in San Francisco pales in comparison to the regular interest in Formula One.
One other thing. People having animosity towards hosting the America’s Cup and making it political certainly doesn’t help as I’m sure they’d rather see focus on the event itself, not articles about local politics.
Will they host the finale in Bermuda again?  Only the winner knows.

Late August Election?

Back in February I speculated that an election would be called for mid to late July.  This was primarily based upon the momentum the OBA was building and the likely euphoria that would build up over the America’s Cup.

Since then, we’ve seen the opposition push for a vote of no confidence in the middle of the America’s Cup and the opposition leader suggest he thinks the election will be late July.  The timing of the vote of no confidence, the push for an election and the animosity that comes from it is less than ideal for the island.  The opposition has seemingly pushed fully into election mode, rolling out candidates and putting out daily press releases.  They’ve seemingly ramped up fully for a late July election.  Now today Shawn Crockwell has signaled that he’d vote against the government.

Even if the no confidence motion is successful, by my estimates the Premier would still have a 3 month window to call it.  As a result, I suspect the Premier may either opt to call an election before the vote of no confidence takes place or take his chances and call one if he loses it.  Given the strength in the recent polls and the OBA’s momentum, I suspect he’d be leaning towards calling an election anyway.

I suspect the Premier will now aim for an election in late August, just before students return to school.  As far as I’m aware, the OBA has yet to deliver on their promised changes to absentee voting, thus the reason for late August vs. early September. This would allow the OBA could both publicly decry the PLP for disrupting the America’s Cup with an election as well as push their own electioneering until after the America’s Cup is over.  Since the PLP has already entered heavy campaign mode, there is also the potential that the public would readily tire after nearly 4 months of heavy campaigning.  It is also likely that the after effects of the America’s Cup would still be present in the form of euphoria of having money in ones pocket and the event potentially having been bigger than originally forecast.  Beyond that, it’s allow for statistics and reports covering the outcome of the event to be published as well as many positive stories of who benefited.

On the PLP front I’m still a bit baffled as to why they opted to push for a vote of no confidence for June.  Pitting an election right after America’s Cup seems like a bad time when the alternative could be waiting out upwards of a year for more negative fallout or controversy to capitalize on.  The unions are always good for some sort of fallout and disruption every few months.  Also if the vote of no confidence is successful, it will invalidate their pushed legislation which could come back to haunt them if people realize pre-election that marijuana wasn’t actually decriminalized and that the statutory interest rates weren’t changed.  Ultimately the upside of forcing it now seems limited and either implies they suspect the next few months won’t be in their favor or I’m missing something.

So… a late August election?  We’ll see.

How is the OBA leading in the polls if they don’t lead with black voters?

The recent poll conducted by The Royal Gazette suggested

A breakdown by race shows whites have increased their backing for the OBA, and blacks for the PLP.

 

Among whites, 93 per cent said they would vote OBA, up from 77 per cent; and 1 per cent would vote PLP, down from 4 per cent.

 

Among blacks, 63 per cent would vote PLP, up from 55 per cent; and 13 per cent would vote OBA, down from 16 per cent.

How could the OBA possibly be leading polls if they only have 13% of the black vote in a majority black country?  The problem?  Far too many people in our country only see things in black and white.

The big fat glaring omission from the Royal Gazette’s coverage of the poll was people who consider themselves neither black nor white.

For example we could use the 2010 census as a rough approximation of racial demographics which suggested nearly 15% of people in Bermuda are in the “other” category.

So when you compare only black vs. white support the results are rather confusing

The PLP clearly dominates the black support base so how could the OBA possibly be leading the polls by 6 percentage points when there is only a tiny gap between the two?

The “other” category is not included.  Thus it is wholly misleading.  So, through some approximation based upon the overall support numbers against the census racial breakdown, I’ve estimated what the vote of the “other” category would amount to.

In order for the OBA to have a 44% overall support level, the 56% of people in the “Other” category would support the OBA, with 24% supporting the PLP and 20% not expressing support for either.

If you take the census numbers and apply them to the 400 people surveyed and assume a pure random sample then roughly 215 respondents would have been black, 124 white and 58 other.

This provides a much clearer explanation.  Many black voters polled have yet to decide support either party. The OBA is successfully capturing the majority of the “Other” vote.

All too often we see things framed purely in black vs. white when it reality, there are quite a few gray areas overlooked.

What is being done that will benefit ALL Bermudians?

A friend of mine on facebook lamented the following

It makes me so sad that only the black Bermudians that see that nothing the OBA does is for the benefit of ALL Bermudians… Yes tourism is on the up, yes America’s Cup will bring tons of rich people to our island, yes we will have a new airport(at a ridiculous price) but who will benifit from it? Is Bermuda really still that divided? The sad truth is yes

I felt compelled to respond because I believe it is important to look beyond the politics and fundamentally understand that recovering our economy does benefit all Bermudians.  It doesn’t matter who is in power. It does matter that everyone understands how precarious of a position we are in and how important it is that we raise our profile.  I do my best to call it as I see it, I call the OBA out for many things I don’t agree with.  However, I do wholly agree with the need to raise our profile.  We need to attract the kinds of tourists who can afford to come here and we need to attract the kinds of investment that can create new jobs.  If we can’t do that, we simply won’t have the resources to fix the many other underlying problems we have in our society.

The problem is we’ve created a situation that is scarily unsustainable. Our economy is struggling to recover, our cost of living is leading the world and we’re so deep down the rabbit hole we can’t simply throw everyone out. We need a solid recovery that can bring us back to prosperity and that wholly relies on attracting foreign investment to create jobs and opportunity.

International business is presently in a period of consolidation and decline. We’re not seeing substantial growth or recovery. Companies are merging, getting more efficient and jobs are not being created fast enough. We don’t have a new industry and we’re struggling to attract new businesses here that create jobs and sustain our economy. We need to attract new businesses to the island. If you look at the big picture, we’re struggling. We haven’t recovered from the recession regardless of what caused it. We cannot sustain ourselves without foreign investment. We have always been reliant on foreign trade all the way back to the days of onions and ship building.

Tourism has been dead for years and for the first time in like 30 years we have actual new hotels opening. Tourism is our only second leg to stand on and its in a terrible state. If IB collapses, and it could do so from any number of factors both within and outside of our control, what alternatives do we have? We need to rebuild our tourism industry alongside attracting others.

America’s Cup may not seem like much, but it kills multiple birds with one stone. It significantly raises our profile both to potential premium tourists that can afford to visit our island and premium investors who could move or create companies here.

If you read the tourism reports, people who haven’t been to Bermuda are more likely to equate our product with Jamaica than with BVI or Cayman. People don’t know we offer a significantly different and premium experience over the Caribbean (not to suggest the Caribbean doesn’t offer great experiences, just different from ours and at a far cheaper price). In Europe I’ve met quite a few people surprised that we’re actually a real place, they literally thought Bermuda was fictional.  I’ve traveled all over the world and most people don’t have a clue about Bermuda.

We are getting world class coverage to raise our profile. 40 hours over a month an a half of images and stories of our island being told. America’s Cup is a world class event that attracts interest from all over the world.  It is the pinnacle event in sailing, a sport that our island is undeniably linked to historically.  Many more people will know about us as a result.

Yes, the airport is a ridiculous price, too extravagant and frankly I’m not convinced it is future proof enough through modularity like some of the alternative designs proposed. There are certainly valid criticisms. However, fundamentally, we’re broke. We have a very poor track record completing things on time and on budget and if we want Bermudians employed to build it, we have to do it in a way that makes money for the investors. Otherwise we could have gotten a cheap one built by the Chinese government that shipped in a ton of Chinese workers to build it and still wouldn’t have had the money to pay them to do it.

It is hard to see the big picture when so many are still struggling each and every day. There is a big divide between the haves and the have nots. Not enough is done to lift and support those at the bottom and ensure that everyone is moving forwards together at the same pace. It is hard to see that all Bermudians will benefit from a recovery in our economy when it is clear that some Bermudians are benefiting more than the rest of us. That doesn’t mean we aren’t all benefiting though.

 

What will happen if the vote of no confidence is successful?

What happens if a vote of no confidence is held and is successful?  Let’s take a look at the constitution.

Interestingly, a vote of no confidence affects the Premier and not the legislature itself.  By my interpretation, it does not automatically mean parliament is dissolved and an election is called.

An option is provided to consult with the Premier and dissolve the legislature if the vote of no confidence is successful.

If parliament is not dissolved, the Governor would determine if a member of the house of assembly commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the house.

If no member is found who commands the confidence of the majority then parliament may be dissolved at the discretion of the Governor.

If the legislature is dissolved, an election shall be held within three months.

Scenarios

1. The vote of no confidence succeeds, the Premier does not request and the governor opts to not dissolve parliament and an new Premier is appointed.

In this case, given the current minority government, the only likely outcome would be for the independents to side with the opposition leader and have him appointed as Premier. The PLP would still be required to hold an election by May of 2018 in this case.

2. The vote of no confidence succeeds, the Premier requests that parliament be dissolved and an election is to be held within 3 months.

If the vote were to take place this week then the election would have to be held by late August.

Observations

The ultimate decision whether to dissolve parliament is entirely up to the governor.  The Governor “may” dissolve parliament.  The Governor may opt to not dissolve parliament if it is not seen in to be in the best interests of Bermuda.

The date of the election in the case where the Premier requested that parliament be dissolved would be set on the advice of the Premier as long as it is within 3 months.

 

 

Cannabis and late fees. This is what the PLP used their free pass on?

Of all the legislation that could have been brought forth, the PLP opted for pushing cannabis reform and reducing late fees.  Cannabis reform is inevitable and at this stage it is nothing more than a political football.  The statutory interest rate adjustment seemingly only impacts interest rates where none are defined by contract, in essence, late fees. It seems people are largely confusing the statutory interest rate with mortgage rates when they don’t seem to be the same.  So of all the legislation that could have been brought forth to take advantage of the minority government, why these?  Is it purely playing politics or is there more to it that isn’t apparent?

All the PLP has done by pushing cannabis reform is race ahead to be the ones who can claim credit for implementing it.  Let’s be frank, the OBA have dragged their feet on it and the PLP caught them off guard by introducing their own bill in January.  The OBA’s response of “oh, we’re already working on it” was seemingly an effort to save face.  The OBA’s subsequent tabling of their own decriminalization bill that the opposition wasn’t made aware of was facepalm worthy.  Cannabis reform is certainly important, but is it really so important that it needs to be rushed thorough when both parties seemingly already support it vs. other possible pieces of legislation?

Then there’s the statutory interest rate adjustment.  People seem to be getting excited thinking that this will impact mortgage rates.  Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I don’t see how they’re related.  The statutory interest rate as defined in the Interest and Credit Charges (Regulation) Act 1975 seems to only apply to interest rates charged in the case of where one was not stipulated in a contract.  In layman’s terms, if you hire me to mow your lawn and then you take months to pay me and we didn’t stipulate our contract what late fees would apply, then the statutory interest rate applies.  I can’t find any correlation between mortgage rates and the statutory interest rates as mortgage rates are clearly defined by contract. To be honest, I’m rather confused what the benefits are of this being changed. Thus, why is this legislation so important vs. all other possibilities?  People seem to be very excited thinking this will bring down mortgage rates when that doesn’t appear to be the case.

When the OBA ended up with a minority government I saw it as a great opportunity.  It was the PLP’s chance to demonstrate better governance by pushing forward crucial legislation.  As an example, strengthening good governance like forcing fixed term elections or right of recall of MPs, two promises the OBA have yet to deliver on and don’t look terribly likely to do.  Perhaps borrowing limits or deficit restrictions if they wanted to send a clear message that they mean to chart a new course different from their spendthrift ways of the past.  There were so many possibilities of what the PLP could have pushed through to demonstrate that they’re a new and different party ready to lead the country. How is pushing through cannabis reform and changing the statutory interest rate among them?  If anything, these changes seem highly politically motivated, quite possibly capitalizing on people’s ignorance to claim a win on cannabis reform and the mistaken belief that mortgage rates would come down.  What is missing here?  Why are these pieces of legislation the ones the PLP chose to push before all others?

Local economist Craig Simmons doesn’t support a “living wage”?

Despite being featured prominently in the image caption for the Royal Gazette’s “Calls for a living wage in Bermuda” article, I noted with interest that it local economist Craig Simmons doesn’t seem to actually support the concept of a “living wage”.  The three options he does support are quite a bit different which makes it ironic how he is featured with the headline. Ultimately Mr. Simmon’s options help outline why a minimum or living wage can be a poor option economically while there are viable alternatives that would achieve the the same goals.

First off it is important to understand what exactly a living wage is.

A living wage is defined as the wage that can meet the basic needs to maintain a safe, decent standard of living within the community.

Certainly a noble aim. However, a “living wage” limits the scope of the goals to only providing for a decent standard of living through means of a wage which leaves anyone who is not fully employed caught short. There are also many arguments to be made about the negative economic impacts that a living wage or minimum wage can have.  A living wage acts as a tax on employers of low skilled workers and would actively disincentivize low skill job creation in Bermuda’s economy.  Bermuda’s economy is not like others and too many fail to realize that concepts that may work elsewhere won’t work here.

With that in mind a prudent individual should recognize that while economist Craig Simmons does seemingly support the goal of providing individuals in society with means to maintain a decent standard of living, he doesn’t suggest a minimum or living wage as a means to do it. None of the three options are wage minimums and economically that makes a huge amount of difference.

The article notes:

Turning his attention to the concept of a living wage, he said there were three options, including establishing a guaranteed income, creating a wage subsidy, or a cash transfer scheme.

Let’s cover each of these.

A cash transfer scheme is the concept of directly providing cash to eligible people.  This already exists in the form of financial assistance and could be expanded.  The big problem with financial assistance as it exists today is that the means testing used can discourage employment and can encourage abuse. We’ve already covered the example of people on financial assistance acting entitled to costly and unnecessary brand name medications. There are other examples such as financial assistance penalizing those with minor incomes encouraging them to stop working to get full benefits because no supplement is offered.

A wage subsidy moves a little closer to the mark.  Rather than penalizing employers with a minimum the government provides assistance with wages to help raise them.  It could be achieved through cash support to boost wages or through a negative income tax. A negative income tax is an extension of a progressive tax system where people earning below a threshold are paid money from the government rather than paying taxes.  While this is an improvement and reduces the negative economic disincentives related to a “living wage”, it adds complexity and only assists workers.

The third option Mr. Simmons outlined is a guaranteed income.  Also known as a basic income, a guaranteed income is a concept this writer first advocated 10 years ago.  It is defined as a scheme in which “all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money”.  The purpose is simple, reduce bureaucracy and complexity and provide an unconditional cash stipend that can act as a rising tide to lift all levels of society.  It lacks the complexity of progressive taxation schemes and reduces the burden financial assistance so only those in genuine need can achieve help.  Economically this is far more fundamentally sound as it can be funded through more equitable flat taxation schemes that don’t unfairly punish employers who rely on low skill work.  It puts cash in the hands of everyone, not just workers.  People like the elderly, disabled, and children would all get a basic income.  Entrepreneurs would be encouraged rather than punished. It would incentivize job creation by making employing people cheaper and open the door to more part time work opportunities, lowering the cost barriers for lower skilled work. Exactly the opposite of a living wage which penalizes many for the benefit of workers.

The goals behind a living wage are noble ones though economically they just aren’t feasible.  Mr. Simmons’ has outlined 3 better options that are more economically feasible. A guaranteed income being the most promising of the options.  It is ironic and rather sad that Mr. Simmons’ has been featured in way that makes it look like a “living wage” in its defined form would be a good option for Bermuda.  It simply isn’t but that doesn’t mean there aren’t viable alternatives we should be considering.

Fixing Bermuda’s internet: What if ISP’s had to guarantee minimum speeds?

It is no secret that our internet is rather appalling at times.  One of the more interesting approaches I encountered in my travels was in Hungary where ISP’s are legally required to advertise and adhere to minimum speeds.

Here’s an example: ISP’s advertise a 200 meg internet connection which has a minimum guarantee of 50 meg.  If they don’t supply the minimum they are subject to fines.  It keeps ISP’s honest and in my travels through Hungary I never saw the internet drop below the minimums.

Bermuda needs something like this.