September 2011 Archives
The Royal Gazette
30 September 2011
Recently The Royal Gazette's columnist, Government consultant and former PLP Senator declared that 'there are no simplistic solutions to our immigration problem'
While this is perhaps useful as a political redirect, Mr. Brown's simplistic analysis failed to acknowledge or address a number of critical facts.
Perhaps most glaringly, Mr. Brown's party has been implementing solutions looking for problems, the most simplistic of which were the six year term limits - no exceptions - and the discriminatory land licenses for mixed status families.
Mr. Brown's statement on immigration appears to be a doubling down on his previous week's claim that 'It is without question that the global economic crisis has more significantly weakened our economy than anything done locally by this Government.'
With PLP partisans such as Mr. Brown becoming increasingly isolated in their defence of the PLP's economic policies, they are having to resort to progressively more tenuous yet more definitive claims such as these.
Both of Mr. Brown's columns are shockingly uninformed and demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of Bermuda's sole economic pillar by an aspiring policy maker. It is by no means 'without question' that external forces drove Bermuda's rapid economic contraction since term limits came due.
That the jobs exodus occurred as term limits were triggered surely can't be written off as coincidental. This lack of coincidence is illustrated simplistically by the following questions:
If the global recession is the primary driver of Bermuda's economic downturn, and financial services is our sole remaining economic pillar, why is Bermuda the only place that has seen a contraction in (re)insurance jobs and capital during the global recession?
If global issues contracted Bermuda's (re)insurance industry, why then did Ireland and Switzerland both see gains in capital, company formation and (re)insurance jobs during this period; gains which are offsets of Bermuda's contraction?
If these global issues were hurting (re)insurance, why were these positions not eliminated but relocated outside of Bermuda?
If global financial issues were the driver, why did Ireland - a country with far more severe public sector financial problems than Bermuda had at the time (but perhaps not now) see an inflow of investment and jobs?
Why did these gains come as the first round of term limits kicked in?
Why did the global recession not hurt the balance sheets or capital adequacy of the (re)insurance industry, which remains well capitalized even after multiple natural catastrophes in 2010 and 2011?
These questions demonstrate that it is not without question that the PLP have contributed - perhaps even triggered - a rapid contraction in the Bermuda (re)insurance and its affiliated industries.
There are plenty of other questions, and data points, as well as statements by company managements which point directly to the PLP Government's actions as having done harm to Bermuda's economy and Bermudian jobs.
The lack of a US tax treaty with Bermuda certainly is one factor, but those of us in the local financial services industry watched from the inside as companies accelerated their Plan B's in direct response to the PLP's term limits policy, anti-International Business rhetoric and general unwelcoming tone.
The PLP was warned from the outset that precisely what has happened would happen. Yet now they want to absolve themselves of culpability and lay it at the feet of the global economy?
Bermuda has lost, and is continuing to lose, the vitally important critical mass of intellectual capital which established one square mile within Hamilton as the innovation centre of global insurance and reinsurance. We cannot thrive without a concentration of intellectual capital on the island with long term stability. Term limits prevents precisely that.
Cayman's now looks to be experiencing a come to Jesus moment over their own term limits misadventure. However, here the PLP remain doggedly wedded to a slightly watered down version in the face of as close to a universal chorus as you'll ever get to abandon it.
The PLP seem more interested in trying to preserve the depleted political capital they've invested in term limits than retaining and growing the real investment that Bermuda is losing every day because of it.
Furthermore, and not unrelated to our economic decline, Bermuda has an 'immigration problem' because we choose to have one.
Decades old politics built around envy and a national inferiority complex created our immigration problem. These have manifested themselves as a fear of outsiders taking our opportunities and our wealth, rather than actually creating and expanding them as is the case. Our immigration policy reflects that misunderstanding.
Bermuda politics should be aspirational; built around a deserved national confidence as a result of historically punching above our weight.
Our immigration problem exists because amidst a declining Bermudian population we no longer provide a path to citizenship, nor an environment for the retention of intellectual capital - the most important asset any company possesses in an increasingly competitive world.
The past few years should have made it self-evident that immigration and Bermudian prosperity, social stability and economic growth are inextricably linked.
Immigration policy has become our economic policy. Term limits promotes a high turnover transitional job model for our international companies, rather than a secure environment for those who are contributing socially and economically to our community.
We want the jobs, but not the people. And we want it all on our terms.
Those days are over.
Our companies are global. Where they locate their staff is a choice for most roles now and not something determined by local legislators and civil servants.
Recently the Premier head-faked to this political reality with overtures to a very narrow opening of PRC grants to long term job creators. While a positive sign, this alone is not a solution, particularly as it adds another layer of subjectivity, selectivity and complexity to a policy which needs to be clear, fair, stable and reasonable.
Bermuda's immigration policy has become little more than a political lever to pull at election time, and is therefore subject to the rapidly changing whims and moods of the governing party, and latest Minister.
The Premier recently bizarrely claimed that our immigration policy was 'dynamic', 'nimble' and 'flexible'. This kind of denial or delusion isn't productive.
Our immigration policy is arbitrary, subjective and uncertain. Not to mention that it's the greatest threat to Bermuda's economic recovery and long term prosperity.
Most importantly however it is also something completely within our power to address.
If, as PLP columnist Walton Brown says, immigration 'issues are complex and intertwined and do not lend themselves to simplistic solutions', why did his party put in place a simplistic solution of term limits, of which version 1.0 said everyone out after 6 years no exceptions?
The recent article on Cayman looking to end term limits demonstrated Paula Cox's propensity to resort to the blind em with BS approach in the absence of a solid argument:
"The benefit of the Bermuda immigration model is that it is dynamic and this highlights the flexibility of our policy.
"It is not enshrined in statute and so more absolute. Our approach differs from Cayman as they embedded their rollover policy in legislation, so it lacks the nimbleness of the Bermuda model.
"In our model the Minister responsible for Immigration can identify any additional carve outs, the ten-year work permit and the incentives for job makers, while continuing to keep the promise to Bermudians that we will not create additional long-term residents.
"This resonates further at this time when the Minister can send people home when their term limit expires to free up jobs for Bermudians. In addition, as work permit holders at the lower end cannot bring their families, many do not have an interest in settling in Bermuda.
"It should be noted that persons in key positions are granted waivers and we do facilitate those that cannot afford to recruit from overseas by granting extensions.
An anonymous businessman with companies in both Bermuda and Cayman swatted away some of her redirects.
The Premier and Finance Minister is either delusional or disingenuous - or both - if she seriously believes her own press release.
If you were to play a word association game with "Bermuda Immigration" as the topic, only the PLP could come up with "dynamic", "nimble" and "flexible".
Normal people not cranking out overly verbose press releases that say very little but contain a lot of words would come up with 'arbitrary', 'bureaucratic' and 'subjective' I suspect.
Bob Richards has it right although he was too gentle; this is about putting political pride before country, but the policy isn't just not working for Bermuda nor enhancing our attractiveness as he says, it's exporting jobs, costing everyday Bermudians their jobs, chasing away international investment and making us less attractiveness as a business centre.
They know this. They just don't want to admit that the centre-piece of their economic policy has drastically deepened and prolonged the recession. Hence, why this is not a global recession but the PLP recession.
Cayman's ends term limits:
"It is my opinion, as Minister for Financial Services with responsibility for economic development, and it is also the view of the government, that the policy needs to be re-examined," Bush told the Legislative Assemblyin a statement delivered at the end of the most recent meeting.
He said that he believed the continuation of the term limit has led to a decline in all sectors of the economy and negatively affected jobs for Caymanians.
Meanwhile in Bermuda....the PLP's Walton Brown pens a howler of a column:
It is without question that the global economic crisis has more significantly weakened our economy than anything done locally by this Government.
Without question? Really.
Here's a question:
Did Switzerland see a decline in (re)insurance capital, jobs and company formation since 2008 as Bermuda has? And remember, it's a global financial crisis that hit reinsurance not anything specific to Bermuda's political environment.
What was the Swiss contingent touring Bermuda's pitch to prospecitive redomicilers:
A) Actively soliciting highly skilled highly paying executive jobs
B) Stable political environment
C) Low tax jurisdiction (but higher than Bermuda's)
D) All of the above
Did Ireland, whose economy is far more fragile than Bermuda's was at the time, see an exodus of reinsurance jobs, companies and capital since 2008 as Bermuda did?
Or did Ireland and Switzerland benefit from the corporate and job exodus from Bermuda which just so happened to coincide with the due date of term limits on their key executives, the knock on effect being massive associated job losses in all sectors of the economy, particularly construction and international business?
It doesn't bode well for Bermuda when people in positions of influence and policy making proximity are so uninformed or disingenuous.
It's time for some honesty. Cayman's just engaged in some.
Time for our Government to do likewise.
Their signature policies have hurt Bermudians. Time to fess up.
Full comments on Craig Cannonier's election as leader of the OBA as reported in RG today below.
A quick point. The question put to me wasn't "was Craig the wiser choice" as Tim frames it in the article.
"What does this selection mean for the direction of the OBA and do you see Sen Cannonier's non-political background as a pro or a con?"
I will comment more this evening on my general observations, but it was a very tough choice, with Bob giving the speech of his career from where I listened. I wouldn't have had a problem with Bob as leader to be honest.
I think where Bob's case fell apart was that it didn't seem critical to have the OBA Finance Spokesperson also as leader just because Paula Cox is also Finance Minister, and is more likely a negative.
There's no question in the OBA - as far as I can tell - that he is the right guy for the Finance job, but there was a sentiment that to combine them is a mistake and Craig represented a break from the old political model.
Most OBA people I heard from didn't buy that, and felt that a combination of Cannonier with Richards in Finance was the best of both worlds.
So, full comments follow:
Political blogger and PLP critic Mr Dunleavy said: "Craig Cannonier's selection, with a massive turnout, serves as tangible evidence that the merger of the BDA and UBP has resulted in a group which is greater than the sum of its parts.
"He deserves credit for recognising that the UBP-BDA dynamic was unsustainable and unproductive and taking a leap of faith, launching a new party and competing for the leadership.
"I think he might have been surprised at the run for his money he got from Bob Richards whose political growth has been immense over the past year."
Mr Dunleavy said Sen Cannonier's greatest strength is his ability to communicate passionately and skilfully, and connect with people on an emotional level.
"He can speak with authenticity to the struggling middle and working class under the PLP in a way that the Opposition has struggled with over the years," said Mr Dunleavy.
"The Opposition since 1998 has been too much head and not enough heart. Craig should be able to strike a better balance.
"The large and energised turnout to select a new leadership team of Craig and Michael Dunkley combined with Bob in Finance will have got the PLP's attention, whether they'll admit it or not.
"Most significantly the result demonstrates that the OBA membership and leadership is leading from the front to deliver Bermuda from a 1960s political cold war into the modern era where we belong.
"Craig's lack of political background is an asset. He doesn't lack experience, he possesses real world experience. Real world experience, combined with credible political experience, is where Bermuda politics needs to go.
"The PLP's Parliamentary group has decades of political experience individually in some cases, and judging by where Bermuda finds itself today, career politicians hasn't served us well."
Political leadership and candidate selection processes are designed to be competitive. Wrangling is expected, encouraged. That's how you test candidates, test leaders, develop positions and policy.
Why it's so scandalous when the Opposition has it, just as every political party in the world does, is beyond me. This isn't news. It's normal.
I suppose that because the Opposition is multi-racial that these things are prescribed a racial component, but that speaks more to the prejudices and myopia of the critics than anything else.
In a broader sense I'm convinced that part of the problem of the past few years for both parties, but particularly the Opposition, has been too centralised a system of candidate selection.
The PLP's opening of seats to primaries is a good move. It creates some short term headaches and can be messy, but it ultimately produces stronger candidates who have been tested.
One of the issues which contributed to the problems the UBP had was a highly centralised candidate selection process that saw weak candidates, and in some cases political opportunists, parachuted into seats without putting in the work beforehand. Primaries were avoided as they can be contentious, but in the long run I'm convinced they are an important method to select and develop future candidates and leaders.
A robust leadership contest in the OBA is fun for reporters to write about as a soap opera, and fills column inches, but it's exactly what should happen. This is how parties evolve, peope evolve, positons evolve, and the country moves ahead.