Column: Overheated Or Not Understood? Part II

May 10, 2016

[Opinion column written by Larry Burchall]

Race runs through it

Race is the thickest part of the strong thread running through the connected matters of dealing with Bermuda’s $513,356-a-day Debt ‘habit’ and the need for increasing ResPop. Underneath Bermuda’s national political radar, race plays a constant, little understood, but large part in Bermuda’s socio-economic environment. Race and racial issues became particularly important and more complex over the period January 1987 to March 17th 2016.

Do politicians and senior Civil Servants see and understand this thread? No, they do not.

That was clearly demonstrated and confirmed by their responses to the six mass demonstrations between Friday 11th and Thursday 17th March 2016. The 95% white counter-demonstration in Cabinet grounds on Sunday 13th March 2016 succeeded only in sharpening, widening, reaffirming, and publicly displaying the deep racial divide already shown by Friday’s 95% black demonstration on Parliament Hill.

Lack of understanding

The totality of actions on those six days proved and confirmed that man of today’s planners, policy-makers, and politicians do not understand the magnitude and consequences of Bermuda’s 1994 shift from Tourist Playground to Business Park. They cannot therefore comprehend the depth and quality of feeling and change of sentiment that Bermuda’s economic shift has already had, and will continue to have, on Bermuda’s community of black Bermudians.

In November 1998, for the first time since 1834, many black Bermudians felt as though they had finally arrived as true equals to all other communities on this Island. This 1998 feeling maintained until Sunday 13th March 2016. On Monday 14th March, a massive black Bermudian counter-reaction to that 95% white counter demonstration on Sunday 13th March, showed that many black Bermudians would strongly resist any apparent or perceived attempt to shove them back into their unpleasant past.

Anyone mixing with the 95% black demonstrators on Parliament Hill before 1000hrs on Monday 14th March would have heard, seen, and felt the visceral angry reaction to the accumulation of events in the preceding week 8th – 13th March; and the February 2016 to March 2016 lead-up.

Bermuda’s black community has been reacting for a long time

Leading up to 1994, the year that Bermuda actually shifted from Tourist Playground to Business Park, there was a build-up of black community reactions to the socio-economic changes that had commenced in 1987. This first black community reaction was perceived as a purely racial matter.

The Government-of-that-day recognized a looming racial problem. The Government tried to fix the problem. In 1994, Government created an extra government department called CURE [Committee for Unity and Racial Equality]. As its full name implied, CURE focused on race.

Between 2000 and 2006, there were four more legislative actions that sought to deal with the black Bermudian community’s reaction to some of the consequences of the shift from Tourist Playground to Business Park.

  • 2001 – Work Permits Term Limit policy – limited the time a Guest Worker could stay in Bermuda.
  • 2002- Creation of the category of Permanent Resident [PRC] who had most of the rights of Bermudians, except the right to vote.
  • 2002 – Marriage Amendment Act – intended to eliminate the practice of ‘marriages of convenience’ as a back-door route to Bermuda Status.
  • 2006 – Land Purchase Amendment Act – Limited the ability of non-Status Bermudians to purchase real estate/houses in Bermuda.

All four of these amendments or policies were driven by an expression of ‘nationalism’, not race. This strong flavour of nationalism, shown principally by black Bermudians, was that they felt that they were being pushed aside and were being marginalized in their own country. This negative national feeling contradicted with and eroded the positive feelings felt, for the first time ever, in 1998.

The Workplace Equity Act 2007 was a sixth legislative reaction. That Act sought to cause the IB community, in particular, to hire more black Bermudians and promote them to senior positions.

However, WEA2007’s objective was arithmetically impossible. By mid-2009, WEA2007 had been made to disappear.

From all of that, it is clear that for a long time, black Bermudians have had very strong feelings about Bermuda and the impact of Bermuda’s changed Business model on themselves and their descendants.

What data tells and shows

The black Bermudian feeling or perception of being squeezed or pushed around is supported by data.

In Census 1991, there were 31,673 black Bermudians in an overall population of 58,460. So black Bermudians were 54% of the national population. Census 2000 counted 32,018 black Bermudians in a population of 62,059, showing black Bermudians as 52% of the total population. Fast forward to Census 2010. There were 32,076 black Bermudians, but now only 50% of the population of 64,237.

However, in the economic spurt years between Census 2000 and 2010, Bermuda’s ResPop had peaked around 68,800 in 2008. Between 2000 and 2010, Bermuda’s population of black Bermudians stagnated [32,018 in 2000 and only 58 more black Bermudians by 2010]. By 2008, about 32,065 black Bermudians had been further squeezed. In 2008, black Bermudians formed only 47% of a total Island population around 68,800.

Majority to minority.

So from 1991 to 2008, black Bermudians went from being 54% of ResPop to 47% of ResPop. From majority [54%] to minority [47%]. The last time that black or – as known then ‘coloured’ – Bermudians were the minority population was way back in the almost pre-historic year 1774.

For Bermuda’s community of black Bermudians, this 1991 to 2008 racial downshift was a massive social and demographic regression. This downshift and regression was an unintended consequence of Bermuda’s national Business Model shift from Tourist Playground to Business Park.

The black Bermudian feeling of being squeezed and pushed aside was not and is not a politically contrived black perception. Data proves that it actually did happen.

That thirteen year series [1994 – 2007] of six legislative actions was one public outcome. The six mass demonstrations between 11th and 17th March 2016 are merely the most recent public outcome.

So this thread has two thick intertwining lines. Nationalism and Race. Both are deep, strong, and powerful emotions. Elsewhere in the world, when combined, these two emotions have spawned deep national crises, revolutions, and wars.

Does Bermuda need more people?

But does Bermuda really need to increase ResPop?

Yes. Bermuda must increase its ResPop. But that ResPop increase will re-create and re-highlight all the strong tensions that I have already explained and shown.

Why exactly must Bermuda increase ResPop?

Like a cocaine addicted ‘crackhead’, Bermuda has a $513,356 a day ‘Debt habit’. Bermuda –specifically the overspending Government of Bermuda – needs normal annual revenue around $1.4 billion in order to pay its Personnel Costs, Operations Costs, and basic Capital Costs, without massive cutting or – as now – large scale [over $100 million a year] and continual borrowing.

To do that, Bermuda needs nominal GDP no lower than $8.0 billion with Government using a Tax uptake to GDP ratio around 17.5%.

In order to achieve nominal GDP around $8.0 billion, Bermuda must generate additional foreign exchange income – at least $2.5 billion more. That increase can only come from having more businesses on-Island earning more foreign dollars from overseas. More businesses on-Island translates to more people on-Island.

Alternatively, the same number of people and businesses as are in Bermuda now [about 61,000 people] must spend and produce and earn foreign dollars at about twice the rate as now. That is, today’s reduced number of 33,000 job fillers and their dependents must produce twice today’s economic output, buy and eat twice as much bread, consume twice as much gas, buy twice as many cars, buy twice as many clothes, etc, ….

That solution is neither possible nor logical. In fact it’s downright stupid. So the first answer must apply. Add people.

More people, more businesses, but persons and businesses spending – more or less – at the same individual rate as now.

In Business Park Bermuda, the main ‘business’ of all Bermuda and all Bermudians is servicing the businesses and Business Residents who live and work in our 13,000 acre Business Park.

Bermudians and non-Bermudians who live in Bermuda and who work in IB and its direct supporting services – Accountancy, Law, Banking, Jurisprudence, etc… – are the Business Park’s 400 HP engine [Mustang]. All the rest of Bermuda, including the shrunken and subsidized Tourist Industry, form the Mustang’s body, chassis, transmission, and steering wheel. Government is supposed to steer the Mustang.

Demographic facts

Two vitally important sets of demographic facts are woven into that double thread.

Fact ONE: Bermuda’s population of born Bermudians is now declining. That decline commenced around 2000. That decline has been specifically and clearly identifiable since 2010. The apparent growth between 2000 and 2010 is the consequence of more than 1,800 Bermuda Status grants:

  • 46,115 Bermudians counted in Census 1991 with ResPop at 58,640 overall.
  • 48,746 Bermudians counted in Census 2000 with ResPop at 62,059 overall.
  • 50,565 Bermudians counted in Census 2010 with ResPop at 64,237 overall.
  • 50,000 [or fewer] Bermudians will likely be counted in mini-Census 2016[?]. ResPop is probably near 61,000 [or less] overall; but certainly below 2000’s ResPop.

Fact TWO: In 2014, and likely to continue, at 478 Bermudian deaths and 441 Bermudian births, Bermudians showed a ‘negative’ birth rate. Bermudians are now dying faster than they are being born.

The outcome of those two sets of demographic facts is that without a major change in demographic trends, Bermudians will ‘die out.’ And that creates today’s unique national problem, one that is heavily infused with race and nationalism.

Putting it all together

  • The result of everything coming together is that Bermuda must pay its way and feed Nanci – Government’s $513,356 a day ‘Debt habit’. This can only come from an increase in GDP. This requires getting GDP up to at least $8.0 billion. This is the base problem!
  • The only way to increase GDP is to significantly increase on-Island consumer demand.
  • The only way to significantly increase on-Island consumer demand is to increase the number of people who are working in Bermuda – thus increase ResPop, thus increase the ‘oversize’.
  • Since Bermudians are ‘dying’ out [as well as emigrating and not returning], the only way to increase ResPop is to import foreigners – or ‘overseas Bermudians’- who will come here, live here, and work from here, but work in a ‘global business’.
  • Importing foreigners takes us back to the section headlined: Bermuda’s black community has been reacting for a long time.

Looking forward.

Specifically, any liberal granting of Bermuda Status, bringing with it the right to vote, will have a major negative and unpleasant impact on Bermuda’s community of black Bermudians. In 2016 and going forward, the granting of Status is a matter that can only be handled with the greatest of sensitivity by people who are capable of seeing, listening, learning, understanding, and thinking.

The six large demonstrations of March 2016 have chiseled a fresh record on history’s granite wall. This record is that man of the people who are currently in policy-making positions do not show even one of those five capabilities of seeing, listening, learning, understanding, and thinking – on their own.

- Larry Burchall

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Comments (7)

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  1. steve says:

    solid.

  2. FiatMoney,Law,Religion,andHistory. says:

    Poignant piece, Lar. It seems that, we as a populace were ill-equipped and ill-prepared for this change to “Business park” as you mentioned. If I may cite Singapore as an example of being prepared for a similar circumstance, as they can also be described as having a “Business park”. They prepared their populace educationally to service the needs of a burgeoning business sector and it has reaped benefits that we would have if we had followed a similar route.

    Singapore does have a more homogeneous society than ours and that may have played a role in that decision because all of their citizens were regarded as equally important with regards to servicing their new business model. Alas for us,twas not the same sentiment felt,seen,heard nor understood.

    Was it an issue of race? Well, that’s a real can of worms because there’s only one race, the human race (Homo Sapiens). There was and are issues within our society besides debt-issued private commercial paper which by the way is the ” base problem”.
    So here we are in 2016 wrestling with the result of inaction, wrong actions and inequality. We are all at fault here, some more than others it can be said. When you know better,you do better is the old saying,so let’s all do that by using Singapore’s model as an example for starters.

  3. smh says:

    Great article Larry. This should be required reading for all. You seem to have left out the punch line which is “like it or not, Bermudians “black, white, red or green” have no choice but bring in foreigners if we are to survive”.

  4. Zzzz says:

    Larry. Very interesting reading. Thank you.

    Question is what to do?

    How do we get global business working Bermudians home? Are there enough of them out there to earn the additional $2.5 billion in additional foreign exchange income required? I am not optimistic on this one.

    Do Black Bermudians need to accept that not making up the resident population majority is simply the price that needs to be paid for the mismanagement of the public purse?

    If not, it looks to me like you are saying we need to accept the price we pay is default on our debts? I would think this will be worse than not making up the majority of the resident population.

    We are at the point hard decisions need to be made. The Bermudian way seems to be to kick the can down the road until somebody else makes the decision for us. Black Bermudians make up the voting majority so based on your above article the decision rests with that segment of society.

    The way I see it is we have no choice, we are literally dying out. Somehow we need to find some positive aspects to all of this. Change equals opportunity, we need to fix the education system, develop a national culture of academic excellence and embrace the fact that in this globalized world we are competing head to head with the best and relish the challenge. As a country with no natural resources protectionism is clearly not the answer.

  5. lets be clear says:

    so we’re toast in other words. how can we grow respop without affecting the racial make-up of the island? It’s clear that the majority of people who will benefit from relaxed immigration rules are white, so why would black bermudians ever accept this? (And don’t forget, although black bermudians may have been a minority of respop in 2008, black bermudians continue to enjoy a strong voting majority of around 60-65%).

    I’m all for seeing, listening, learning, understanding, and thinking, but given the history of this island, how is that really going to help grow respop within the next 5-10 years – which is probably about the only time we have left to figure out a solution to our debt problems. Tick tock!

  6. Larry, As bad as it appears, there are those who are not prepared to give black Bermudians a fair shake in their own country. Much of our problems would go away , if we saw more black Bermudians getting ahead .All the “Reports , ” state that Race, Socio-economics, and Education are the real problems why Black Bermudians are being kept back. No political party in this country wants to address these issues. NOT EVEN THE PLP. So we can’t blame the OBA, No one is listening. So how do we get out of this mess? If not collectively, can we do it individually? Guess not! In order to survive, black Bermudians must give up more, without feeling that they are being ROBBED. Maybe, IB would just bring in more ” black ” foreigners ? Guess not ! The BIG question is, ” Can we have foreigners here , working and contributing , without giving them the VOTE? Guess not!