Column: Sen De Couto On Bermuda’s Economy

September 18, 2023 | 2 Comments

Douglas De Couto Bermuda March 2022  [Opinion column written by OBA Senator Douglas De Couto]

Once again David Burt’s PLP Government has been using statistics to proclaim success.

But if you examine them, using the same reports as Government, you see a different story—one that feels less like success, and more like the slow downward slide that most Bermudians can see and feel for themselves.

Businesses closing, Bermudians leaving the island, and Government failing to provide the basic services like road maintenance, despite the biggest budget ever.

Unfortunately, this juxtaposition of statistics is a common theme with David Burt and the PLP government. At best they are inadvertently confusing the public, by not showing the whole breadth of the statistics. At worst, they are cherry-picking numbers to purposefully hide the truth.

Let’s look behind the superficial numbers to give more detail about what’s really going on.

In a recent social media post, the Premier proclaimed “Excellent news”, based on numbers found in the November 2022 Labour Survey, the most recent data available.

He shared:

“The average income has increased to $65,725”
“Bermudian employment has increased to 26,790”
“Overall employment has increased to 35,438”

But is the news as excellent as Premier David Burt claims?

Let’s reflect on 2019, the most recent ‘pre-Covid’ datapoint, as that is the only way to make sense of it without distorting the statistics. Everyone knows that during Covid the economy was so in the tank it had no place to go but up… so no point comparing to then [but that won’t stop the Finance Minister from doing so].

Firstly, was average income increased? Technically, the report uses a number called ‘median’ – so it’s not correct to call it an average – but we’ll go with it anyway to keep an open mind. Why are people feeling so strapped, if incomes are up?

Two reasons: inflation, and international business versus other business. We can use the 2022 National Economic Report to help explain. First of all, the growth in salary from 2019 to 2022 was about 1.7% a year. Meanwhile, official inflation numbers have been running at 3% to 5% for about the past year and a half, and most people feel the cost of living is even higher. So, incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living.

The Premier’s second point was growth in employment numbers. Since Bermudian employment was 26,764 in 2019, there are only 26 more Bermudian jobs since then.

Looking at the National Economic report again, we can also learn that while the number of IB jobs grew by 14.6% from 2018 to 2022, and Government jobs grew by 2.6%, the number of all other jobs actually shrank by 10.9%! [see table]

Looking at this, it’s clear that any salary growth was driven by IB, which in turn is driven by global industry factors that Government can’t take credit for.

And finally, also looking back to 2019, the overall working population was 35,748. In 2022 it was 35,438, a decrease in 310 jobs. So why did the Premier claim an increase? It was in increase from November 2020 – remember, Covid?

Perhaps the Premier was just confused. Decide for yourself, based on what you know about his public statements.

Meanwhile, Government Senator Leslie Robinson is also beating the drum for the PLP, highlighting that the unemployment rate is down. We agree, it’s great that the unemployment rate is down. But how can it be down when there are also fewer jobs? That’s because there are fewer Bermudians on the island looking for jobs, another data point supporting the anecdotal evidence most people have of Bermudian emigration.

That’s something this Government doesn’t want to talk about.

A final piece of the puzzle is retail sales, including food sales, which have been down for six straight months. Fewer non-IB jobs, fewer people working, and less sales all add up to one thing: a sinking economy, that is slowly slipping below the waves, with our part-time Finance Minister David Burt at the helm, supported by his PLP crew members…

Which of them will be the first to jump ship?”

- Senator Douglas De Couto, Opposition Shadow Minister for Finance

Read More About

Category: All, News

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Guy Carri says:

    The ship is sinking and the captain isn’t bailing the boat!!…He’s drilling more holes!

  2. watching says:

    You can pick stats from any point in time to make your point. Doug is doing it too.
    Unfortunately the OBA only criticizes PLP statements but never offers what they would do that would bring about greater and quicker results.

Leave a Reply