FRIDAY, SEPT. 21: No one likes bad news.

In my young life (first bit of bad news, I’m not young), I have heard every conceivable preface to all sorts of bad news.

My broker has told me, “brace yourself; this is really, really bad.” From my children I’ve heard, “you’re not going to be very happy about this…” and from my former husband I heard, “she didn’t mean anything to me.” You see where I’m going with this; no one and I mean no one, likes bad news. 

Attending one of the economic forums by Larry Burchall and Sir John Swan’s has the same effect on me.

The news is excruciatingly bad. Despite my reluctance to be confronted with any more bad news about Bermuda’s local economy, I make it a point to read their joint articles and have attended most of their forums in the past year.

I look at their charts and graphs and then I am filled with dismay at the irrefutable truth that Bermuda, once a prosperous island country, a country that had over-employment, now suffers from massive debt, unemployment, and a shaky future.

How often have I heard Bermudians engage in what I call “faith based economics.” They want to tell you that things will get better, to stick it out, have faith and that Bermuda has been through far worse. But the real truth is that Bermuda has never experienced anything remotely like this economic recession.

These same nice folks hope that if enough time elapses, outside economic forces from other parts of the world will improve and filter across to Bermuda.

This is not an economic plan. This is what you call “hope and a prayer,” and it doesn’t begin to tackle our economic condition.  While I have every respect for the faithful, I respectfully submit that God is not an economist or a banker.

Larry Burchall and Sir John Swan have created a meaningful platform for discussion. You might not agree with all of their assertions but you might be provoked enough to think about your own ideas or solutions for Bermuda’s economy.

As an example, both men charge that term limits for work permit holders is a noose around Bermuda’s collective neck in keeping and attracting new international business. Companies should have the right to build an elite corporate team which might include Bermudians. It is inconceivable that a company would want to hire and develop their in-house talent, only to turf them out in six years. Keep in mind that many of these companies came to Bermuda prior to this policy.

When hiring, these companies are looking to hire the best in the world, not the best in Bermuda.  Their mandate is to make money and lots of it for themselves and for their shareholders. If you are a Bermudian with superior qualifications and talent, you’ll have no problem being recruited.   Many Bermudians have demonstrated this handily and are very successful. 

The risk of doing nothing and leaving the policy of term limits intact has many consequences.  Firstly, it would signal to the existing international business community that government is only paying lip service when speaking about being “open for business.” Potential companies considering Bermuda as a jurisdiction may find that one more cumbersome policy is a deal breaker and not worth their investment. Think about this equation: Talented Bermudians, minus international business, equals brain drain. 

International business members and their families shop in your stores and eat at your restaurants. They rent your apartments which help pay your mortgage. They take taxis. They buy cars and mobile phones. They donate to local charities and provide academic scholarships to your children. They create employment.

Now many of these people have left the island. Still sure term limits make sense?

Sir John Swan and Larry Burchall love their island country so much they are willing to suffer a container load of criticism for delivering the bad news many on this island have been ignoring for years.

No matter how well intended, term limits don’t work. Hearing bad news is tough to take but if these two men are brave enough to put themselves in the line of fire, we should be brave enough to listen.