Bermuda ranks 13th in the world for prison inmates per head of population. *File photo
Bermuda ranks 13th in the world for prison inmates per head of population. *File photo

Bermuda is run more like a business than a country, a social justice campaigner said yesterday.

And Michelle St Jane, a barrister and former Family Court Magistrate, added that a corporate approach to government was reflected in the large numbers of people who find themselves behind bars.

Ms St Jane gave a public speech yesterday and told us afterwards: “Bermuda runs more like a company that a country, with minimal investment in the community; Government is the handmaiden of business. That, I believe, is reflected in the criminalization of our community, particularly black men.”

And she added: “Once you are criminalized, it’s virtually impossible to work in a financial services jurisdiction, which is what we are.”

Ms St Jane, currently working on her doctoral thesis on the gap between Bermuda’s business wealth and social decline, was speaking after she delivered a hard-hitting speech to Hamilton Rotary Club.

Ms St Jane said: “I talked about the merger of two economies – the living economy and the financial economy.”

She added that Bermuda ranked 13th in the world for prison inmates per head of population.

Ms St Jane said: “That is not a very promising place to be. In essence, Bermuda is a paradox of great wealth and social poverty, which I can’t accept at all.”

She added: “Many are locked up for minor offences – including debt. There is so much potential if we stop criminalizing and stigmatizing people.

“Integrative awareness and thinking has been replaced by a focus on business and making money as a default common aim, eroding the community’s trust in public and private policy-makers in Government and the marketplace.”

And she said: “We do not have reliable data on the talents residing in our population, the number of under-employed or unemployed, but offer payroll tax relief to employers whose leadership benefits from a payroll cap on excessive executive incomes.

“Strategic and sustainable public or private policy cannot be set under these conditions. The business model has changed.

“The financial economy resides in knowledge and technology. Positioning our population takes investment in intellectual capital, not wholly in opportunities to do administration and service work in areas where the jobs are decreasing.

“It is time for a change in the conversation about economics – you cannot solve problems with the same thinking that created them.

“The real wealth of Bermuda is not financial – the generators are human and environment players in the living economy.”

Ms St Jane said that Bermuda was founded as a company – and that mindset had continued to the present day.

She added: “We can underwrite the world’s global risk, but we can’t take care of our social risks.”

And she called on the Bermuda Stock Exchange, which she described as “one of the world’s leading stock exchanges” to follow patterns already established in South Africa and Brazil to create “a project-based social platform” to improve the lives of Bermudians rather than simply making money.

Ms St Jane said: “Only people – not systems – create values, invest and experience emotions, examine our consciences, manifest faith, express hope or invest trust and love towards our desired aims.

“We must bring together our diverse agglomeration of talent, time and energy to create a model that the world wishes to emulate in terms of the management of social risks of the community as well as we manage the business of being the world’s risk capital.” n