Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy
Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy

The controversial abolition of term limits was vital in a bid to create more jobs for Bermudians, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said in an interview with the Sun this week.

Senator Fahy said that despite complaints that the OBA had broken a promise to suspend term limits for two years pending a review, abolition within the first few weeks of the party gaining power was the right thing to do.

He added: “I wouldn’t say it was a lot of people — there was a minority of people in the country who felt that perhaps the consultation process wasn’t as open as they would have liked. I understand that, I hear that, but people need to understand we are doing what’s in the best interests of the country as a whole and trying to create as many jobs as possible.”

Sen. Fahy said that, after examining “the extensive file” on term limits after the OBA won last December, it was found that the previous PLP Government had been given legal opinions that term limits were not needed to prevent “the legitimate expectation of residency” after a long time on the island.

He added: “It somehow turned into a debate that term limits were somehow protecting Bermudian jobs. We have to be clear that work permits protect Bermudian jobs. The term limits policy was not required to do what it said it was supposed to do.”

Sen Fahy said his aim was to grow the economy, create jobs and also to “protect Bermudians so they have opportunities in the workplace”.

He added he had talked to at least 200 people within the first 90 days of taking office, from the business world, restaurants and trades unions.

Sen Fahy added: “I have been going through issues that have been accruing over the last number of years. These are things we need to see Bermuda succeed in. If we have a cumbersome work permit policy, these businesses will simply go somewhere else.”

New agency

Sen Fahy said the new Workforce Development Agency, which will be based in the old Hamilton Magistrates’ Court, is set to open by the end of the summer: “It will have a computer programme which will allow people to see work permit expiry dates and give them time to prepare themselves for those jobs.”

Sen Fahy stressed that workers from overseas made a huge contribution to Bermuda and helped the economy by spending on goods and services and renting homes, as well as helping to pay for Government spending on programmes for Bermudians through payroll tax deductions.

He added: “There are so many empty units in Bermuda — we need to fill these units. I’m not talking about Tucker’s Town here, I’m talking about the average Bermudian home which has a studio or a one-bedroom apartment attached to it.”

And he added that many Bermudians were struggling because they could either not find tenants or had to accept rents that don’t cover mortgages.

Sen Fahy said that he had to strike a balance between overseas staff and Bermudians.

He said: “We have to do some work on what is the best number of guest workers compared to Bermudians and training local people to move into sectors with high numbers of expatriates.

“What we need to get away from is the thought in some sectors of the community that guest workers are not what we need and that they’re taking jobs away from Bermudians.

“It’s important to educate as many people as possible about how Bermuda’s economy works in terms of the guest worker community.” n