Last Friday, after the Governor had finished reading the Speech from the Throne, I was asked by a reporter what grocers got in return for doubling their food price discount days to 10%.

What they got from the Government, I said, was “Thank you… It’s much needed for Bermudians.”

It was a good question because it shed light on the path Bermuda must take if we are to get back to a financial and economic situation that works in the broadest way for the people of this great Island.

Bermuda needs everyone playing their part in solutions, and it’s going to require change that goes beyond the “what’s in it for me” mindset that has characterized much of our thinking for a very long time.

John F. Kennedy’s famous challenge to the American people 50 years ago comes to mind: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Since coming into office, I have spoken often about the need for collaboration and shared sacrifice. I’ve done so for a number of reasons.

I believe our progress rests on us working together better, for each other not just ourselves. Bermudians need to approach the challenges before us – a damaged economy, social dysfunction, unemployment – with a view to fixing the whole, and doing so in ways that work better for people at all levels.

Government is busy implementing a broad plan to grow jobs and opportunity while moving forward with a process to tackle the inherited threats of debt and deficits. But Government alone cannot solve our common problems.

Bermuda needs people from all walks of life understanding the dangers, recognizing the opportunities and moving forward with remedies and collective willpower. To get there, we need to forge new working relationships that build on our common destiny as Bermudians, setting aside historic divisions for new and unifying opportunities to succeed as a country.

The Throne Speech was very clear on all of these points:

“Progress will depend not just on Government actions to fulfill its mandate for change, but on people understanding that ‘we are all in this boat together’ and that decisions taken to keep the boat afloat are decisions taken to keep everyone afloat.

“Progress will also depend on collaboration and willingness to sacrifice for the good of the Island. The challenge for Government will be to spread the spirit of shared sacrifice to all stakeholder groups, particularly those who can help relieve people’s hardships.”

So far, I am very encouraged by the spirit of collaboration and shared sacrifice shown at all levels.

Government got the ball rolling early this year by cutting Cabinet Ministers’ pay by 10%.

The Christian churches came together in the spring for a National Day of Prayer to raise the spiritual element and collective awareness across the Island.

This summer Government and the Bermuda Trade Union Congress signed an historic contract agreement that took into account Government’s debt situation.

Two weeks ago, grocers made an unprecedented agreement to double weekly food price discounts.

And this week, government, business and labour came together for tripartite discussions to build on the strategy for an economic recovery that brings relief and opportunity to the people.

All of these steps represent momentum towards the recovery and renewal of Bermuda. All of these initiatives indicate more and more Bermudians recognizing the stakes in play, understanding the need for collective action and joining hands for the sake of each other and our beloved Island.

Yes it’s early days, and there remain many obstacles to overcome, but I am an optimist and a believer; a believer in the power of people, in the potential of our Island and in the inescapable destiny we share as Bermudians. This is about working today to build the strongest possible future for us, for our children, our grandchildren and their children.

Let’s continue building this big future. Let’s all kick in, in whatever way we can, for the greater good, always remembering to be our brother’s keeper and taking care to leave no one behind. We can do it.

 

Craig Cannonier is the Premier of Bermuda.