Opponents of the One Bermuda Alliance Government want people to believe it favours business over Bermudians.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Everything the Government is doing is to get Bermuda working again for the thousands who are unemployed, the thousands earning less than before and the thousands looking to grab onto something, anything that can help them pay their bills and feel better about their lives.

To make these things happen, the Government is doing all it can to grow the economy, which is the number one challenge facing Bermuda today.

We have now gone through four years of economic contraction. Everybody has felt it through job losses and the rise in hardship, and it’s safe to say everyone wants to put this sorry chapter behind us and move on. 

If we do not grow the economy, the unemployed will remain unemployed and more will join them. If we do not grow the economy, the under-employed will continue to earn less and there will not be enough working opportunities to absorb the hundreds of young Bermudians who ‘enter the workforce’ each year. If we do not grow the economy, the Bermuda economic pie will continue to shrink with less to go around, sharpening divisions, frustration and stress across the Island.

The most effective and immediate way to grow the pie, and the jobs that come with it, is to improve the conditions that grow business. As Finance Minister E.T. (Bob) Richards has often said: “It takes an employer to create a job.” Private sector business big and small – not government – is where the jobs come from.

It stands to reason, therefore, that we’ve got to do whatever it takes to help the private sector to get back on its feet fulfilling its natural job-creating role. 

Since the December election, the Government has moved with urgency to create conditions to help employers create more jobs. It passed a payroll tax break for the hiring of Bermudians to newly-created jobs. It ended term limits which hampered international business’s ability to attract and keep key employees. It has formed the Economic Development Committee to facilitate development projects. It is forming the Bermuda Business Development Corporation to aggressively promote Bermuda as a business destination of choice. And it has opened lines of communication with stakeholders to identify further steps to improve job-creating conditions.

A big part of this effort is to reconnect with international business, which generates more than 70% of all economic activity on the Island. To put this into perspective, here’s a finding from the 2009 Bermuda First Report: For every two international business jobs, three Bermudian jobs are created.   

Despite its crucial role in the economic well-being of virtually every Bermudian, international business has complained in recent years that the local environment has been less than helpful, sometimes even hostile.

That these things were happening made no sense.

It is vital that we do all we can to make sure business-friendly conditions and policies are in place, at the local and international level. A growing and thriving business environment generates the jobs and opportunities Bermudians need now more than ever.

If one needs reminding just how serious our situation is, the February Bermuda Omnibus Survey pegged the Island’s unemployment rate at 12% and under-employment at 8%. That’s one fifth of the Island’s workforce – thousands of individuals and families struggling to make ends meet.

Relieving their hardship is the Government’s priority.

Government opponents want you to think otherwise; construing its pro-growth initiatives as somehow putting business interests ahead of Bermudians’ interest.

The truth of the matter is that the best, most immediate way to meet the needs of Bermudians is to fix the business environment in ways that creates jobs and opportunities. The Government, in other words, is favouring business to favour Bermudians.

It is easy for some to paint an “us versus them” dynamic onto this effort. But that’s politics that fails to see one of the big lessons of the Great Bermuda Recession – there is no us and them, there is only us. The sooner we get our economy growing again, the sooner all of us can get working again, building together the better Bermuda we all want.