On the decline: The resident population (ResPop) line that peaks at 67,905 in 2008 with a decline thereafter, mirrors all the other measured and reported trends in Bermuda’s economy, especially GDP. The ResPop line showing a constant increase is the Ministry of Finance line. The 62,059 and 64,237 ResPop figures are Census counts. *Graph supplied by Larry Burchall

The Ministry view: In the July 2013 Bond Prospectus, the Ministry of Finance Mandarins say that between July 2008 and July 2013, Bermuda’s residential population [ResPop] grew consistently from 64,209 to 65,002. The Mandarins say that there was no population loss whatsoever. [SAGE Commission reports 2013 population as 67,500]

The other view: Bermuda’s ResPop peaked at 67,000/68,000 in 2008, and was counted at 64,237 in Census 2010. By July 2013 Bermuda’s ResPop had fallen to about 60,000/61,000. Between 2000 and 2013, there has been a rise, then a fall, for a total population loss, since 2008, of up to 8,000 residents. A ResPop loss of at least 12 per cent in five years.

Here is some of the key evidence that shows a ResPop loss since 2008:

  • National consumer demand: Container tonnage of all imports through the City of Hamilton docks peaked in 2007/08 at 587,403 tons. By 2012/13, at 397,629 tons, tonnage levels had fallen close to the 397,562 tons of 2000/01; which was when Census 2000 counted ResPop at 62,059. So total imports have risen then fallen back to a year 2000 demand level. [Figures supplied by Stevedoring Services Ltd.] Tonnage is still falling.
  • Customs Duty receipts:  Ministry of Finance reports $175m in 2000/01, rising to a peak of $230m in 2006/07. In July 2013, the Ministry reports a falling-off to about $172m in 2012/13. Customs Duty receipts have risen then fallen back to 2000/01 level.
  • GDP: Department of Statistics [DoS] says GDP rose from $3.5bn in 2000 to its peak of $6.1bn in 2008. Between 2009 and 2012, GDP fell to $5.5bn. Expected to be $5.4bn or lower in 2013. Rise then fall.
  • Guest Workers leaving Bermuda: DoS reports that since 2008, some 2,722 Guest Workers have left Bermuda [9,136 in 2000; 13,033 in 2008; and 10,311 in 2012]. Many of these 2,722 had non-working wives and children who left with them. So the total number of guest workers plus dependents who left Bermuda between 2009 and 2013 was probably around 5,000 — or higher.
  • Worker count declines: DoS reports that the total number of filled jobs in Bermuda in 2008 was 40,213. The total number of filled jobs in 2012 was 35,443. So between 2009 and 2012, 4,770 fewer people — Bermudian and non-Bermudian — were filling jobs in Bermuda. Some, but not all of these would still be on-Island as unemployed Bermudians. All unemployed non-Bermudians would and should have left the Island.
  • School enrolment declines: DoS reports total national school enrolment [public + private] as 9,454 in 2008. Last reported at 8,863 in 2011. Likely to be lower than 8,700 when and if reported now.
  • Cars registered per household decline: From TCD, the number of cars registered to households rose from 19,993 in 2000, peaked in 2008 at 22,730, down to a reported 21,674 in 2012. This confirms increases and then decreases in the number of car-owning households — and points to a decrease in the number of households.
  • Newly emptied housing: In 2008 there was an acknowledged housing ‘shortage’ with some residents struggling to find accommodation. In 2013 there is a housing glut with thousands of unoccupied studios, apartments, condos, cottages, houses, and mansions. 
  • Rise in empty rental units: In 2008, there were few advertisements offering accommodation for rent. In 2013, there are hundreds of rental properties advertised, and hundreds more that are available but not advertised. Hundreds, previously occupied, began emptying after 2008.

So what, exactly, does this mean and what difference does this make? Ask any economist. 

He or she will confirm that if any country loses population, and does not compensate for that lost population with compensating higher levels of output and productivity from its remaining population; then that country’s national economy will shrink. This happens because there is an overall reduction in consumer demand; which is paralleled by a need for less supply.

Between 2009 and 2012, years, Bermuda lost 12 per cent of its ResPop. Output and productivity have not increased to compensate. All consumer demand in Bermuda’s national economy has shrunk. 

Bermuda’s national economy has gone into recession.

Every Bermuda Government report on economic activity says that Bermuda’s recession has lasted through all of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. 

Indications are that it is continuing into 2013. Government says that it may extend into 2014.

Bermuda’s four year old recession is overwhelmingly driven by, or under-pinned by, this loss of up to 8,000 people from the 67,000/68,000 ResPop peak in 2008.

The way out? Re-grow Bermuda’s GDP. However, there can be no GDP growth, none whatsoever, until Bermuda’s ResPop begins increasing. If Bermuda’s ResPop keeps declining, then Bermuda will stay in recession.

However, and as you can see, as late as September 2013, the Mandarins are still telling themselves, the Cabinet Ministers, and all us lot that Bermuda has not had a ResPop loss. The Mandarins are still saying that there has only been straight-line ResPop growth.

The Mandarins are wrong! Wrong! WRONG! Starting out with their bad data, how can they possibly help fix things? 

They are a major part of the problem.

The Finance Ministry’s ResPop figures are on pages 54 and 55 of the Cabinet paper “Bermuda Population Projections 2000 – 2030”.  This paper was published in October 2006. This seven year old paper provides the data that the Mandarins communicated to buyers of the $750m worth of bonds.

The Mandarins told the SAGE Commission that Bermuda’s 2013 ResPop is 67,500. That number is in the SAGE Commission hand-out from its September public meetings.