If I’m understanding Larry Scott and Anthony Richardson correctly, the whip wielded by a private sector employer is more severe than the whip wielded by a Government employer. Back to the plantation we should go. 

Those who saw the movie 12 Years A Slave should remember how the slaves who picked more Government did not receive the whip.

LaVerne Furbert, February 23, 2014 (Facebook)

Inflammatory post-budget comments like the above superbly-illustrate a misunderstanding of the co-dependent relationship between public and private sector workers. The Bermuda Government doesn’t own hotels, restaurants, insurance companies, law practices or accounting firms.  It doesn’t own diamond, steel or coal mines. Neither does it export bananas or tobacco. The government’s source of income is not through ownership of businesses (thankfully!), but through the taxation of businesses and individuals.

Ms Furbert’s comments don’t just trivialize the horrors of slavery. They also insult private sector employers and employees who pay the taxes that finance wages for government workers. 

To extend her metaphor, should private sector workers take harsher lashes from the master’s whip so that under-utilized government workers can remain employed? Or perhaps we should all become government workers? Obviously, this would not work, and thus Furbert’s “logic” should be rejected.

So what then does the 2014 Budget offer? I believe the OBA have presented a reality check for Bermuda. They are also attempting to position us upon the long-term road back to success.  Between the choice of “evolve” or “die” they’ve chosen evolution. But to get there we all need to appreciate that we aren’t entitled to a Government or private sector job.  

Entitlement

We aren’t entitled to the roof over our heads, the food on our plates or the clothes on our backs. All of these things cost money, which means that we need to compete globally against jurisdictions that are doing their very best to bring our tourists, hotels and international businesses to their shores instead of ours.

Perhaps we had it great for far too long? Somewhere along the way we seem to have completely forgotten that tourists don’t have to come here. While our short flight times are a major benefit to east coast Americans, we fail to acknowledge that they have a vast array of options that are cheaper, superior, and have better weather. Long gone are the days when we were merely competing against other islands. Tourists who have access to the Internet are bombarded with a multitude of vacation options from all over the world. And, of course, they have the option to stay home where their own cities offer better hotels, restaurants and entertainment, than we do.  

Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love my island, but I’ve travelled enough to have no illusions about how much work Bermuda needs to do in order to offer some degree of competitive product. We can’t be just as good as the others, we actually have to be better due to our relatively high costs.  

To point out the not-so-obvious, you can’t bring in tourists if you don’t have hotels. You can’t have hotels if you don’t have investors. 

And like tourists, investors also have plenty of other options to invest their capital. Similarly, they will be drawn to destinations that are more profitable and have greater discipline in managing labour disputes.

Barely before the ink was dry, we had the PLP’s Christopher Famous branding the budget a “smash and grab” and “union busting”.  

Tsk, tsk…  

Propaganda

Instead of being misled by politically-motivated propaganda intended to stall progress, workers should: First, understand that a bankrupt Government provides jobs for no one; Second, consider the possibility of being owners through mutualization instead of being mere employees for life; Third, appreciate that an unemployed workforce pays no Union dues.  

All of these factors point to the critical need for balance.  

The Finance Minister has spelled out what this means in his budget statement, and I strongly recommend that it be read with an open and patient mind.  

Consider what we all need to do in order to get this country back on the right track.  

Understand that by proving that we are a great location to invest money in tourism and international business, we encourage greater job opportunities, entrepreneurism and better credit.  

Now is the time for prudent, rational and strategic leadership.  

By all means, don’t believe every single thing the OBA has to say, but have the wisdom to read for yourself that the budget isn’t even remotely some diabolical plan to put workers “back on the plantation”. 

Bryant Trew may be contacted via e-mail at bryanttrew@mac.com