* File photo by Kageaki Smith. Busy: Queues of traffic built up as Bermudians flocked to Colonel Burch’s term limit meeting.
* File photo by Kageaki Smith. Busy: Queues of traffic built up as Bermudians flocked to Colonel Burch’s term limit meeting.
Controversy aside, can we learn from Immigration Minister Colonel Burch's meeting with Bermudians in international business?

The term limit policy arose to address fears surrounding the continued granting of long-term residency rights to non-Bermudians.

Three years into the policy, the Minister has garnered feedback from many and aimed to gain insight from Bermudians closest to the issue. Many raised questions about the policy, the perceptions it created and whether it represents Bermudians' best interests.

These discussions were a valuable review of the policy's effectiveness and will hopefully prompt further debate.

The Minister says the purpose of the term limit policy is to reduce claims of permanent residency rights by non-Bermudians.

According to the Community For A New Millennium white paper of 2001, Bermudians feared granting residency would impact on their ability to own land, find good jobs and attain affordable housing. They worried it would damage our culture and incur social and economic costs.

Three years in, meetings like this are an opportunity to gain valuable feedback.

To the Minister's credit, despite the cosmopolitan make-up of the crowd, no Bermudian stood to bear witness to difficulties from the granting of exemptions or extensions. Most believed the Ministry had been cordial in working with businesses.

However, questions were raised about perceptions created by the policy and whether it adds value for Bermudians.

Minister Burch fairly suggests his job is to implement policy, garner and provide feedback and that the decision of continuation rests with Bermudians. While the means for getting feedback may have been unsavoury, is it not valuable to gain insight from Bermudians most exposed to the workings of the policy?

Are their views valued in establishing if the policy addresses concerns?

Further, are opinions more likely to be heard and consumed by the larger community if they come from Bermudians?

Unwelcome perceptions are created among our guests. A misunderstanding of the value added by them and how we discourage them from contributing further are concerns.

Many wondered how reducing permanent residence benefits Bermudians versus encouraging highly valued guests to contribute even more.

Does maintaining a near endless state of limbo discourage them from investing in Bermuda?

Concerns

For every work permit job created, is it recognized how many Bermudian jobs are created and how much money is spent here?

Many wondered if this policy adequately meets the concerns of Bermudians.

Concerns related to Bermudian wellbeing were raised, such as whether companies are good corporate citizens and whether they disfavour adequately qualified Bermudians.

There were also concerns about disparities between income and benefits.

The Minister countered that these occurrences are a minority and most are good corporate citizens.

Still, is it concerning that the perception still exists? This paralleled concerns about whether Bermudians are doing enough to eliminate barriers to entry, such as inadequate education.

Advancement of our industry requires a greater partnership between Bermudians and our guests to ensure everyone wins.

Despite the controversy, the meeting was seen as valuable, especially for the opportunity to gain insights from Bermudians closest to the policy.

It does not appear the term limit policy is an effective solution to the concerns raised, nor those of 2001.

Whether reducing claims on long-term residency is in the best interests of Bermudians is left in doubt given the downsides that accompany it.

These discussions were a valuable review on the policy's effectiveness but also raised questions of whether much larger debate is needed.

These discussions would include both the term limit policy and how Bermudians, such as those in international business, can have a greater role in shaping the policy, implementation and development of our industry.

DENIS PITCHER runs the 21 Square website, www.dpitcher.com.