FRIDAY, JANUARY 4: Bermuda’s leaders have periodically explored a widening of our economic base, promoting at times long-line fishing, deep sea mining, and a variety of cottage industries.

While the need for a more diverse economy has probably never been greater, we have little else than services — financial or hospitality — that we can exchange for foreign currency.

Nevertheless, the rapid changes Bermuda has grappled with over the past couple of decades underline the vulnerability of reliance on one sector.
Countries around the world are recognising the need to balance their participation in the global economy with local autonomy and resilience.

Emerging market leaders are not only talking about what is necessary to move their countries into a greater role on the global stage, but are simultaneously investing in maintaining vibrant, sustainable local economies.

Although Bermuda has a long history of economic resilience and innovation, our focus in the last fifty years has steadily settled on providing goods and servicing needs related to two key drivers of our economy: international business and tourism.
We have virtually become a “company town”, heavily exposed to the changing economic circumstances of these industries.

In 2010, these sectors generated $3.7 billion, or 56 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP), with customs duties on imported goods and payroll tax being the next largest revenue generators.

As stated in the BermudaFirst Report 2009, Bermuda is once again at a crossroads.

Business and political leaders are actively exploring ways to expand and strengthen our main industries.

However, there is also a call from both inside and outside these industries for Bermuda to build more diversity into its local economy.

This will most likely involve fostering opportunities for local enterprise and small businesses to flourish. The promotion of green technologies, including alternative energy, as a third economic sector is one area worthy of consideration while others include exploring opportunities for niche market products developed by local businesses and individuals, and developing and promoting our unique cultural assets to the growing global cultural tourism market.

Diversifying our economy should have the double benefit of helping to ensure that all Bermudians are able to participate fully in economic opportunities as well as promoting economic resilience in the longer-term.

BEST believes we must actively cultivate and enable the energy and resources of all sectors of our community to build a more economically resilient Bermuda. We want to see a strong local economy that supports diversity, entrepreneurship, self-reliance and community benefit.

At the same time, new ventures must fit within the island’s limited land and human resource boundaries and do minimal harm to our fragile and vulnerable physical environment.

This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.

In the next issue: Island Planning: the imperative for complete and functional, self-sustaining.