Sunday, March 6, 2011

Back to life... back to reality.

“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.” - Howard Zinn

Time off does several things to the ego. It challenges you to be productive, and at the same time allows you the time to question your abilities and how you got to where you are today. Unemployment, for a man in his mid- 40's is hard enough, especially with two teenage kids. The questions that enter the mind are whether or not you'll get a job, and what kind of job that will be, and ultimately who will hire you?Who am I competing with? Is discrimination something I need to be worried about? Not racial discrimination, but age discrimination? When your confidence is low, you don't realize how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning. It's getting close to a year without employment. All of a sudden pride is no longer a question. I can understand desperate, I can understand frustration. The jobs in the newspaper all have someone else's name on them.

A few thoughts on the rising unemployment rate in Bermuda. As there is no official method of tracking unemployment, it might behoove someone to actually work on a way to find out. Pension records should show last receipt of payment, or social insurance, or payroll tax. Surely those people who have paid these taxes before who aren't paying them now can't all be dead. That Dept. of Statistics place... can't they produce some stats?

Just a thought. Run a program, produce a report.

A few years ago, there was a document entitled the "Shift Report" that was created to provide information as to how our country has "shifted" it's economic focus from a tourism based industry, to an International business industry. In that report, it explained how most of our people were unprepared for that shift, and that the closures of hotels and losses of jobs in the hospitality industry has affected our way of life. The report went into many details of many different areas of our islands evolution, but failed to recognize the overall impact of that shift. It was very short-sighted and failed to predict what would happen when and if a recession hit.

We failed to recognize what would happen if the international business sector down-sized or ultimately leave our shores. We have failed to formulate a backup-plan when and if the inevitable happens and these companies, who have no contracts to remain here, decide that it is more cost-effective to move their companies to places that can offer tax credits and lower costs of operations. The cost of doing business is much higher when the home country needs to have their people employed, and their leaders decide that these companies should indeed return home, or be taxed appropriately.

Why run an offshore business if it will be taxed anyway? The old "you can run, but you can't hide" adage is applicable here. We are not guaranteed forever, and forever may have an end date. It may happen sooner than we think. So what of the back-up plan? Where do we go when Bermudians are looking for work? Where do we go when none of the jobs advertised fit? What do we do now?

The Tucker's Point SDO is a double edged sword. We want more tourists, to create more jobs, but we don't want to do it at the expense of our last vestiges of an eco-system, and the legacy of a racist system that has denied blacks the rights to own the land that was taken from them 100 years ago. We seem to be at a crossroads in our period of evolution. We desire all the benefits of the present with modern technologies and advancements in our society, but we are handcuffed by our own moral conscience of what's right and what's wrong. We accept that our society has certain acceptable and unacceptable ills, yet we are so afraid of becoming worse than we are.

A company who is in serious debt is being allowed to "expand" it's operations? How does that work? If I was 150 million in the red, I see my way forward by tapping a resource that is unproven?  Tread carefully my friends, this can only get worse.

Here's my problem with the SDO.

Are we using TPC as a last roll of the dice for the Tourism industry in Bermuda? Really??? If Tuckers Point fails, tourism is doomed? What tourism? I'll take the obligatory stance and ask the obvious question... what tourism industry? The Minister for Tourism has said that they need to find ways to make our "product" better. What exactly is our "product"? What exactly do we have to sell that people can't get in other places cheaper or more efficiently?

Our position in the marketplace is tenuous. It is one that no longer appeals to a certain market or markets. The once vast middle class of American visitor is almost gone, and thus we have a product that does not appeal to the expanded lower class who can not afford it, and it does not appeal to the upper class who demand more bang for their buck. Low cost airlines appeal to bargain hunters, but when has Bermuda ever been a bargain for anyone? A $98 dollar ticket for a $300 per night room? This type of logic defies belief. Cruise ships bring in the masses, but how are they encouraged to do more than buy a t-shirt or a trinket (more than likely items not made in Bermuda)? Are we telling the ships to close up their bars and restaurants while they are in port? Are the entertainment options on board better than what the tourist will find while in port?

We know the answers. The "product" is broken and the big question is whether or not we have the guts to fix it properly. It's a huge gamble. It will inevitably change the course of our island forever... but as with electricity, cars, television and the internet, we must take that gamble, we must ultimately do what is the right thing for our country, and the people in it. That cold hard slap in the face is one we've failed to grasp. Our choices are limited.

Gaming must be considered as the next step. The crisis of conscience hits again. Our moral standards need to be checked. Yes, casinos are our future. The "fix" for our product, the way to improve it and make it better is to "shift" once again. We must include gaming as part of our product, and with it we must accept those things that come with it. Just as we did when we shifted away from tourism as a primary industry, the only way back will cost us a part of who we are.

Gaming will bring problems. It will force us to "shift" our uber-conservative position into a more liberal and open one. It will do for us, what International business has not done for us. It will re-create a market for which we are aptly suited. Tourism. It will create jobs, it will stimulate the economy and it will force us to "shift" our target market to offer something that other tropical locations have been doing for quite some time... FUN. For far too long have we lost focus on the idea that we are a beautiful island, a haven, a retreat, a vacation spot, a place to get away for a day, a weekend... whatever. Pink sand beaches, pristine blue oceans, golf and tennis, are all small parts of the product, but these things just aren't marketable any more. We need a shift. We need to get back to Bermuda, a country who needs Tourism as the PRIMARY industry.

One last note. I entered a local "chain" eatery in the Washington Mall the other day. Not one Bermudian is employed in this particular "chain link" of the establishment. When are our people going to stop supporting these places? By purchasing their goods, we continue to support a bottom-feeder employment scheme that allows these people to support the system overall. We need to start supporting BERMUDIAN establishments, and if that takes a bit more effort... so be it.

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