Bermudianisation is dead. But we’re having one heck of a problem with the funeral.
The casket is now at the altar. The High Priests, garbed in PLP green and UBP blue, raise their arms and ask for the first hymn. The congregation begins singing.
Hark! What do I hear? Harmony ? No! Cacophony!
A goodly portion of the congregation is singing that mournful traditional hymn that begins “There is a green hill far away…”. Another group are crooning the opening bars of “People get ready, there’s a train a’coming…”. Then there’s a bunch of souls looking so totally puzzled and so embarrassed that I think that they will crawl under the pews and sneak out of church.
Bermuda has changed. Under our feet and before our noses, Bermuda has changed. Bermudians were once the centre of the Bermudian Universe. From the 1950’s, to the 1980’s, in their millions, people came to Bermuda to see, consort with, be entertained by, and be served by us nice happy Bermudians. For all of that time and centred in our universe, us nice Bermudians created, and profited from, our happy island idyll.
That changed. The arrival, and then the growth of International Business (IB) changed the entire social and economic dynamics of our idyllic little island. But us lot, blinded by our habit of not looking deeply at ourselves, did not see that change. Nor did we recognize and therefore accept the full impact of that change.
But what, exactly, did change? Our ‘place in the sun’ changed. IB did not come to Bermuda because us lot were a smiling happy people who danced well, made magnificent ‘dark-n-stormies’, or wonderful ‘swizzles’. IB did not come because of our beaches and golf courses. IB came because of our Tax Laws, our legal system, and our excellent placement betwixt the Capital markets of Europe and North America. IB stays because IB’s needs are met.
Why does IB come to Bermuda? According to Ironshore CEO Robert Deutsch: “…not having to worry about…income tax; Bermuda’s…regulatory environment, attractive climate…, wealth of talented individuals living here who can fill vacancies within IB.”
So Bermudians do not factor in IB’s hierarchy of needs.
However, with IB operating in Bermuda, it is essential that Bermudians derive sufficient benefit from the substantive presence of IB. For four postwar decades, that’s what Bermudians did with Tourism. Because all Bermudians profited from serving and servicing Tourism, all Bermudians – except a few eternal grousers – supported Tourism.
But Tourism needed Bermudians. IB does not need Bermudians.
IB needs to have its needs met. IB requires people – “talented individuals” – who can calculate the risks involved in providing insurance cover; who can make sound and profitable judgments when given $25,000,000 or $250,000,000 to manage; who will see a new commercial opportunity and who will then exploit that opportunity in order to return a better profit – or much, much better – develop a brand new profit opportunity.
To do all of that, IB hires the best and the brightest. IB selects “talented individuals” from around the world. IB has to have the best and the brightest because IB operates in a cold and cruelly efficient global marketplace where there are no band-aids for failure.
IB hires people who are bright, well-educated, and intellectually aggressive and ambitious enough to leave their comfortable home environments, fly as many as 12,000 miles, come to a foreign culture in a foreign land, and THEN perform at a level that is at least as good as, often better than, the counterparts that they left at home.
Without exception, these persons had to compete strenuously to get into a good university. The idea that any Bermudian with any college degree can, at any time, replace any foreigner who also has a ‘college degree’ is a false idea. It takes no account of the stark reality of the marketplace where failure is punished and punished harshly and swiftly. Given $25,000,000 to manage, after twelve months, you’d better have that and more. If not, your job will instantly go the way of the millions you’ve just lost.
Bermudians who just manage to scrape into ‘open admissions’ colleges in the USA are at a distinct disadvantage to a person who had to compete – and win! – to get into Howard, or Harvard, or Hofstra… Or, win against even fiercer competition to get into the UK or Indian universities.
The idea that we can ‘Bermudianise’ IB is a false idea. It needs to be autopsied, shrouded, put in a nice casket, and placed before the altar of the High Political Priests. Then the whole congregations needs to sing – in unison – “People get ready, there’s a train a’coming…”.
The train is the train of change. Change that has already happened!