THE “P” AND “D” FACTOR

Just what benefit will Southlands and newer developments bring? To whom will those benefits flow?

            If the triple approach of new properties, expanded airlift, and increases in real visitors (i.e. not business people, not friends visiting friends, not relatives coming out for a holiday with family) does work, then the new Jumeirah Group property at Southlands will make a profit on the millions that they invest. But there’s no guarantee of profit.

            However, there are other guarantees. One is that Jumeirah will employ a majority of non-Bermudians. They’ll be unprofitable if they don’t. Driven by the profit mandate, they’ll do what’s necessary. They’ll employ labour at the same wage rates as the rest of Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry.

            In the 1980’s, with Bermudians leaving the Industry, Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry began adjusting. It began by hiring in the wider global labour pool.  The Industry stopped hiring West Europeans. It replaced them with cheaper labour from the Indian sub-continent, Asia, and Eastern Europe. The wage rates for this labour were set in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The rates have advanced only because of global inflation and not because of competitive Bermuda factors.

            Today, Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry has the lowest median income. In 2006, at about $36k, it was only 70% of Bermuda’s $51k national median, and income improvement always trails that in all other sectors.

            Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry now squeezes out its profits by employing the cheapest and most efficient labour that it can find. That labour is not Bermudian. No mass-market hotel in Bermuda can afford to have a majority Bermudian staff working for the kind of wages that Bermudians require if they are to have an acceptable Bermudian lifestyle – given the weeks and hours of work actually put in.

            Only Bermuda’s smaller niche units can afford to employ Bermudians. They can do that because their niche customer base allows them to charge more. Their Bermudian labour force provides a higher level of service and a higher quality ambiance – which then allows these employees to earn slightly more as well as stay in work all year round.

            Jumeirah will employ non-Bermudians in its kitchens, dining rooms, salons, spas, and in its technical support operations. Jumeirah’s top management – the people who look after the owner’s millions – will be non-Bermudian.

            Bermudians will appear as token waiters, token bartenders, token kitchen staff, token middle-management, token everything. At Southlands, wherever a Bermudian works, he or she will be in a minority – like a wine cork floating in a swimming pool.

            That’s the reality. It’s created by the fact that Bermuda has an oversize and still growing economy. There are only about 48,000 of us Bermudians. But us lot are living on an economic platform – we call it Bermuda – that services a 65,000 person 40,000 worker economy that – every day – still finds itself short of labour. Us 48,000 can only provide about 28,000 people who can and will toil. Us lot actually have a world-beating percentage of our indigenous population in gainful employment. Still, economic platform Bermuda – our home – finds itself short of labour.

            The Southlands/Jumeirah addition adds one more economic demand to an already supply starved worker pool.

            Top those realities with the scary reality that us lot – collectively, nationally – have been producing a too large number of under-educated young Bermudians who need to find a place in our over-large, highly-competitive, high-demand economy.        

            Bermuda’s over-large economy has a voracious demand for educated, capable, trained, workers who’ll provide the required range and quality of services and skills. Yet us lot have been throwing our own under-educated young people – the majority male –onto an educational dung heap. We’ve been building a highly combustible piled-up heap of discontented, disenchanted, testosterone-filled young males. Daily, incrementally, this piled-up and already dis-contented group gets pressured a little more by the steadily enlarging crowd of ambitious job-holders coming in from overseas.

            We sometimes see and hear about small but regular outbreaks of violence and xenophobia. These are little bells of warning. They’re telling us that we need to act faster and take stronger action to fix our real problem.

            Bermuda’s real problem? For Bermudians, Bermuda promises high incomes and high hopes. For Bermudians, Bermuda delivers high costs leading to dashed hopes (housing). Bermuda provides a plethora of jobs and opportunities – with still more jobs and opportunities coming, but these are jobs that are beyond the reach of too many poorly and badly educated Bermudians.

            For Bermudians – Bermuda’s real problem is the growing gap between promise and delivery.

REALITY AND POWER

Why no majority black support at Hogges games?  Why hugely black support at any Devonshire Cougar’s game at the ‘Rec’ – just 300 metres away along Frog Lane?

            Globally – USA excepted – professional football is a sport characterized by intensely loyal – even fanatical – bands of supporters who follow their teams and watch every game – whether at home or away. Devonshire Cougars have been around for a long time. They have a sizeable following made up of their highly partisan neighbourhood supporters. 

            Cougar’s win many of their games. Hogges have yet to hit a winning streak.  Bermudians – especially black Bermudians – have a well-established habit of supporting winners, and not supporting teams or entities that they consider ‘losers’ – even if they’re national teams. Look at the low level of support for many of Bermuda’s other sporting teams and events. Bermudian support for Bermuda’s WCC team was generated more as the result of international interest and comment on the ‘newsworthy’ and comedic aspects of the team’s performance. Note the drop-off in interest once the team returned.

            The BFA’s entry price to a Cougar’s game is far less than the minimum $25 that it cost to watch a Hogges’ game.  A father – or mother – could take two kids along (as happened so often) thus dropping the real attendance cost to under $9 each. So taking a family to a Hogge’s game was actually a good form of cheap entertainment. Statisticians don’t hide the income differentials that do exist in Bermuda, so some people will always find it easier to pay $25 or $35 than others.    

            Some people were prepared to pay, and pay well, to watch a bunch of Bermudians learn to play high quality professional football. Some people understand that a team needs support when winning as well as when losing. Some people understand that spectator support is as much an investment in the team as are the hours and dollars that others spend on the actual team itself.

            Overall, a different pie-slice of Bermuda’s resident society attended the Hogges’ games than attends the Cougar’s – or other BFA – games. Most of the black non-support at the Hogges’ games was caused by the combining of all – and then some more – of the factors that I’ve set out.

            There are many differences between blacks and whites in Bermuda. These differences are often glossed over. Just as often they break through. They broke through and showed themselves in the blue seats at the National Stadium.

            We are still two Bermudas. Each behaving and reacting differently.

            Southlands? Until 1998, black Bermudians were powerless. From 1834 through to 1997, black Bermudians could only try to influence Bermuda’s real power-wielders. Blacks did this in two ways. From 1834 until 1964, they begged for better treatment and more inclusion. In 1964, black Bermudians joined the newly formed UBP and tried to insert themselves inside the white political power structure and use a power-sharing process to get better treatment and achieve more inclusion.

            Between 1963 and 1998, by providing the possibility of an alternative PLP government, blacks, now operating in both ways, did strongly influence many of the political actions of the white power-holders.

            That changed in November 1998. Bermuda’s black majority, in a successful bid for political power, grabbed all of that power. They have had it ever since.           

            Now that Bermuda’s black majority has its hand on the levers of power, it is using that power. That majority has now become comfortable with power. The Southlands decision is a clear demonstration of their power. There will be damage to the environment. But for these power-holders, this damage to the environment is – in US military parlance – acceptable collateral damage. The overall action at the 37 acre Southlands is not markedly different, in plan and in principle, from the 1920’s sale of 510 acres in Tucker’s Town to the Bermuda Development Company.

            Julian Hall, Dr Smith-Wade, even, at times, Dr Eva Hodgson, write and talk about a passed past. The Bermuda that I see is a Bermuda where power sits in the hands of Bermudian people like Gerald Simons, Ewart Brown, Vince Ingham, Derrick Burgess, Charles-Etta Simmons, Philip Butterfield, Paula Cox, Neletha Butterfield….  But power also sits in the hands of people like the boo’ers at Snorkel Park and Election Day Voters – and these know that.

            So listen carefully to all the cries coming out of Bermuda. Keep your eyes open. See who is crying and see the power-wielders against whom people are crying out.

            Look! See! Listen! Hear! 

WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE?

What a week it’s been!  Recent dialogue shows that Bermudians have moved one more step closer to being a more open society.

            We had a slanging match over the Southlands/Jumeirah hotel development. We learned about Andre Curtis’s $27,000 lunch bill (That’s a lotta’ greeze in such a short time!).  The BHC matter looks set for a pre-Halloween session at the Privy Council. Will they wear wigs as well as masks?

            Through it all seeped the little voices that I’ve learned to listen for, and the little signs that I’ve learned are the pointers to the future.

            Like a breaching whale, our Bermudian differences popped up. At the same time,   our real, not our imagined, Bermudian reality showed itself.  Just like the big splash that the whale makes when it re-enters the water. 

            One of the differences showed in the decision by the ABC to withdraw from the impending election. Fundamentally, if you believe that you don’t matter, then the reality is that you really won’t matter; that your existence, your continued existence, is pointless.   The ABC reckoned that their political actions would not make any difference. So they chose to pull out. It was a stupid decision. The decision says that their powerlessness stems from an innate belief – now out in the open – that they can’t make a difference. So they’ll self-fulfill their own prophecy and they won’t make a difference!

            Power belongs only to by people who reach out and grab it.  Don’t reach? Can’t get!  Reach? Might miss! Might succeed!

            A second difference came with Southlands. Here, the ‘fait accompli’ was finally ‘accompli’ed’. But what was Southlands all about? The media play and public noise has been about the natural environment. The South Shore slanging match hinted at the underlying reality that is obscured by our national communicating processes.

            Southlands was really all about ‘it’s my turn now’. It was a display of ‘I’ve got the power’ and ‘I’ll do it my way’.

            Today is Emancipation Day. One hundred and seventy three years ago, to the day, black Bermudians were freed from slavery. Almost exactly 173 years later – just a week early – black Bermudians acted to take economic advantage of some of Bermuda’s land-space. Effectively, in terms of strategic development, their action today is not radically different from the action taken in Tucker’s Town in the 1920’s.  The difference is in where the benefits will flow.

            In the 1920’s the major benefit flowed to members of Bermuda’s dominant political group. In 2007, the major benefit will flow to members of Bermuda’s dominant political group. It is exactly the same script. Just different actors on stage. There were no family evictions at Southlands, but there are many other similarities in the two situations.

            The environmental damage aspect, though, is real. All Bermuda will incur a heavy national penalty.  That penalty will now have to be borne and it will be shared.

            New reality? A new breed of black Bermudians are ‘in charge’ now and they’ve recognized – and are not afraid to use – their power.

            The last thing that really caught my attention is the support shown for the Bermuda Hogges team.

            At the first game that I attended, I anticipated that the majority of supporters would be white persons. For all the games that I’ve attended, the vast majority of supporters at the games were white persons. The most vocal support at the games comes from a group of guys who are majority white.  The Bermuda Hogges team is majority black. So, why no black majority support for the team? Like Adrian Robson and Shawn Goater, I’d puzzled over it.

            Around 0945hrs on Sunday morning – how Bermudian! – someone sparked the beginning of a revelation.  A black man called me to discuss matters involving race. In the course of that conversation he said that he was in favour of using the term ‘back slapping blacks’.  As I understood it, he was referring to blacks who sought approbation from whites.  I disagreed with his concept, argued strenuously with him, and gave him my different perspective.

            Thinking on, I thought my way through to a clearer understanding of a lot of other matters.

            I recalled Julian Hall and Dr Muriel Smith-Wade’s recent rants about ‘white supremacy’. I grouped that with my Sunday morning conversation about ‘back slapping blacks’. I put that alongside black non-attendance at Hogges games. Finally, I added the ‘in-your-face’ decision about Southlands, and the crowd greeting for the Premier at Snorkel Park.

            My conclusion?

            Wait ‘til next week……. 

The UBP

An overwhelmingly white UBP scares me! In February 1834, pre-empting Emancipation, Bermuda’s all white legislature raised the property vote qualification from 40 Pounds to 100 Pounds. This simple act ensured the future disenfranchisement of all the black slaves who were due to be freed on  1st August 1834.            In 1963, the three hundred forty year-old Property Vote was replaced by the Plus Vote. Bermuda’s register of voters grew from around 7,500 voters, with four white voters for every black voter; to about 15,000 voters, but now with about two black voters for every one white voter. However, in this new Plus Vote system, everybody got one vote but property owners got two votes. This ensured that ultimate political power remained in white hands.             The Plus Vote was set for repeal in 1966. White Bermudians understood that to retain power, they would have to receive all the minority white population votes plus a proportion of the majority black population votes.        In August 1964, Sir Henry Tucker helped create the United Bermuda Party. Mr Ernest Vesey, white and a UBP Cabinet Minister, describes the thinking behind the 1964 start-up of the UBP: “If blacks hadn’t joined [the UBP] would have been doomed to failure.”[*] The UBP’s sole purpose was to hold on to the political power that white Bermudians had always held.            To do this, the UBP had to get and then hold on to a guaranteed bloc of black voter support. The UBP got that black support by promising to assimilate blacks into Bermuda’s social and economic worlds and by offering to share political power.            In 1974, ten years after the UBP’s start, UBP blacks were disenchanted by the failure to deliver on the promises. They formed the UBP’s Black Caucus. Even after Sir John Swan’s 1982 accession to power, UBP blacks remained dissatisfied. Dr Newman and Dr Swain in the mid-nineties reported – to the UBP – on a clear lack of black progress. Butterfield Bank’s CEO, John Tugwell, speaking as late as 1998, spoke out – yet again – on his recognition of a lack of black progress in that business organization.             From all of that, one fact distils. The UBP was created in order to maintain the dominance of one racial group over another. From its 1964 start to 1998, despite receiving black voter support, despite having a popular black leader, despite even having a majority of elected black UBP parliamentarians; the UBP – right up to 1998 – still maintained the dominance of Bermuda’s minority racial group over Bermuda’s majority racial group.            In 1998, Bermuda’s demographic majority – as embodied in the PLP – wrenched political power from the hands of the racial minority – as embodied in the UBP.  A political party composed of people from the majority of Bermuda’s population and representing the interests of the majority of Bermuda’s population was now in power.            In 2007, it seems that Bermuda’s white voters have remained uniquely loyal to the UBP. Whites have not crossed any racial lines – as blacks did in joining the UBP – to become part of the governing party.              When I look at the UBP, I see a political party that appears overwhelmingly white. I sense and see a long whip that curls back to 1964 and flicks even further back to 1834. In 2007, the buzz-words of ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusive’ do not camouflage or conceal that whip; nor do they alter the demographics of the UBP.  I see what I’ve described.                      When I see the UBP, my subconscious sees attachments to an ugly political past. If the UBP does not stand for, or represent, a group that is seeking to re-assert white dominance; then what does the UBP stand for and how am I to believe it?            I want peace, no crime, a good education system, and a fair chance at all available opportunities. I believe that what I want is the same as any white Bermudian wants. But if white Bermudians find it necessary – or desirable – or to their advantage – to stand together but separate from me, I am alarmed.  What do they want that is different from what I want?            I – and everyone else – knows the past.  I do not want a replay of racial history. So an overwhelmingly white UBP scares me, chills me, makes me shiver!            Wayne Furbert? Maxie Burgess? Gwyneth Rawlins? The others…?              They are unfortunate human corks bobbing about on the river of Bermuda’s white history and reality. They don’t really matter. What really matters is what will white Bermudians do?

TWO BERMUDA’S

It has often been said – and written – by many people, that there are two Bermudas. In the past, I’ve referred to a Bermuda that’s been divided, and divided very clearly, along racial lines. Bermuda is re-dividing now. This time on new economic lines.

            The top group are the people who operate in International Business and its direct supporters – accounting, legal, banking services. You can see their pay levels as offered in all those big ads that fill the help wanted sections of the local papers. You can also see it in the housing that’s lived in by these highflyers.

            Middle group? Bermudian owners of the $6,000 a month rental units; Bermudian owners of successful service businesses; Bermudian entrepreneurs who are thrusting forward with their new businesses that feed off the high-payers in IB, Government workers generally, and people who land good government and private sector contracts. 

            Taken together, the top and middle groups operate in the top part of Bermuda’s overall economy. Together, they form the top section of Bermuda’s economy. They’re the ones who clearly earn enough to live on and play with in Bermuda’s economy. This section lives and thrives in an economy where Western or developed country wages and salaries are being paid.  Here salaries compare well with US or Canadian or UK salaries and allow a good Bermuda-style lifestyle.

            Underneath this composite top section is another section. This section operates in a lower layer. This section is filled by workers who come to Bermuda out of low income countries. Low income meaning that the Bermuda dollar that they earn and save in Bermuda and then send to their home countries is worth five, ten, sometimes fifteen times what a Bermuda dollar is worth in Bermuda.

            A trained and experienced Filipino nurse working in the Philippines can expect to earn – be paid – less than $4,000 US per YEAR. A Filipino nurse working in Bermuda [or in the USA or Canada or Ireland] can expect to send home anything from $1,000 to $1,500 a MONTH [$12,000 to $18,000 a year]. A skilled Goan working in Goa can expect to earn about $200 a month {$46 a week}. A Goan working as a landscaper or chef in Bermuda can expect to send home $100 to $200 a WEEK.

            This lower section, Goans, Filipinos, East Europeans, are working in an economy where wage rates are compared to wage rates in their lower income countries. Here the most critical issue is how much can be saved and repatriated to that lower income country. Here the hourly or annual rate of pay is much less important. Almost ir-relevant. Here the critical factor is the ability to work – even at straight time overtime – so that at least $150 to $350 – or even more – can be sent home every week.

            Workers in this section of the economy will happily share accommodations, share bikes, not splurge on flat panel TVs, not rush to get a new outfit for May 24th or Cup Match, and not take annual shopping trips to ‘Philly’. These workers spend very little in Bermuda’s retail sector.

            Even with a construction boom and a record number of ‘guest workers’ on the island, retail is not booming; but housing is crowded by lower paid guest workers who – by sharing accommodation – can actually pay higher than market rate rents; yet, as individuals, still pay far less than a Bermudian single-renter has to pay.

            And he – or she – still sends that $150 a week – $650 a month – home into an economy where those $150 ($650) Bermuda dollars have the same purchasing power – in that country – as $1,500 ($6,500) would have in Bermuda.

            Two Bermuda’s? Yes. Bermuda used to split along racial lines. Now Bermuda is re-dividing on economic lines.

            One group getting a Western rate. The other group getting non-Western rates. Bermudians are getting stranded in the bleak no-mans-land that’s opening up between these two growing Bermudas.

            Under existing and future economic conditions, all new hotel development will only – and can only – favour the group who will accept non-Western pay rates. Bermudians cannot afford to work for non-Western rates unless they accept un-Bermudian lifestyles and living conditions.

            There is a steadily growing pressure – a squeeze really – on the human beings who are defined as Bermudians. As humans beings will, Bermudians will react to that squeeze. Watch out when they do!

SHARK BITES

 

Tiny Bermuda took on massive India and made India work hard to get us. After going down to Sri Lanka in 78 runs and 24 overs; Bermuda stood up to India, won 156 runs, and lasted for 43 overs. David Hemp unbeaten at 76; Dean Minor’s bails scattering stump-out; and Malachi Jones’ bowling and two superb catches showed how technically good we can be. Sluggo Leverock’s superb one-handed backwards falling catch was an awesome sight [see video below]. Janeiro Tucker’s fast moving catch gave us a slice of time that needs re-running many times over. That last big stand at the wicket matching David Hemp with Sluggo and his gritty determination gave us a series of big moments.

But more than anything else, tiny Bermuda stood up to big India, lasted for 43 overs, and scored Bermuda’s highest score in the WCC tournament. Though it will be our last game in this great adventure, I’m looking forward to seeing Bermuda take on Bangladesh.

 

I’m proud and I’m happy for our team and for us. Minnows? More like puppy sharks!

 

THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS

Economies are not simple things. They’re even more complex than the still not fully understood human body. In fact, unlike the human body, which seems not to change too radically. After centuries, humans still have two eyes, two legs, and one mouth. In the same time, economies have undergone radical and undeniable change.

            Two hundred years ago, Bermudians – with two eyes, two legs, and one mouth – were raiding other people’s ships and stealing their stuff. Well, it wasn’t called stealing. Then it was called privateering.  That’s alright because in those days people were said to be so polite. At any rate, that’s what historians have told us. But that’s the sort of activity that kept Bermuda’s economy going – back then.

            Nowadays we’re more technical. We sell stuff called Insurance and ‘services’ and ‘tourism’. I don’t know what those old-timers would make of all this. They probably wouldn’t understand it and might think us strange. But I find it strange how we’re working so hard to grow our economy the way that we seem to be growing it. Well, to be correct, it’s more like the economy is growing the way most free economies grow.      Individuals see opportunity. Individuals pool their resources. These individual efforts – clumping together as industries – then create a fresh new set of opportunities – and presto! A changed economy. That’s the way free economies work.

            However free economies operate within human societies. Human societies are impacted and affected by their interaction with other human societies. The combination of economy and society creates a social economy. In some social economies, jobs are gained. In others, jobs are lost. No loss, no gain?  Then jobs shift around. But nothing stands still.

            Bermuda and its social economy – the combination of the human society that lives in Bermuda and the economic machine that works on Bermuda – is beset by a jobs shift problem.

            Bermuda’s Tourism Industry restarted with a ‘big bang’ in 1946. In those old days of segregation and discrimination, for Bermuda’s majority population, Tourism was the only way out and up. So they bit their tongues, smiled, carried trays, tended bar, made beds, drove taxis. In the mid-1980’s – a whole generation later – there was a clear generational Bermudian step-away from Tourism. Bermudians shifted their focus and turned their backs on Tourism. They focused on something else.

            Tourism responded by dipping into the global marketplace, found excellent replacement staff, and re-worked itself as an efficient machine that used lower paid global workers who were being paid on a global – not Bermudian – scale. Tourism went back to making its necessary profits. Bermudians now make up the minority of employees in Bermuda’s Hospitality Industry.

            Running from or escaping or shunning Tourism, Bermudians went into the Civil Service and International Business. IB has special and high requirements that demand a good education and specialist skills. So not every Bermudian can aspire to join IB. The Civil Service has a relatively high entry requirement – frequently demanding an Associate’s degree as a condition of employment.

            That leaves a bunch of Bermudians who are now shut out from the Hospitality Industry by the low ‘global wage’ structure and the reality of a forty week tourism year; who can’t get into IB or the Civil Service because they lack the skills or education base; have little prospect of new or additional job opportunity in Bermuda’s shrinking Retail Sector; and, in a final and new national reality, are squeezed out of service sectors by the globalizing of remaining service sectors such as landscaping, construction, hairdressing, butchering, etc…

            That leaves a group of Bermudians who are shut out or priced out of two Industries, can’t get into another – skills and education requirements are too high; and are being shrunk out of a third – because it is shrinking, or, at least, not growing.

            This group of Bermudians – and this socio-economic reality is colour-blind – are like the ‘people under the stairs’.  They’re not in the cellar, not in the room, and not on their way up the stairs. They’re stuck, hidden away, under the stairs.

            Will the planned new hotel developments at Southlands and Parlaville help the ‘people under the stairs’? Do the existing ‘condo developments’ help the ‘people under stairs’? Is Bermuda’s changed economy steadily pushing more Bermudian ‘people under the stairs’?

            Are there really ‘people under the stairs’?