WEDNESDAY, MAR. 21: Some 2,830 jobs have been lost since the recession bit in 2008, Senate was told today.
Government Senator David Burt said 951 of the lost posts had been held by Bermudians and their spouses, while 1883 had been held by non-Bermudians — a seven per cent decline in jobs.
Sen Burt said the Opposition OBA had blamed 2001’s work permit term limits for a decline in jobs in the international business sector.
But he said the last recession to hit the island — between 1988-93 — had cost a total of 2,993 jobs, with 1,427 of them held by Bermudians or their spouses and 1,566 by non-Bermudians — equal to an 8.2 per cent contraction — when there were no term limits on permits.
Sen Burt said: “The decline in employment is not related to term limits – it is because of the recession.”
He added: “The OBA have a political objective and that is to attempt to convince the people of Bermuda that the global financial crisis and the pain that Bermuda is feeling as a result is because of term limits and therefore the PLP is solely to blame.
“They ignore the fact that the Bermuda economy continued to create jobs and expand for seven years after the policy came into effect.
“It would seem clear that term limits didn’t cause this recession, just like term limits didn’t cause the last recession in Bermuda.”
Sen Burt was responding to suggestions by Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards that term limits were “Bermudian job killers”.
Sen Burt said that during the economic slowdown in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Bermudians and their spouses accounted for nearly half the job losses, while Bermudians had filled 34 per cent of the posts lost since the current financial crisis blew up.
Sen Burt added: “It would seem that in this current recession, Bermudians are more insulated from job losses under term limits than not.”
He said: “I believe that this Government has got it mostly right when it comes to immigration policy. I, however, will admit that in some areas we can do better.
“We must process work permits more quickly and this Government will continue to reduce the red tape so that business can thrive and flourish.
“There is always room for improvement and this Government has proved that it listens and acts in the best interest of Bermuda and Bermudians.”
Sen Burt added that Bermuda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had grown by 84 per cent since the PLP won power in 1998 and that — despite the financial crisis — the number of jobs had grown by nearly 2,060 (5.8 per cent) over the same period.
Opposition Senator Michael Fahy, however, said that as many as 6,000 people had “probably left our shores” in recent times, while there was likely to be anything between one and four thousand people “unemployed or under-employed” on the island.
He added that international business might be reluctant to spell out their reasons for pulling out of Bermuda — although they were less reticent in private.
And he said that Government had had to bail out restaurants with tax breaks because the island had lost a significant number of people with high disposable income who had also created opportunities for Bermudians.
Sen Fahy added: “Look around town — it’s depressing. Go to St George’s, it’s awful.”
Sen Fahy said that rental apartments and homes which Bermudians used to help pay their mortgages were now standing empty.
He added: “It’s important to grow international business to create jobs for Bermudians.”
Sen Fahy said: “We have never said that the economic crisis has been caused by term limits — we have said it has made things worse.
“… If you increase the opportunities, you will increase the number of people coming to Bermuda.”