Every so often Government is called upon to privatise aspects of its operations so as to achieve greater efficiencies. These calls are typically made around budget time and they almost invariably emanate from right of centre commentators and politicians. Invoking the dramatic actions of US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in this regard, the case for privatisation rests on the assumption that governments are bad business managers and, conversely, that private enterprise does it better.

Such ideologically driven over-simplifications make for good political fodder but they fall far short of making sense out of the complicated reality. The reality is that far from the expansive, some will say, intrusive state we see in Europe and Canada, for example, our government treads lightly. Bermuda’s government has certainly increased its role in society over the past ten years but this has to be seen against the backdrop of previous governments which embodied a political ethos that begrudgingly accepted liberal goals but never got around to providing people with the capacity to achieve those goals.

Proponents of privatisation here will find there are few targets. This is mainly because government has typically involved itself in providing services in areas where the private sector has not seen an opportunity to make a profit or has been prevented from doing so because of the costs to entry. Government builds affordable housing precisely for these reasons.

There have been calls for matters involving tourism to be placed outside of the confines of government, in an authority dominated by people in the tourism business. The rationale here is that an organisation that is able to make decisions quickly by people with a vested interest will always do a better job than civil servants. While there is clear merit in harnessing the talent of the private sector in re-building tourism, when government is providing the funding there is an inescapable control that necessarily follows.

The Department of Airport Operations has also been identified as an area ripe for privatisation; this too has been raised sporadically and follows a model adopted in a number of other jurisdictions. With good traffic and a number of revenue streams, managing an airport can be a lucrative enterprise. Just ask BAA.