Thursday, June 14, 2012

We need a global perspective

There is an old cliché which says we cannot see the forest for the trees. We focus so much on the detail of that which is directly in front of us that we fail to see the larger picture. Many of us are guilty of this on our little island and a necessary outcome is our failure to fully grasp the problems we face. Our failure to do this directly impacts our ability to find workable solutions to these problems.

Take the issue of job losses. There is a popular narrative which links the massive decline in jobs in Bermuda to Government policy and work permit policy in particular. If we refocus our lens and zoom out to the wider world we see a global issue of similar levels of job losses — in the United States, United Kingdom, and throughout Europe.

A reasonable inference is that there are some systemic global issues at play in rich countries; it might just make more sense to focus on understanding these issues and developing strategies to address whatever challenges they present rather than a simplistic zero sum scenario pitting term limits against job losses. 

Our debt level is another illustration. It is without question that Bermuda’s national debt has risen over the past 14 years as government invested in schools, ports, transportation and housing to benefit Bermudians. And it is right that future generations should share in paying for this as they too will benefit.

What is important to note about this is that Bermuda’s debt level is very low compared to every other rich country and our fundamentals remain sound. At least this is the view of people who rate countries everyday and we have not suffered from any material downgrade by any ratings agency. This stands in sharp contrast to Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece.

When it comes to our young people and their ability to gain and secure employment, we would do well do engage in some comparative analysis. A few recent global reports have shown that there is a problem of employability that extends beyond the recession; that there is a segment of young people who lack the “soft skills” (communication, time keeping, appropriate dress, etc) to enter and sustain employment in the service sector, the area where most of the new jobs are being created. Again, there seems to be some systemic issues at play that we need to understand so that we can better address our local challenges. I have no doubt some of the antisocial behaviour we see is directly related to this. 

There is equally no doubt that some of the problems we need to tackle here are home grown; but many of the major ones are connected with the global environment in which we live and replicated in a nuanced fashion here.

Solutions will come from first understanding the nature and extent of the problem devoid of the banality of politics and then acting to advance the interests of people. It is easy to look at Bermuda through narrowly focused eyes but it will not necessarily advance our understanding. We are not another world — we are part of this world.

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