How many times have we heard the expression “It’s the economy, stupid”? Well or, in that old familiar Bermudian vernacular, “Oh well”, it truly is the economy.
To my detractors on this subject, I acknowledge my self-interest. In some ways, it is unavoidable to think maritime when I can’t count the numerous generations who earned their livelihoods from the sea, inclusive of my great-great-great-grandfather, Anthony Darrell, a privateer (pirate) who more than likely purchased his manumission in 1825 from the proceeds.
For any people to make progress they need to have two things: self-determination and the ability to find a niche that they can satisfy.
In the Bermuda context, the precedent has been established since its inception. The trade winds, whether ships were travelling eastward or westward, blew all square-rigged ships past our shores. One such sea excursion ended in disaster that fatefully marks the beginning of colonisation and the ultimate salvation of the fledgeling community who were starving in Virginia.
Bermuda’s maritime location was strategic to the development of the West, giving Britain — after they came into possession of the isles — a naval sovereignty over the Northern Atlantic. For several centuries, Bermuda’s post as a military station provided the best proof of its beneficial, geographic location.
Somewhere around 1994, Bermuda lost 7,000 persons and 20 per cent of its economy because of the base closures. The Americans literally packed their bags and left a pile of debris for us to clean up. The Government’s response was to find some primitive use for the buildings and lands left behind. The damage, at that time, to the economy was masked by the success of international business. However, with the decline of higher-paid senior staff in international business, we can no longer hide the deficit, and the need for a new economic pillar is on the lips of everyone.
The development of the bases back in the late 1930s came at a cost too large for Bermuda to consider then and even now. Yet it was that type of investment so crucial to the American-British alliance against Germany that catapulted Bermuda into naval and air relevance for that time and underpinned a future for tourism.
As we ponder our future, why look to the sky when the answers have been under your feet with a history of success? We lost our maritime relevance and must therefore regain it. The reality is that to regain relevance today as a maritime destination a significant infrastructural change is required but the investment is too huge for Bermuda to undertake.
As the kids of the Eighties would say, “This a job for Mighty Mouse” because the “Mighty USA” has no interest. Therefore, it rests on the shoulders of the ”mighty marketplace”. We have to take a dark world of economic gloom and turn it into a bright land of opportunity and prosperity.
The Newtonian principle indicates that any solution must be greater than the problem to avoid inertia. In simple terms, we cannot solve a big problem with a small solution. It would be like attempting to clean your yard with a toothbrush.
We can achieve success once we bury our bias. We can make Bermuda better than it has ever been.