Bermuda must join investment party before it ends

  • The location of the old Golden Hind resort in Warwick (File photograph)

Did we learn anything from the Ritz-Carlton/Golden Hind fiasco a couple of decades ago? For those who need a reminder, the proposed Ritz-Carlton hotel development was essentially a done deal: the land was acquired, the funds were in hand and everything needed to go ahead was in place except the final ascent from the Government had not been made.

A squabble between the Premier at the time and the tourism minister resulted in an odd configuration of those for and those against the hotel development. Even odder was that, in real terms, both the tourism minister and the Premier were actually for the development, leaving the pertinent question: what was the argument about?

When taking into account some of the prominent personalities who stood against the hotel, including some whose property being adjacent would have seen an escalation in value, it begged the question as to why these smart individuals were shooting themselves in the foot, or seeming to do so.

The conspiracist will say they were holding out for a payout. We may never learn the real truth, but one real fact smashed both sides of the arguments and left this South Shore, Warwick, property as an eyesore and with tens of millions of dollars in debt and business confusion in its wake.

While our politicians were arguing, things on the other side of the world were changing. Japan’s economy was collapsing and they were calling on all their nationals to invest inward and not outward. The funds dedicated to the Ritz-Carlton that looked as a solid proposition were called home and the deal collapsed. The old proverb “He who hesitates is lost” kicked in and we had plenty of losers on our shores when the hotel deal went sour.

That is the nature of the money market and opportunity — an idea will emerge that has the intellectual capital to attract funds. On paper, it can appear as a solid proposition with the appropriate market conditions. Two things nevertheless are always at work: competitive responses and brighter investment opportunities elsewhere.

Neither of those is in one’s control; they have to be seized when the time is ripe for them. Otherwise, another jurisdiction becomes preferred, not because of any advantage but through the willingness and ease to participate, or through natural disasters or simple fluctuations in the market making other locations the choice for better investment opportunities.

At the moment, Bermuda sits in an excellent position to attract investment. However, we do not know the long-term response to the hurricane devastation to our south. One thing we do know is their governments cannot borrow their way out of the disaster and, therefore, that it will take billions of dollars in private investment to rebuild fully.

Eventually, if not very soon, we will be in competition with them for both the comparable opportunities and the funds. Money likes to congregate, seemingly, just like people do.

A busy restaurant or bar attracts customers and a quiet one, in spite of its best efforts, struggles to get customers. If one has been around long enough, they would have witnessed the cycles that Bermuda has been through. It was never a straight line.

Nothing could fill the chasm left at the Golden Hind, except the non-existent investment dollar. It has been more than 20 years and the entire area is still subgrade. It needs to stand as a lesson to all of us to take full advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself because the glorious future we hope for is tide to our wits.

We must remember that no one in the world cares about our social problems, and they will not contribute a dime to solve them — we have to earn every penny ourselves.

I showed up to the recent Bermuda Police Service’s seniors tea at the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club, which was billed to be from 11am to 3pm. I took my seat expecting to be served, but was politely told by a police lady that the refreshment period had ended. In other words, the party was over.

So it is with life, business and opportunity: you have to move before the party is over.