Bermuda Finance 2021/2022, General Economy Roundtable, in association with Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA).
Bermuda's economy is a mixed bag of emerging opportunities and specific challenges. But if all sectors work together, it has an opportunity to build back better, say experts from a diverse range of sectors in the General Economy Roundtable.
Q1: HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERISE THE BERMUDA ECONOMY NOW?
Mitch Blaser: I am co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Mosaic Insurance, with Mark Wheeler. We're a new generation global specialty insurance company based in Bermuda with a Lloyd's syndicate and underwriting hubs around the world. We opened up in February 2021; the company is new on the block, although not me-I've been around forever!
Penny MacIntyre: I'm a partner in Rego Sotheby's International Realty running the business operations here. In terms of what's happening in real estate, we are extremely busy right now. This would be our industry's best year in at least two decades.
Residential rentals are very bullish. You will find it very difficult to get a rental property now. Even quality homes for sale are difficult to find. We have bidding wars on some rental properties.
That challenge is driven by the success of the Work From Bermuda programme the government instituted because we didn't have tourism for a while. That triggered high demand and took the inventory that would ordinarily be there for the long-term executives. We are seeing individuals and families who came here on that programme fall in love with this place and they've decided to stay longer and even buy.
We've got an active local buying audience too, in addition to the increased global interest. Because Bermudians are not travelling, they have more disposable income and that has led to a buying spree.
There are also active investors looking to hotels, tourism or industrial developments. We're seeing a number of commercial businesses looking at renewable energy, so we're experiencing a dynamic movement across nearly every element of real estate.
The one area that sadly continues to struggle is the condominium market. That has been about a 12-year problem for the Island, some of which is due to legislative issues. Not allowing work permit holders to buy a condominium has been very difficult and is an ongoing battle for our industry.
Separately the Economic Investment Certificate (EIC) launched by government in March 2021 now means if we have an international person coming to the Island, the only place they can buy a condominium is within a hotel tourism development which at this time is only St Regis, since Loren sold out and Azura is just starting construction on Phase 3.
So Bermuda is now experiencing a big challenge. We are advocating for other properties to undertake some development and construction.
On the international homes, we've had a very good year again. We expect to either match or eclipse 2020, which was a record-setting year. Those prices range from $3 million to over $15 million.
Mosaic is a member of Bermuda's "class of 2021" in the insurance space. Like previous groups of startups and scaleups, this one has been a great boost for Bermuda, both reputationally-underscoring the market's innovation here-and economically. When you have any type of large event in the insurance industry, it spurs the creation of new businesses, opportunities, and companies setting up on the Island.
About $19 billion of new capital has come to Bermuda over the past year due to this latest wave of new re/insurers. New companies choose this jurisdiction for its speed to market. Being able to work with the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA), and have the credibility of its regulatory support-a process that works well to get you into the market quickly-is a huge benefit.
It's also beneficial to companies to be able to leverage Bermuda's top-tier reputation as a financial services centre, and all the global support we get as a well-regulated location in the insurance industry. Bermuda's track record in this respect keeps stimulating new business opportunities here on the Island, which helps everyone.
Jerome Wilson: I am a partner in the corporate team here at Appleby. I'm also the head of our technology and innovation team. We have been busy in all sectors, particularly in our litigation and property departments. Some of the changes in the property market has meant lots of activity around home sales and rentals. With interest rates remaining so low, we're also seeing a lot of activity on the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) front as well as with re-financings. We've got a very positive outlook.
Bermuda continues to be the jurisdiction of choice for clients. Lots of clients love the regulatory space here, the speed to market, the security and ease of doing business in Bermuda, particularly in the digital asset business space. We have a steady flow of clients who want to be in Bermuda, who will be opening offices and looking at commercial space for their employees, some of whom will be based in Bermuda and some will be moving to Bermuda.
We see lots of opportunity. And that has been the case for the last 18 months. We see that continuing into 2022, especially with the growth of fintech. The opportunity there is to have more players come to Bermuda, as this is where clients want to be regulated. They see Bermuda as a great jurisdiction.
That makes our job a lot easier, but there is work to be done to get the applications through the door. We have constant conversations with the BMA on how we can fine-tune and tweak things to further improve the process. But we are very positive and looking forward to 2022 and beyond.
Michael Neff: The advantage of working in a bank is you get to see all the funds flow. We expected COVID-19's impact on the Island to be far more severe than it has been. In March 2020, we were forecasting a severe economic decline, a big uptick in delinquencies in the loan portfolio and all sorts of awful things.
We had a moratorium on loan payments for six months and the government did a lot to help people who became unemployed. The impact was, I think, very well managed by the Island collectively. The government did a good job of managing the pandemic, and as a consequence, we're in a much better place than we thought we would be.
There are some real bright spots ahead. We see further opportunity in the reinsurance space. We see a lot of opportunity in the real estate space, and some of those things go hand in glove.
We're working with clients to finance the construction of apartments in the city. We are also working with some commercial retail clients to bring more commercial space that gives a place for startups to go. We're trying to help to build out better alternatives in the commercial space.
The residential real estate piece is a real challenge, but our mortgage business has held up well. There are a lot of positive things going on and in terms of future development.
There is another side to the coin. If you go into retail and hospitality, it all gets very challenging. The Chamber of Commerce represents some 725 businesses, 55 of which have closed and a further 70 are partially closed or potentially closing. And there are big challenges in hospitality.
But we need that back online. That has knock-on effects for airlift, which is really important. Airlift is important in the business sector because of access to the Island. We need some of our big hotels operating at full capacity again.
Some folks are definitely struggling. There was a recent report that suggested some 1,900 jobs had disappeared, most of which are in the hospitality sector.
One of our challenges is the income inequality problem. That is of some concern to us, frankly, because a healthy Island would benefit everyone.
I don't think we're going to have as strong a year
overall that we were initially hoping we would have, because of
further waves of COVID-19. We desperately need everybody vaccinated
so we have no more waves and that will encourage tourism.
We are also going to have to mention government finances because that problem is not going away. The debt is huge and there is a big budget deficit. There will be challenges there.
Finally, we'll all have to come to terms with global minimum tax standards, potentially. That is something we have to work with and be orchestrated in a way that keeps the rating agencies on side. It's not only important for the sovereign debt, but it's important for reinsurance companies and even a place like Butterfield, whose rating sits one below the sovereign rating.
I would add that we are seeing challenges with supply chains, because of what's going on with the price of oil, and people are going to see some big upticks in prices on the Island. That again affects the overall balance of the economy.
We do see a fair amount of resilience. Our Bermuda dollar deposits are over a billion dollars, higher than pre-pandemic levels. Having Bermudians stuck on the Island was very helpful, spending money locally, taking staycations at the hotels. We didn't expect that and that has made a very big difference in terms of keeping the economy afloat.
But at some point, people are going to start travelling again. We need hospitality to pick up as Bermudians start travelling again. We need to make sure we have ample jobs in the hospitality sector and the retail sector. So it's a good news/bad news story, but it could have been far worse. I think we're reasonably positioned for a recovery in the next couple of years.
Charles Jeffers: Some of you may know my father, Charles Jeffers I. I am a Bermudian who has lived abroad for almost 30 years, working in destination marketing. I came home for this job in April. I have moved back to a country I haven't lived in for almost 30 years-in the middle of a crisis.
It's been a very interesting time but I'm happy to serve my country in this way. I wanted to come home to assist in the Island's recovery. I want us to recover smartly. We have missed a lot of opportunities in the past.
We have taken our eye off hospitality. Part of the reason that international business moved to Bermuda was because of our great hotels, great restaurants and things to do. Now, it's time for us to refocus. I don't think we have to choose between international business and hospitality-they can flourish together.
But it's a tough time for our industry. We are struggling right now and, unfortunately, Bermuda is probably struggling more than some of our competitors. That is directly as a result of our testing protocols which may be perceived as onerous to prospective visitors. The glimmer of hope is that the government is considering changes (see update below).
Meanwhile, we're preparing for next year. We're in the middle of a brand study where we are taking a look at our brand and our story as a country and defining what that story is. I'm not saying we need to be telling the same story, but we should at least have a common theme. Marketing is about consistency and what it takes to attract people to your business.
We look at Bermuda as a business and we have to be a lot easier to do business with. We have to take a look at how we operate as a country and make things easier for people.
That means some serious changes. The world has changed, and people have choices, such as our neighbours to the south, the Caribbean Islands.
We have a real opportunity to make some significant changes because of COVID-19. We need to be more collaborative within our hospitality industry and outside it. We all need to work together and be more collaborative.
Finally, when it comes to workforce development and bringing people into our industry, we need to be better at attracting people to the hospitality industry. We also have to get cruise ships back. This year, we are probably going to realise about 2 percent of what we normally have from cruise ship passengers. The country can't survive off that-we need probably at least 75 percent back to make a real go of it. This is another reason why I've been encouraging the government to make these changes to COVID-19 testing. Cruise ships have said that they are not coming back to Bermuda with our existing protocols. They're making decisions today about next year.
Despite all that doom and gloom, I'm still optimistic about the future. It's not about the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), it's about Bermuda. We all want Bermuda to thrive and it's going to take all of us to make it happen.
Update: Since the General Economy roundtable took place, the Bermuda government enacted the first significant loosening of COVID-19 protocols at the border since the Island re-opened in July 2020. On December 3, 2021, legislation came into effect, introducing the option of rapid antigen testing for travellers. Visitors travelling to the Island for seven days or fewer will no longer be required to undergo the day 4 or day 10 tests.
Additionally, in response to the US mandate that all inbound travellers have a negative test within 24 hours of departure, the Bermuda Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory (MDL) has introduced quick turnaround of antigen test result certification. While the BTA will continue to work with the government to lobby for additional refinement of the visitor arrival and on-Island experience, these two changes will reduce the real and perceived obstacles for vaccinated travellers to the Island. They will make Bermuda a more attractive destination for travellers and air and cruise partners.
John Huff: I represent the Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers. I am positive about Bermuda's economic future. In the insurance and reinsurance sector, our businesses have probably never been stronger. There has been some $19 billion worth of investment in the insurance and reinsurance sector in Bermuda within the last 24 months, much of it driven on the P&C side.
I understand that the wider Bermuda economy is lagging a little, but it's not something we can't overcome. The COVID-19 vaccines are key; the US, our largest trading partner, has started airlift again but with mandatory vaccinations.
That will be a game-changer for Bermuda. The truth is that the US is open for business and that will benefit us. Tourism, travel, and real estate are all dependent on business executives choosing to be here, which also is dependent on making sure the schools are up and running.
There have been some significant donations from the international business community to help get lateral flow testing rolled out for public school students. We need that stability in COVID-19 testing, so we don't have the disruption for international expats and local residents here. We don't want anyone to decide that Bermuda is not the place for their family to be right now.
The good news is the fundamentals are in place.
Martin Laframboise: I'm the executive director of Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers (BILTIR), which represents international long-term life insurers here. The Bermuda life insurance market plays an important role in the Island's economy; it's a driver of growth. We have a positive outlook. Our sector grew its assets under management by 35 percent in 2020. We're now about $670 billion and we expect that upward trend to continue. The sector is a proven and sustainable industry has continued doing well year after year.
There are more big players who want to deploy capital in Bermuda. The scale of these companies is massive. We expect five to 10 new firms coming to Bermuda annually. It's a compelling story. The value proposition in the long-term sector space is great-200 percent growth in assets over the last five years. And we expect to continue that.
Also, this year we're celebrating our 10th anniversary of BILTIR, which is also a great story. We started with five founding members and we are now 63.
Q2: WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN TO BOOST BERMUDA'S ECONOMY?
MacIntyre: There are some important aspects that need solving. While you see high flying numbers in certain areas, we are dealing with those who are definitely struggling. Look down Front Street at the boarded-up properties. Some of the people who are long standing in rental arrears are now either being pushed out or needing to leave.
Blaser: There's an irony stemming from the pandemic that works against us economically, and we need to address it. On one hand, Bermuda has been able to attract new businesses and residents to the island throughout COVID-19 via startups and the Island's Work From Bermuda programme, and other outreach.
These activities continue to build insurance business, bringing in new executives and employees and their families to live and work here. That has very positive ripple effects for the whole economy and can prove a long-term benefit.
And there's the catch, because on the other hand, we need to keep people here. We can't drive into the future looking in the rear-view mirror. Unfortunately, if you think about what happened after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, there was a big exodus from Bermuda, close to 9,000 people.
That's a colossal number relative to our small and fragile economy, and does serious damage to all sectors, from retail to hospitality and healthcare. So, yes, we need to keep attracting people and businesses-but we also need to think seriously about how to retain them. Otherwise, the benefit is lost and the gain only temporary.
Additionally, we have to recognise that technology plays a huge role in life today and it's accelerating and affecting employment. Tech can take jobs away, but it can also create new jobs. We want Bermuda to be a place where people can start businesses and take advantage of our fantastic work environment. We need to attract those professionals and retain them. We should cultivate a national appreciation for the fact international business is a vital part of our economy and needs to be nurtured in that way.
We've talked about the haves and have-nots. We need to focus on how the two Bermudas unite and how we help each other by providing a helping hand through this process-that is going to be essential. Building a culture for everyone to gain the benefits of economic development on the Island will require planning, support and training.
Therefore, nurturing the right environment means creating the right policies to attract and retain people. Bermuda is a great place to live as well as a great place to operate from, but we need to make sure we have the appropriate policies and procedures to facilitate business and processes for residents to be able to remain and contribute to the economy and the community.
For example, hospitality is a vital industry and goes hand in hand with international business in Bermuda. The two sectors are interdependent, each relying on the success of the other, and there's no reason one should take precedence. But getting the right training and development for people to take up jobs in tourism is going to be essential.
Currently, the sector is understaffed, which opens a growing opportunity for qualified Bermudians. We need to be prepared to seize the moment to attract tourists, along with more residents and businesses to Bermuda.
Meanwhile, restaurants close on Monday and Tuesdays. Some of the websites aren't up to date. I have visiting clients and residents who get frustrated trying to enjoy the lifestyle elements of Bermuda. On the airlift side right now, you can't get to Bermuda on Tuesday or Wednesdays and various airlines are changing schedules based on demand and seasonality without much notice.
It makes travel and events very hard to plan. It throws a wrench into the whole works. I know they're having challenges. Restaurants aren't staffed up because they don't know whether to commit long term. So it's that chicken or egg.
I went to New York and you're moving around if you're vaccinated. I have to show my vaccination card but everything is open. We need the same. Without that, it's a nightmare.
Huff: I would add that we are a work from Bermuda economy, we are not a work from home economy. We need to get back to work physically, because we will never win the war of trying to build a work from home economy-that's what you do in a low cost jurisdiction. We are a high cost jurisdiction.
MacIntyre: Hospitality has to translate in every aspect of what we do. That is our most organic way of keeping Bermuda interesting and a place that people want to visit, let alone live. I so often hear from people that they cannot get a taxi or the restaurants are closed on certain nights. There are simple things we're not getting right.
We can change things. Our airport used to be a nightmare to come through-now it is fantastic. The speed through is much faster.
So there's good and bad, but I hope the retail and restaurant industry gets the boost that is needed with people coming back into town, creating the vibrancy in the atmosphere we need, because right now it's like a ghost town.
Neff: It's worth remembering that the size of the economy in Bermuda is a function of labour force multiplied by productivity. Productivity isn't going to be a big mover. The working population is the big mover. And from where we sit, we would say we need to be doing everything we can to attract working age people to this Island across all the sectors.
We're going to need folks to come back here. To do that, we need government and all the stakeholders to make this as attractive and welcoming a destination as possible. From a tourism perspective, from a business perspective, we need to make it as seamless as possible to get established here.
Meanwhile, we're going to pitch Bermuda as a climate risk finance hub, which I think is a very credible thing to pitch for. You have to be able to back that up with a service that gets people on to the Island, people into homes, people into commercial real estate, and kids into schools.
We need to endorse anything and everything that would grow the working age population. To the government's credit, it has acted on some things that achieve that. We have enacted some short-term policies that have attracted people. But we need to do that for the long term.
One of the things that does worry me about work from home is it takes people out of Hamilton, or off the Island completely. I agree that Bermuda absolutely cannot be a work from home place. We need to get people back into the city.
We must consider all sectors. A bigger working age population creates more economic activity, which will in turn benefit everybody. This is a small town of 60,000 people, so we need to get together and turn the faucets on. We need policies that will make the place more attractive, make it easier to do business, make it easier to come here. That will help us turn the corner.
We also need to create tax revenue, to help the Finance Minister get his deficit under control. It will help healthcare because we'll have more people paying into a healthcare system that's really struggling. A lot of our problems can be solved by raising the working population, and policies that support that should be front and centre of government deliberations and the Chamber of Commerce and all the different stakeholders.
Jeffers: Hamilton has been our hub for hundreds of years-and, yes, it is looking closed. But this didn't begin with COVID-19. We could see things changing in Hamilton before that. Some of the most iconic stores had already gone and the diversity of our restaurants seems to have dwindled.
All of that impacts the visitors and our overall our economy because people are looking to spend money. And if they can't find anywhere to spend their money, they take it back home. Changing the protocols and getting people to come here is not the only answer. There's a whole lot of things that we need to do beyond that.
I'm hopeful that the private and public sectors can come together to work on these things together because, this is not about any one of our organisations. It's really about the country.
The pandemic has given us an opportunity to be more collaborative and we need to take advantage of that. Leaders need to come to the front and start leading. We can't just sit back and wait for things to happen. We need to start making things happen. And I'm one who's willing to roll up my sleeves and be a part of that. If we don't, we are going to be left behind.
We cannot blame the pandemic forever. We have to figure out how we can move on from this and potentially live with COVID-19. As part of that, we must rebuild the heartbeat of our country, which is Hamilton.
In terms of the staff shortages some industries are experiencing, the Ministry of Labour has a moratorium on issuing work permits. Unfortunately, we also have a lot of people who are not working but who are not willing to take on hospitality jobs.
So where do hotels and restaurants find people? They have to bring people in, but if you can't get a work permit for them, then you're having to close on certain days, as some restaurants are doing now. That's the reality. Some of our larger and bigger known restaurants cannot open seven days a week.
If we're talking about getting the economy going, we have to let people in; we must bring more people to the Island to live and work. At the moment, we're stifling the economy. We are suffering because we're not ready to welcome people back as a country.
Wilson: There remain challenges for Bermuda's economy. The retail and the service sectors are suffering as is our tourism because of the testing regime and people not wanting to travel still.
But many of our clients are willing to come to Bermuda-but they are thinking long term. They're more about growing their businesses, and they're looking for favourable policies and procedures from the government and regulators. They want to be able to come to Bermuda, get the work permits they need and run and to grow their businesses effectively.
It is hard to criticise the government or regulator because they have developed policies to attract investment and businesses. Bermuda has one of the best reputations for regulation. That said, there are some things we can do to make it more attractive.
One of the things that our clients ask about is the speed of opening a bank account. It takes some time to open a bank account for a company. That is something that the private sector can work on.
Jeffers: It is difficult for individuals to open a bank account too; it's a laborious process. I believe that's something that can be fixed. We miss the wood for the trees sometimes.
Wilson: Many of the big firms have said that they will never go back to the office full time. They're always going to have some form of flexibility built into their workforce. In that sense, COVID-19 has also been a watershed moment for how people view their work or their interaction with their work and their life.
And a lot of people are looking for that flexibility. They're looking for the ability to be nimble and maybe not be in a physical location for more time than they need to.
It is easy to say that we need to get people back into the city because that's going to help with the retail space, the commercial space. But some different thinking is needed around how to stimulate these sectors. The solution needs to be multifaceted, just as the issues caused by the pandemic are multifaceted.
Another positive around flexible working is that there's an opportunity here for entrepreneurs. I'm not an economist, but we in Bermuda will need to have a multifaceted approach. That's my belief, and we will need to take a look at how we can get people back to the city, but also keeping in mind their safety in relation to COVID-19.
The challenge will be to continue to make Bermuda an attractive place, which the government has done, and continue to fine-tune it.
Jeffers: In the US, a lot of cities have located more housing downtown. In Bermuda, maybe we consider converting some of this empty office space into housing. That could stimulate the economy and bring more vibrancy to downtown. I agree there's a real opportunity for us to look at things differently than we have in the past.
Laframboise: Innovation progress in the life insurance industry has historically been influenced by longstanding approaches to risk management and legacy technology. One of the challenges of the business, for example, is that, due to its long-term nature, it requires robust validation through proper pricing of the business.
But that will need to adapt and innovate more quickly than it has in the past. And the life sector in Bermuda can help develop partnerships to accelerate that timeline as generations and demands of policyholders change.
It is also important for us that the Bermuda maintains its stance as a premier financial jurisdiction. For example, Solvency II equivalence must be a top priority for Bermuda insurers to continue write EU business on a level playing field with European peers. With its full Solvency II equivalence (2016) and recent US reciprocal jurisdiction agreed by the NAIC, where Bermuda can also write business (or will be for when all states pass its legislation) without additional regulatory capital or collateral requirements, this ensure Bermuda meet international regulatory standards.
Such global standards are important to us. There is another trend towards increasing or standardising tax and capital requirements around the world. Ultimately, policyholders pay for this through increased premium. We need to ensure this entire chain is well understood and continue lobby for treatment that is fair and commensurate to the true underlying risks involved.
In terms of the jobs market, it is very competitive at the moment. Companies need to continue to adapt to the new normal, including remote working, defining their long-term policies post-COVID-19. But our sector specifically is growing fast and is in need of talent.
In summary, while there continues to be increased competition from other jurisdictions as you might expect, Bermuda has done a great job of staying first choice for many sectors. I'm confident that Bermuda will continue to find ways to adapt to the changing economic environment and maintain its competitive position.
Huff: First and foremost, we have a tremendous reputation in international markets. We have transparency and compliance and have internationally earned recognitions, including Solvency II and reciprocal status with the US. But maintaining our reputation must always be job one.
Second, as we get into the digital asset space, we must ensure we maintain that reputation and that there's a full understanding of what we're doing. There's so much going on globally that we need to make sure that we're leading in terms of being more transparent and more compliant than other jurisdictions.
If I take a step back and see what Bermuda has to offer globally, our best opportunities are around some of the global challenges to the economy-whether that be future pandemic or climate or cyber or retirement security, those are the issues where Bermuda excels. And, those are the product lines that we know the most about. So, we are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.
Part of our advantage in Bermuda is that we are small and agile. I have every reason to believe that we will be able to move quickly. We'll be able to get things back open again. But I agree that we can't have closed storefronts and restaurants. We must bite the bullet and get those places open for business.
We want visitors-tourists and business travellers-to leave Bermuda, having spent a bit more money than they should have. But if the experience was so positive, whether it be on the business side or the tourism side, then everyone's happy.
Q3: HOW CAN BERMUDA RECOVER WELL? WHAT WILL ITS ECONOMY LOOK LIKE IN THE FUTURE?
Huff: Where Bermuda is going to be in two to five years depends on how it can capitalise on the global economic opportunities in front of us. The opportunities are around risks for us: pandemics, climate, cyber. The cyber market will quadruple in the next three years, and we are well positioned in that market.
Then there is retirement security, of course, as the population globally gets older. If we can stick to our knitting and then grow those opportunities, Bermuda will be well placed.
Laframboise: Our sector was already growing driven by the robust risk-based regulatory framework, as well as macro factors such as low interest rates and a flat yield curve. These things have attracted a convergence of asset investors to insurance.
The ageing population presents a unique opportunity for Bermuda in terms of risk management, and Bermuda has the talent to manage it. Companies are looking for innovative solutions to those macro issues. All of this is driving growth in our sector.
Wilson: Our economy is going to be in a recovery mode and growing for some time now. Our reputation is very high globally, and we'll need to maintain that reputation. If you look at some of our competitors and where they are positioned, I would say that they are not in a strong position compared with us.
Bermuda has always been on the right side of international trade and regulations. International pressures around regulations will continue but we are always on the right side of that and it will create opportunities for us.
We need to address certain challenges in the retail and hospitality sectors but overall, I think Bermuda is going to be well placed because of our nimble approach to governance. The government is open for business and it's definitely listening. So I'm optimistic. Yes, it has been a pretty tough period, but it has been a tough period globally.
Jeffers: It is a lot easier to do business with us as a country now. But I can't emphasise enough how important that is. Everything from opening a bank account to getting cash from an ATM machine needs to be easier.
I want us to be ready for our visitors. Another example is the electric vehicle industry. If we went back to 2019 levels of visitors, they could service about 2 percent of our visitors. And that means that there's a lot of frustrated people and that's because the government has put regulations and limits on the number of the rental vehicles.
Things like that may seem small to some, but from a visitor perspective, that's very frustrating. We as a country need to be ready for our visitors and be able to service their needs. I'm here to roll up my sleeves and work with anyone to make that happen.
In five years' time, when we're having this conversation again, we're going to be looking back and saying the decisions that we made now were for the benefit of the future.
Neff: This will be an interesting point in Bermuda's evolution. Historically, our economy has always migrated from one wave to the next to power itself. We clearly need a lot of things to come together to grow the economy again-but I also believe we have more pillars now.
Some growth will come from innovation, which we've proved our ability to do. We have to remain open-minded on seizing those opportunities. We need a collective plan between the public and the private sectors to seize the opportunities that are out there and at the same time address some of the significant challenges we face.
We face debt and deficits in the public sector like the Island has never seen. They will have to be managed or we will struggle to execute on the international stage. We must also do something about the increasing inequality on the Island.
There are big challenges out there. But Bermuda has proven again and again that it can innovate and grow the economy. That will be key to our success in the future and ability to create a viable plan. The good news is we do have a history and tradition of being able to achieve those things.
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