Economy the chief concern for constituents of 32 and 33

“The economy, stupid”, a phrase coined by Bill Clinton’s political strategist James Carville in 1992, remains a popular cliché and one often iterated by residents of Constituencies #32 and #33 during canvassing, as well as in casual and direct conversation.

This according to area MPs Scott Simmons and Jamahl Simmons, who noted the disparate state of the local economy, as being of major concern during a recent interview with TNN.

While the Island’s economy is touted by Premier David Burt as stable and trending upward, albeit slowly, the contrasting wealth gap and employment levels between Blacks and Whites, with the former enduring exponentially higher unemployment, lower earnings and fuelling decisions of many to migrate overseas.

Some economists have noted unemployment among Blacks as being as high as 10%, with youth unemployment more than 20%, which point to the ruling party as having dramatically failed its voter base.

Scott Simmons, while admitting to more people than desired experiencing tough financial times, was yet optimistic of the future.

“My constituents are  making it clear that it’s the economy,” he said. “I think that what we’ve looked at for a long time has been growth in a number of different aspects, but the economy is their bottom line they’re looking, but they’re paying out more than they would like and are looking for greater balance between income and expenses.

“So I think that the majority of my constituents who are middle class as well as those who are seniors, they are making it clear that there are challenges as it relates to just what does this economy means for them.

“That is the challenge of the Progressive Labour Party.”

Scott Simmons noted there to have been prohibitive factors that have influenced the Island’s economic recover and many existing challenges to widespread growth.

“It’s not been easy,” he said. “We have come in as a government that realises that we were representing and building for individuals who made it clear that we must look for opportunities for them. That’s been the challenge.

“As we have moved forward there have been a whole host of things that we have had to concentrate on, but the bottom line is is that the core of the support for the Progressive Labour Party is, ‘What’s in it for me?’ from the voter and ‘How do I improve my current condition?’ and then ‘Explain to me how I can help you to help me?’

“That’s how this plays out and I think that’s where we are as a party.
“It’s it’s been a long difficult five or six years, but at the end of the day the average voter is going to ask if the PLP has improved things for them over the last fiscal period.

“That’s what I’m challenged with as the Progressive Labour Party representative every single day.” Meanwhile, Sandys South MP Jamahl Simmons echoed similar sentiments to those of his fellow backbencher.

“What I can speak about the youth in my constituency is that my constituency is one of the youngest,” he began. “So, the majority of my constituents are of working age and the challenge that we are seeing is the lack of access to entry level positions.

“When we were growing up, if I didn’t go to college, I could go into the hotel and be a bus-boy, houseman, beach attendant or whatever.

“We could get into a profession and work our way up, rather be in construction, maintenance or whatever.
“But what we’ve seen is a lot of those jobs go away and they no longer exist. Even in the international business sector there were a lot of entry level positions, so what we’re finding now is that our people are finding it harder and harder to make their way in our economy and part of that is a combination of making sure that our people understand the options that are available.

“I’ll give the example of my son, who told us that he wanted to be a filmaker and what we told him was that you cannot be in Bermuda doing that. The best I can do for you is work at CITV or at ZBM.
“We have to be honest with our people as far as their aspirations and put them in places where they can succeed and that are viable.

“For example, one of my friends just took a plumbing course put on by Workforce Development. But, when I was coming up I never got exposed to anything like that even as I have had to become a miniature plumber in my own house.
“I had been exposed to that field it might have been a one that I might have took up.

“So it’s a matter of exposing People to the opportunities that actually exist in IB, tourism, technical trades, whatever.”
Jamahl Simmons noted the need for a comprehensive plan designed to fuel and catalyse economic growth in a realistic, sustainable manner for all Bermudians.
He reflected on his tenure as Minister of Tourism as an example of having implored civil servants to produce a medium to lng-term plan to improve Bermuda’s hospitality industry.

“When I was a Minister of Tourism, we had a plan and the plan was this,” he said. You go to every aspect of our industry relative to hospitality and tourism and see what you need now and what you need 10 years from now, against what you have locally.
“Develop a plan as to whether we need 50 waiters in the next 5 years and make sure that there’s some fellas that got out of school, who haven’t figured out what they want to do and employ them in the summer.

“They may like it or they may not, but we’re preparing an exposing them to this.

“That’s what I think we have to do throughout the entire economy and I know that the party is working on an actual overall plan, together with Workforce Development. There are opportunities here but they’re shrinking and if you do not have the exposure to it or background experience you’re not going to receive consideration for the job.

The Sandys South pointed to a reluctance of some young people to consider the hotel industry, after having seen their parents exploited by the industry.
“What I’m experiencing with the young people is a loss of hope and some of the loss of hope come from, ‘My mother working in that field for 50 years breaking her back doing two jobs and never got anywhere. Why should I do that?’

And so when they come to be and ask the question it’s hard to make the conversation and justify venturing into that arena, because they’ve seen the downside, while they have not seen the rewards of being a part of that process.”
Scott Simmons explained there to be a need for the party to refocus and take care of the Island’s seniors, while provided greater financial for those entering or experiencing their twilight years.

“If we as a government don’t make working worth living we’re going to continue to see people leaving,” he said. “As far as constituents are concerned and what they are interested in and are making sure that we do is that we provide more income, that we provide more to the bottom line, so that they don’t have to make decisions between food and medication.

“It’s a tough thing for our government to have to look out for and find the financial need for our seniors , but what we have to do is increase the bottom line. That is give the opportunity for them to earn more, so that they can buy more and we have to make sure that the pool is larger and that we are creating opportunities for everyone.

“And if we create this opportunities for our young people and there’s individuals who are in the work for you that create the opportunities for government to pay out a whole lot more.
“We need to refocus, yes. We need to do a lot more for our seniors more so than we already do.

“Do we think that the strain on our seniors is greater, yes, because it is. So we have to increase the ability for them to have the medications and not have to make those type of decisions.
“I think that we can do it and find ways that means. We find money for other things and as we tie in to what we have been speaking about for a long time. If the government are to do their share of heavy lifting through their voters and representation and taxation dollars, we have to make sure that our private partners are doing their share of heavy lifting as well and assisting us in producing a prospering Bermuda and that prosperity must reach everyone.

“And I made this clear for a long time along with Jamahl and many of us .
“We have to make sure that we hold our private companies to account over and above that which they are paying for rent, salaries and all the other things that they are doing in our community. that are valuable and they should be lauded for.

“I also think that we can work with them to help us improve the lot of our seniors.”

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