“The position is this: it was not in our platform, we have not discussed it,” Simmons said.
Simmons, whose party regained power from the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) in a landslide general election victory seven weeks ago, was speaking after a question on the subject was asked by Grainne Richmond, moderator for the opening panel of the 13th Bermuda Captive Conference on Monday.
Bermuda is the preferred jurisdiction for the world’s captive insurance industry.
Delegates at the conference were told that it has taken hard work, a collaborative approach and a history of innovation to attain and maintain the ingredients of that success.
But being at the top of the pile today is no guarantee that the island will remain there in the future. And with increasing global regulation and compliance thresholds to meet, the island must guard against complacency and stay focused to maintain its position, delegates were told.
Referring to speculation over independence, Simmons said “I was asked this question earlier this month, and I had to be reminded that as a minister you can’t have a personal opinion any more — you have a government position.
“The mandate that we operate under, and I’ve mentioned it to several stakeholders, is no surprises. Business does not like surprises, and as much as possible we want to have collaborative dialogue together going forward and not learn about government policy on the front page of the (Royal) Gazette.”
The issue was front page news a week ago after Jason Hayward, a government senator and president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said independence should be viewed as a viable option.
But as he outlined the government’s position before delegates at the multi-day captive insurance conference, Simmons said “it is critical to us that we project stability and that we work with each other.”
He added that if independence ever became a necessity, it was “something that we would have to work on together”.
In a 1995 referendum on the issue called by Sir John Swan, then premier of the now defunct United Bermuda Party, almost three-quarters of voters rejected cutting ties with Britain.
Opinion polls on the subject in the intervening 22 years have shown Bermudians still have little appetite for independence.
The captive insurance industry contributes US$174 million annually to Bermuda’s economy, according to new research.
The study, conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Bermuda Insurance Management Association, indicates the importance of the sector. The sector directly employs at least 557 people in Bermuda, the study showed.
The island has a national debt of $2.4 billion, one billion dollars more than when the OBA took office in 2012.
- Countries: Bermuda