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Economy of Bermuda

From Academic Kids

Economy - overview: Bermuda enjoys one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, having successfully exploited its location by providing financial services for international firms and luxury tourist facilities for 360,000 visitors annually. The tourist industry, which accounts for an estimated 28% of GDP, attracts 84% of its business from North America. The industrial sector is small, and agriculture is severely limited by a lack of suitable land. About 80% of food needs are imported. International business contributes over 60% of Bermuda's economic output; a failed independence vote in late 1995 can be partially attributed to Bermudian fears of scaring away foreign firms. Government economic priorities are the further strengthening of the tourist and international financial sectors.

Bermuda has enjoyed steady economic prosperity since the end of World War II, although the island experienced a mild recession in 2001-02, paralleling the recession in the United States. Its economy is based primarily upon international business (especially re-insurance, for which it is now a world center) and tourism, with those two sectors accounting for more than 70% of the total balance of payments current account receipts of foreign exchange. However, the role of international business in the economy is expanding, whereas that of tourism is contracting.

Bermuda is considered an offshore financial center, and it has a well-deserved reputation for the integrity of its financial regulatory system. A recent KPMG report entitled "Review of Financial Regulation in the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda" states that the island's legislative framework is almost fully compliant with international standards, giving evidence of Bermuda's commitment to the prevention of money laundering and other financial crimes.

Aiming to meet or exceed international financial standards, the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) has taken a clear decision to be fairly transparent about its duties and responsibilities. For example, in response to the KPMG October 2000 report on the UK's Caribbean overseas territories, Bermuda enacted the Trust (Regulation of Trust Business) Act 2001. The legislation provides for the transfer of the finance minister's responsibilities to the independent BMA, with respect to granting and revoking trust company licenses. It also requires all individuals or companies operating trust companies to have a license unless they are exempt. Previously, only trust companies needed a license. Additionally, the legislation gives the BMA more comprehensive intervention powers. It will be able to request more detailed documentation and, in the event of a problem, restrict a trust operator's license. Information will be kept confidential, except in the event of a criminal investigation.

Comprehensive new legislation will be introduced in the upcoming parliamentary session to further streamline the incorporation process, facilitate registration of foreign names and address conflicts in law for registered securities, again consistent with the KPMG report. Amendments are being proposed to the BMA (Collective Investment Scheme Classification) Regulations 1998, part of a strategic plan for the development of financial services in Bermuda. It is a mark of Bermuda's commitment that each financial sector is seen to be in line with international standards.

The effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States have had both positive and negative ramifications for Bermuda. On the positive side, a number of new re-insurance companies have located on the island, contributing to an already robust international business sector. On the negative side, Bermuda's already weakening tourism industry has been hard hit as American tourists have chosen not to travel.

There are more than 12,500 foreign companies in Bermuda, many U.S.-owned. They are an important source of foreign exchange for the island. International companies spent $967 million in Bermuda in 2000. Total income, including secondary effects, was $1,292 million.

The growing importance of international business is reflected in its increased share of GDP, which grew from 12.6% in 1996 to 13.8% in 2000. In 2000, international companies directly employed 3,224 Bermudians and non-Bermudians. International companies directly and indirectly support 9,450 jobs in Bermuda and strongly influence a further 4,670.

There are many large international companies, which are based in Bermuda. Prominent examples include Tyco International Ltd., Bacardi Ltd., Accenture Ltd., ACE Ltd., Intelsat Ltd., XL Capital Ltd., Bunge Ltd., Jardine Matheson Holdings Ltd., Global Crossing Ltd., Foster Wheeler Ltd. and Ingersoll-Rand Company Ltd.

Tourism is Bermuda's second most important industry. That it is an industry in trouble is evident from the statistical comparison. In 1996, Bermuda welcomed 571,700 visitors to the island. By 2000, that figure has dropped to 538,059 visitors, and further decreased to 454,444 visitors in 2001. Bed nights sold declined from over 2.4 million in 1995 to 1.9 million in 2001. Visitors contributed an estimated $475 million to the economy in 1996, but that figure declined to $431 million in 2000. Direct employment in the tourism industry (5,700 jobs in 2000) and related industry is dropping in tandem with declining visitor numbers.

Total filled jobs in 2000 were 38,017, but preliminary estimates for 2001 reveal a 1.1% decline in employment. Nevertheless, unemployment remains in the 4% range, and many Bermudians hold more than one job. In 2000, about 25% of workers were union members. There are three primary unions in Bermuda: the blue-collar Bermuda Industrial Union, Bermuda's largest labor organization; the professional Bermuda Public Services Union, with a steadily increasing membership; and the Bermuda Union of Teachers.

Organized labor enjoys a high profile in Bermuda. Union action, however, was moderate in recent years. The average days lost per worker involved have dropped from a high of 65 in 1991 to a low of 0.8 in 1999. Although still active, unions have tempered their demands, partly as a result of new labor legislation and partly in recognition that Bermuda's economy, in line with that of the United States, entered a recessionary phase in 2001. The island's tourism industry, in which many Bermudians have historically been employed, continues to experience tough times, made even worse by 11 September. Past industrial action in the tourism sector hurt that industry, which was already suffering a chronic downturn without the additional blow of tourist displeasure and displacement due to work stoppages.

Bermuda has little in the way of exports or manufacturing, and almost all manufactured goods and foodstuffs must be imported. The value of imports continues to rise, up from $551 million in 1994 to $712 million in 1999. The U.S. is Bermuda's primary trading partner; from a value of $400 million in 1994, U.S. imports expanded to $533 million in 2000. The United Kingdom, Canada, and the Caribbean countries (mainly the Netherlands Antilles) also are important trading partners. Exports from Bermuda, including imports into the small free port, which are subsequently re-exported, increased from $35 million in 1993 to almost $51 million in 1999.

Duty on imports is a major source of revenue for the Government of Bermuda. In fiscal year 1998-99, the government obtained slightly more than $166 million, or about 30% of its revenue base from imports. Heavy importation duties are reflected in retail prices. Even though import duties are high, wages have kept up with the cost of living, and poverty—by U.S. standards—appears to be practically nonexistent. Although Bermuda imposes no income, sales, or profit taxes, it does levy a real estate tax.

Bermuda is home to immigrants from other countries. Although the census information for 2000 is not yet available, 1991 census data reveal that UK immigrants constituted 30.6% of the immigrant population; U.S., 19.9%; Canada, 10.5%; and Portugal and the Azores, 13.5%. Of the total 1991 population, about 73% were born in Bermuda and 27% were foreign-born.

In February 1970, Bermuda converted from its former currency, the pound, to a decimal currency of dollars pegged to the U.S. dollar.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $2 billion (1999 est.) <p>GDP - real growth rate: 2.5% (1999 est.) <p>GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $31,500 (1999 est.) <p>GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 10%
services: 89% (1995 est.) <p>Population below poverty line: NA% <p>Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA% <p>Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2% (1998 est.) <p>Labor force: 35,296 (1997) <p>Labor force - by occupation: clerical 23%, services 22%, laborers 17%, professional and technical 17%, administrative and managerial 12%, sales 7%, agriculture and fishing 2% (1996) <p>Unemployment rate: NEGL% (1995) <p>Budget:
revenues: $504.6 million
expenditures: $537 million, including capital expenditures of $75 million (FY97/98) <p>Industries: tourism, finance, insurance, structural concrete products, paints, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, ship repairing <p>Industrial production growth rate: NA% <p>Electricity - production: 420 GWh (1998) <p>Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (1998) <p>Electricity - consumption: 391 GWh (1998) <p>Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (1998) <p>Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (1998) <p>Agriculture - products: bananas, vegetables, citrus, flowers; dairy products <p>Exports: $32 million (1998 est.) <p>Exports - commodities: reexports of pharmaceuticals <p>Exports - partners: UK 29.5%, US 9.8% (1997) <p>Imports: $624 million (1998 est.) <p>Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, construction materials, chemicals, food and live animals <p>Imports - partners: US 34%, UK 9%, Mexico 8% (1997) <p>Debt - external: $NA <p>Economic aid - recipient: $27.9 million (1995) <p>Currency: 1 Bermudian dollar (Bd$) = 100 cents <p>Exchange rates: Bermudian dollar (Bd$) per US$1 - 1.0000 (fixed rate) <p>Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March

Reference

Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

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