♦ The following statement was released by OBA MP Michael Dunkley on Sunday, November 18, 2018, in Response to the Throne Speech
The first Throne Speech of this PLP Government which was delivered in September of 2017 made many promises and, while many items have been addressed, much remains to be done in spite of one Minister at the time, who was fired or resigned and recently returned to Cabinet, said, and I quote: “Everything in this Throne Speech will be completed in the year.”
Yes, this was an exact quote and it has proven to be false.
The Minister is known for bold and unsubstantiated statements that have proven to be false however, the boldest statement of the last Throne Speech was this… “The Government’s plans will grow the economy.”
In 14 months we have seen few signs that the economy has grown, in fact, crucial economic indicators, such as retail sales, show the reverse is taking place…the economy is shrinking.
Jobs for Bermudians are scarce but one thing that has grown is the size of the Cabinet and associated expense to the taxpayer.
The Premier does not wish to talk about this but many Bermudians find it incredulous that there are two ministers drawing a nice paycheck of $150,000.00 per year with little ministerial responsibilities and few staff, if any, to help them do whatever they might have to do.
Some would be green with envy! Many question the justification. While the PLP will attempt to spin that progress is being made, the man in the street, the people who elected the PLP, certainly do not see the progress or feel better about where they are this year as compared to summer of 2017. Yet the Premier, for whatever reasons, feels it
appropriate to have a Minister without Portfolio and a Minister in the Cabinet Office to support a Premier who is no longer the Minister of Finance.
As the Throne Speech has been delivered it is wise that we look at what has not been done from last year, as the Government is keen to tout progress, it is important also to note what was promised but not delivered; so here is my list:
There has been no financial assistance reform, which the government call “a displaced item”
No update of pension legislation. Another displaced item
No word on the commitment or an update regarding the Washington DC office however, talk about interns at Bermuda offices overseas in 3 locations!
No progress on a commitment for a Bda Event Authority, a displaced item from last year. Yet the PLP continually bash the event that highlighted the success of an event Authority conceived by the OBA
There has been little public update on much needed immigration reform but a Minister has been removed and in this Throne Speech we read a call for “mature debate on reforming and progressing immigration…” let’s hope it is not like when the PLP had protestors close down the first meeting on immigration reform at the Anglican Cathedral Hall! However, the Government talks about a “streamlined immigration reform for those that are good corporate citizens”…well what does this say about efficiency and best practice?
Where is the Police Authority? A displaced item
Where are amendments to the Police Complaints Authority?
There has been no progress on health care costs, in fact health costs have risen under the PLP and we have seen a $1.2 million payout to a private health firm owned by a former PLP Leader and Premier
Where is the Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians? We still have at least one member who has not filed in the Register of Members Interest
-Where are the 3 Oversight Committees of Parliament?
Where is the Green Paper on the future of transport in Bermuda?
Where is mandatory recycling ? In this Throne Speech there is a charge on single plastics in 2020 but why wait for change? How about starting in April 2019 with a charge on certain plastics and all take out food packaging? How about putting in place a mandatory recycling system that is run by a private company with a tender put out to bid?
I could go on as there are many commitments that remain outstanding and likewise there is much to be done to deal with the many challenges Bermuda faces.
However, I have clearly highlighted that the Burt Government has failed on many promises from Throne Speech 2017 and have delivered Throne Speech 2018 or Throne Speech Lite as dubbed by the Leader of the Opposition, that is two pages shorter and written in larger print.
While it appears evident that the economy has turned in the wrong direction under the guidance of the PLP, it is also clear that education still has big challenges and both principles and teachers are not happy; health care costs have risen under the PLP and we know of the aforementioned $1.2m payout without accountability and transparency; the struggle of seniors is increasing; putting Bermudians first has not equated to job opportunities for anyone other than a select few in Cabinet; public transportation issues have deepened under the PLP; once a week trash collection seems to have bread a public health hazard with rats running all over the island.
Not a pretty picture and not a good record for the PLP Government.
Still painting the picture, it seems that the only capital projects supporting the island started under the OBA Government and at the time the PLP went to great lengths to impede progress or even stop the project. The PLP touts 322 more people working however it appears the only jobs created have been as a direct result of the OBA leadership at the St. Regis project and at the airport redevelopment.
Mr and Mrs Bermuda should not be fooled again by PLP rhetoric; the “big bad OBA” was in fact making our island home a better place and all the issues some people blamed the OBA for are in fact still on the table and in most cases in worse shape. I repeat, the “big bad OBA” as falsely appointed by the PLP, made great progress under difficult conditions and many manufactured Opposition headwinds.
But, the PLP did pass a Sugar Tax. A regressive tax, poorly thought out, badly targeted and leaving out many sugar filled foods, lacking real consultation, that will harm business and jobs, especially small black Bermudian businesses while not having the intended consequences of reduced obesity and a healthier population. I guess they wish to take credit for a platform item delivered!
Meanwhile, the fridge in the House of Assembly kitchen is still full of soda!
Perhaps you will recall the PLP in Opposition talked continuously about emigration; people leaving Bermuda.
Now there is little comment from the PLP on this matter, but emigration appears to show more people leaving the island than ever; because they can, because there is a lack of opportunity here and because there is a lack of confidence in the future by many Bermudians.
Recently I was approached by a young teenage Bermudian lady looking for a job and she wanted to work to earn and to get off the island as she did not see a future at this point for herself here and the environment was to toxic.
I believe this view is shared by many young people, it is shared by more and more seniors whofind it hard to survive on the island and it is a sentiment that is growing in our community and one that will not help Bermuda going forward.
Over the last year many wonder if the PLP have forgotten about putting Bermudians first.
This PLP Government is becoming known for higher taxes and more regulation which is not conducive to fostering confidence or an environment for opportunity, growth and jobs.
So, in conclusion, here are some suggestions for the Government:
stop sowing division; all people are important and count
create an Education Authority similar to the successful Bermuda Tourism Authority. Let’s take politics out of education and put accountability back into education. Let’s have qualified professionals run education and hold them accountable. Our current setup is top heavy and ineffective. It is not the system we teach, it is the structure of organization we have in place
Make financial assistance reform happen. One change could be that if a recipient of FA can find a job, even a part time job, empowering them to take the job but only lose a corresponding part of their monthly FA payment
If we are serious about our environment we should quickly draft a plan for mandatory recycling run by a private company with a bid seeking tenders. The taxpayer paid for a recycling facility a few years ago and we have gone backwards
We must continue to build and revamp the tourism infrastructure. The OBA had success and it must continue as we need more beds, more quality product, more great experiences and to create more opportunity and jobs for Bermudians. Building on the tourism success started under the OBA does not consist of more Government control of the BTA
We must move gaming forward, to date under the PLP there has been no visible progress . Heck there has been no executive officer for over a year and gaming regulations have just been laid
We must make amendments to Rent Control and look at the housing market as with the introduction of Airbnb, which I support, we have a lack of rentals for Bermudians and the rental costs have increased greatly meaning Bermudians are being seriously challenged
We must actually have immigration reform including for those who have been in Bermuda for years, who are part of our community and have raised families here. We must also look togrow our population in an appropriate way as, now with Bermudians leaving and the birth ratelower, our population will slowly continue to fall. This is unsustainable in many areas and must change. We must have more people contributing to our economy which in turn allows opportunity. Opportunity for Bermudians! Time is not on our side and in the world of 2018 and beyond people can travel and live anywhere. Bitcoin is not a third pillar and we better be sure we prop up and always pay attention to our first pillar, International Business, and our second pillar, Tourism, or we will magnify our problems
We must be serious about government reform. The SAGE Commision and the COI submission into the Auditor Generals report have provided a clear blueprint of many potential changes. Under this Government reform appears to have been put on the back shelf when there is much work to be done. While we are blessed with many very capable and hard working civil servants, it is clear our current system can be improved and it was a high priority of the OBA Government. An effective government system is not possible without 21st century reform
The PLP Government should discontinue costly court action fighting same sex marriage and human rights. In my humble opinion the government has no chance of winning and is wasting taxpayer dollars while the world changes
Finally, this might seem like a small point to some but it is not…we must always be welcoming as the world watches. International Business can go anywhere and could do so silently
Vacationers can spend their money anywhere. We as a Bermudians have always been known as warm and friendly people; now more than ever it is time to make sure we show that in everything we do.
Hon Michael H. Dunkley JP, MP
Former Premier of Bermuda and MP for Smith’s North