The following Op-Ed was released on Thursday, March 24, 2022, by Opposition Senator Dr Douglas SJ De Couto…  

As I sit here in the Senate, I am listening to the Government Senator read every word and number in the National Security brief word for word. I am sure the Senator will run out the clock, leaving little to no time for my colleague Senator Ben Smith to ask questions and challenge the Government plans.  

Yesterday, during a two-hour session on the Ministry of Finance, the Government Senator only left a few short minutes for me to ask questions on the brief. As you can imagine, I was barely even able to ask a handful of questions, none of which were answered, on what you might consider to be the most important ministry for this Budget Debate.  

This morning (Weds), in our two-hour session on the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, the Government Senator left a mere seven minutes for us ask questions and seek answers. To make matters worse, there were three senior civil servants who attended to support the Minister, whose time was completely wasted.  

The purpose of this Debate is to shed light on the Government’s plans and how it plans to spend the People’s money, by asking questions and seeking clarification on the various budget items. It is a way of providing transparency and accountability of the Government to the People. These debates should be a vital part of Bermuda’s democracy and checks and balances.  

Indeed, we often hear from the People and the Government, “Why don’t you work together?”  

Along with my OBA Senate colleagues, I am here to work. We are waiting for the Government Senators to work with us.  

But it seems the PLP Government has chosen to disregard its accountability to the people, and disrespect them by hiding behind these briefs.  

It is clear the Premier and his Cabinet have so little confidence in their budget that they are not willing to open themselves up to questions and challenges.  

A confident and secure leader would welcome challenge and debate, as they know it would create better outcomes for our Island. And, it would give them an opportunity to highlight their mastery of and supporting detail behind their plans.  

That’s the kind of leader we need now in Bermuda. I hope that the PLP Government can find such a person in their ranks.  

To add further disrespect to the people, Senator Owen Darrell made a point of frequently referring to “people who look like me” in his remarks. Like many on this Island, I hope that we can have a leadership and Government that represent us all, regardless of race, creed, and background. It’s clear that Senator Darrell is not up to that task.  

Here a few of my questions regarding the Ministry of Finance, of course there were many other detailed items that were unable to be addressed.  

  • Regarding Fuel taxes, and the recent announcement of the Premier’s intervention in fuel prices at the pump, has the Government considered reducing the relevant taxes, which would allow the cost reduction to remain over time for people?  
  • The Budget shows decreased revenue from Exempt Company taxes and Corporate and Insurance Services taxes. Does this indicate a projected decrease in International Business activity in Bermuda in the next year?  
  • Are there any plans to make this critical budget book information available in a modern digital format suitable for financial analysis such as Excel?  
  • What controls and procedures will be put in place to reduce mistakes such as the overpayment on Unemployment Benefits, and what are the plans to recover that money?  
  • What processes and procedures will be put into place so that we do not miss critical deadlines that cause problems with global tax authorities such as the OECD and EU?  
  • Regarding the Guarantee Management unit, and their evaluation and analysis of Government Guarantees, how did they account for Gencom’s failure pay staff redundancies, when considering a possible guarantee for Gencom for the Southampton property.