September 2005 Archives

I seem to be coming down with the flu or something that feels like Alex Scott drove GP1 into me.

So posting will be light, but be sure to catch the Mid Ocean News today where they have a bumper crop of articles, of particualar interest is the Premier's stray email to Tony Brennan saying he's tired of taking "crap from people who look and sound like Tony Brennan."

So now we've got the Truth, don't hold you breath for the Reconcilliation bit.

| More

Here's the unedited text of yesterday's press statement from the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) and the Association of Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), in response to the release of the BIC report.

Their 3 submissions - only one of which made it into the report (ABIC's and the 2nd ABIR document clearly laying out historical precedent for referendum were excluded) - are linked at the end:

ABIC and ABIR Reiterate Position Statements on Independence

"Hamilton, Bermuda. September 28, 2005

"In light of the recently released Bermuda Independence Commission ("BIC") report, the Association of Bermuda International Companies ("ABIC") and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers ("ABIR") today reiterated their concerns surrounding the issue of independence. ABIC and ABIR stressed that the concerns outlined in their written submissions on the topic remain unchanged, adding that some of the statements contained in the BIC report and the media do not fully reflect the positions of these organizations. ABIC and ABIR´s written submissions dated October 22, 2004 (ABIC), June 18, 2004 (ABIR), and February 7, 2005 (ABIR) are attached to this press release.

"ABIC and ABIR stated that they view Bermuda as one of the preferred jurisdictions in the world in which to do business. They commented that Bermuda’s attractiveness is based on a number of important features, including the Island’s historically stable social and political structure; its participation in the United Kingdom’s legal system, framework, customs and traditions with which international business partners are comfortable; and the total mix of economic costs and benefits of doing business on the Island.

"ABIC and ABIR stated that the current debate regarding dramatic and irrevocable changes to these critical features of Bermuda’s political, legal, social and business environment raises important issues for the international business community.

"ABIC and ABIR’s primary concerns, as summarized in their written submissions, include:

"• To ensure a stable and democratic outcome, ABIC and ABIR strongly support the use of a referendum on the question of independence. Their written submissions include information regarding the long history of referendum use to determine questions of sovereignty. They would also support an accelerated timetable for such a referendum in order to end the uncertainty associated with this discussion.
"• Any alteration in the Bermuda market’s relationship with the commercial law, legal apparatus, appellate process and continued common law development of the United Kingdom legal system, with which international business partners are comfortable – and/or the risk of intersection with other judiciary systems less central to the international financial services sector – could impair Bermuda’s international business.
"• The materially increased costs of independence will result in higher taxation and other costs for companies, employees, and business partners, at a time when other dynamics already threaten the cost competitiveness of doing business in Bermuda.
"• Concern over the issues of nationalities and passports, and the prospect of Bermudians losing UK citizenship and the right to live and work in the EU, where many of our members have overseas operations.
"• Concern over the prospect of significant and potentially adverse changes, via newly defined and uncertain processes, to the regulatory regime in which we currently operate, and which has served Bermuda well.
"• Concern that membership in CARICOM would be negative for Bermuda and the Bermuda business community. Joining CARICOM would be costly, and none of the resulting economic ties would materially benefit Bermuda’s international business sector, for which the US and Europe are the largest markets.
"• Concern on sustaining the real value of the Bermuda dollar.
"• ABIC and ABIR’s written submissions point out that the decision to go independent is irrevocable.

"ABIC and ABIR clarified that this press release and the written submissions referred to above are the only materials which should be attributed to these organizations, until such written materials are updated or supplemented by them. Additional copies of these submissions are available, free of charge, as follows:

"With respect to the ABIC submission:
ABIC
P. O. Box HM 655
Hamilton HM CX
Telephone (441) 295-8932
Fax (441) 292-5779

"With respect to the ABIR submissions:
ABIR
XL House
One Bermudiana Road
Hamilton HM11
Telephone: (441) 294 7221
Fax: (441) 296 4207

"Attachments:
ABIC´s Submission
ABIR´s Submission 1
ABIR´s Submission 2"

| More

Well, the good news is that a few more sections of the Berkeley site have been completed and handed over to the Department of Education. We'll forgive the Minister for saying 'on schedule'...it just depends on which schedule you're referring to.

And the bad news?

The footage which was used on the news programs last night was apparently Government footage - the media were not allowed on site.

Why not? What weren't they supposed to see?

| More

Hmmm. Seems the transcripts of the PLP's meeting have just reappeared on BIC's website. For how long remains to be seen.

| More

Well, it seems that the UBP has some company in the omission of their written submission to the Bermuda Independence Commission.

I've spent some time over the weekend looking into a tip I received that the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) written submission to the BIC was excluded from the final report, and I can't find any sight of it.

There are traces though, with references in the report to ABIC as well as the listing in Section 5 of the BIC report to their oral submission. The exclusion of the UBP's written submission has been well documented, but ABIC's appears to have received like treatment.

ABIC's Oral Submission is included as Annex #28, but the official written submission is nowhere to be found. But there is confirmation on BIC's website that ABIC did indeed deliver a written document in the 'Highlights of Oral Submissions' where ABIC representative Gavin Arton refers to it:

Gavin Arton

* Member of ABIC Executive.
* Asks whether Commission has received written submission from ABIC.
* There should not be a rush to decision on Independence. Commission should be aware of the law of unintended consequences. For example, international industry in Bermuda is in a fragile state and is the largest contributor to economy. Cites the recent AIG problem.
* Concerned as to the importance of passports and US pre-clearance.

Remember, ABIC's position was pretty clearly annunciated in a letter which was obtained by the press, and in this position paper. The conclusion? "Almost no positives" was the headline which caused quite a stir in the community on the eve of BIC's appointment. So it's little wonder that BIC played it down and played up other comments.

But that's not all. In addition to the omission of the UBP and ABIC's submissions, is the ever-changing content of BIC's website.

Last week the UBP's submission suddenly appeared in the submission listing (if you look at the date stamping on the PDF, it was created on Sept. 21 at 9:43AM by Qian Dickinson and presumably posted sometime later that day), after the controversy of it's omission hit the news.

And now, it seems that the detailed virtually verbatim transcripts of the BIC's sessions with all sorts of organisations have disappeared from the website. The past several weeks have seen lengthy press coverage of the PLP's position and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) after transcripts of their meetings emerged online.

But with today's Gazette reporting an unmoving 66% opposition to indepencence, it seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

| More

Nicolette Reiss' column in Mid Ocean today joins the chorus panning the BIC as 'fertilizer', and rightly so.

But what caught my attention were the comments at the end, that I was directed to this morning by a friend regarding Ms. Reiss' telephone encounter with BIC Commissioner Rolfe Commissiong.

Today's Mid Ocean is not yet online, but Ms. Reiss recounted how Mr. Commissiong called her in response to a column she wrote, and proceeded to scream at her down the phone that Bermuda would be taken to Independence, and via a general election.

Oh, and this was after he had been appointed to the Bermuda Independence Commission.

If anyone had any lingering questions about whether the fix was in, I trust they are now answered.

| More

OK, better late than never, but here's my take on Sir John Swan's recent comments to Rotary.

Let's face it, love him or hate him, when Sir John Swan speaks Bermudians (and others) listen. And speak he did.

Sir John's speech recently to Hamilton Rotarians was certainly fiesty, albeit clumsily in its delivery at times. But we'll forgive him for the lack of polish, he's been out of the speech giving game for awhile.

Much of what was said has been covered before in a variety of forums, but when our highest profile and long-serving former Premier with everlasting clout (regardles of his acrimonious final chapter with the public) chimes in after a period of self-confessed restraint, people sit up and pay attention.

No doubt the usual lineup of Sir John's supporters and critics will chime in with the usual comments, ascribing all sorts of motives, some probably correct others probably not, but what will be interesting is to see the knock on effect of this.

At its core, setting aside the well-known examples of Government ineptitude and scandal which he cited, Sir John's speech was a challenge.

It was a challenge to the PLP to clean up their act, to the public to start holding their politicians feet to the fire, to the media to not be intimidated and to the community groups and the business community to speak out.

This could be an opening of flood gates to a less restrained more vocal public in holding politicians accountable for their actions. There have been a steadily rising chorus calling for everyone to stop sitting back while the affairs of the island are so badly managed and unpopular initiatives are rammed down our throats.

So from the perspective of criticising the PLP Government, I'd say the effect could be a freeing up of community restraint/deference to think the best about the Government less than any real insights.

The other quite stinging criticism Sir John made was against the UBP, on the thing that the party just can't seem to shake, which is the racial albatross.

Sir John has taken some whacks at the UBP along these lines in the past, and I posted my impressions back then (follow this link and go the bottom and work your way up from Dec. 29th to early January posts). His comments really haven't changed much this time. They were just more cutting.

So do I agree? Not really.

A little background: my time in the UBP began after the 1998 election loss. I don't have any insights into what went on before then. My experience since '98 is that any suggestion that black members perspectives/interests are dominated by whites is just off base.

To start with, the majority of the UBP MPs eligible to elect the party leader (only MPs have a vote) are black. There are 6 white MPs out of 14. What white leadership is in place could be blocked by the black majority. In fact, I attended a meeting for the first time in awhile recently (too many kids at home!) and I was one of 3 whites in a room of about 20 MPs and candidates.

It's really a catch 22 situation. The UBP gets criticised for having a white leader but is attacked if race is used as a consideration in candidate/leadership selection.

At the end of the day you've just got to make the choice and let the chips fall where they may. The criticism is coming regardless: either there's a white leader or a black leader for window dressing. The party can't win on that, so you just got to accept it and move on.

But, numbers aren't everything. Do a minority of whites hold undue sway or force their agenda through by other means? I just haven't seen it, nor have I seen Sir John around.

That's not to say he isn't in contact, but he's certainly not around in any meaningful way. That's not a criticism, I just wonder who he's talking to and where he reaches that conclusion from?

If the UBP were a party trying to advance a white agenda - whatever that might be - or using blacks to advance white interests, I wouldn't want any part of it.

To me, the UBP's 'struggle' with race is not a negative it's a plus.

Why? People from different racial backgrounds bring different experiences with them, and an inevitable and healthy tension arises when those are all thrown into the mix. That's a good thing. It creates some anger and resentment, it creates some public disputes, but they're the same issues that need resolving throughout the community.

The internal discussions that the UBP has around race have been the most eye-opening I've ever participated in or observed. The main reason (I think) is that everyone gets along and understands that the discussions, which get very heated, are a genuine attempt to develop understanding and share experiences.

But it's not easy. It can be uncomfortable. Participating can be intimidating, but as long as the motives are in the right place then the conflict is productive.

Having a caucus of one race isn't going to produce nearly the quality of discussion and depth of experiences that one with a diverse membership of races, genders, ages, professional backgrounds will.

The UBP's got that, it's not perfect but they've got it. The PLP don't, and don't want it.

My hope is that the community would have as honest and open a discussion about race as the UBP does internally, usually when you least expect it.

I also wish that the UBP wouldn't be so worried about having and leading that discussion externally. It's healthy, because everyone is trying to reach a mutual understanding and respect.

Does it mean that unanimous agreement will be reached? Absolutely not. Does it mean the political opportunists aren't going to take the easy and predictable cheap shots? Yep.

But we can all learn from each other. And that's worth it.

| More

RG Opinion 22 Sept. 2005

The Bamboozle, Indoctrinate and Condition Report, I mean the Bermuda Independence Commission Report, is in, all 600 pages of it. And what’s the conclusion? Let me summarize: “We misled you because we had to.”

The unwelcome six month intrusion by “not only a commission on independence, but also an independent commission” produced a report whose contents stood-up to a month of Cabinet scrutiny but seconds in the public arena; being swiftly discredited as a lightweight rehashing of decades old reports littered with outright misrepresentations, omissions, distortions, falsehoods and overly rosy projections.

Just what the Premier ordered. A job well done, The Man hoping to be King declared at last week’s press conference, with the delivery of a used-car salesman.

The document that the BIC’s Chairman characterized as “a light to the future” is about as illuminating as the BELCO fire. This one however fizzled out in minutes, a monumentally desperate attempt to further the narrow agenda, oversized egos and powerbase of an out of touch Cabinet.

The BIC vastly overplayed its hand by producing a report consumed with overwhelming bias. Confusing Bermuda Onions with Mushrooms was a rookie mistake; onions don’t appreciate being kept in the dark and fed … well this is a family paper, so let’s just say ‘manure’.

If any independent commissioners existed at the beginning of this exercise, they clearly acquired Stockholm Syndrome along the way.

With so little substance but so many problems, the toughest decision is what to debunk first. A good starting point is the most obvious and egregious error, one so untrue it could have only been intentional.

The BIC Report opens with a disingenuous bombshell, claiming that the “Commission learned that, in many cases, the decision on independence was determined by means of a general election and, in no instance, did the Commission discover the use of a referendum.”

This statement is so blatantly dishonest it is hardly worthy of correction. Compound that by the fact that the “general election versus referendum” debate was explicitly outside of the Commission’s remit and everything in the report becomes suspect.

But a correction is nonetheless in order. How’s about Bermuda, East Timor, Quebec and Jamaica in addition to many, many more? That the PLP urged a boycott of Bermuda’s 1995 referendum doesn’t mean it didn’t occur.

Bermudians didn’t want independence then, and we don’t want it now. Demonstrating a modicum of respect for the electorate’s intelligence would have been advisable before attempting to rewrite history.

But it gets worse; the UBP even did the BIC’s homework on this issue, by citing numerous examples of jurisdictions which decided the issue of sovereignty through referenda. Not to be swayed with facts, the BIC nonetheless claimed that they didn’t ‘discover the use of a referendum’ anywhere, while neglecting to include the UBP’s submission in the final report or on their website.

Did I say “we misled you because we had to”?

Off again on another tangent, the BIC proudly claimed that “after two decades of decline, the tourism sector appears to have stabilized and may even be improving.” The Prime Misleader of Tourism would be proud.

Except that statement didn’t hold up either; being swiftly debunked by a BIC Commissioner himself in a Mid Ocean News article of Friday 19th of September 2005, only one day after the BIC report was released. In the interview, President of the Bermuda Hotel Association – and prominent BIC Commissioner Mike Winfield – lamented the declining hotel occupancy rates over last year, noting that August’s occupancy rate plunged to 70% from a “not acceptable” 79% in 2004.

You couldn’t make this stuff up could you? But what are a few factual errors among friends?

How’s about those misrepresentations and rosy outlooks you ask? Well, try this zinger on for size, the misrepresentation of one of the biggest points of concern: the inevitable withdrawal of British citizenship?

The UK’s position is abundantly clear; citizenship would be withdrawn for those without familial connections. But don’t believe me, here’s what the UK said in their submission, and the Governor recently affirmed:

“In the past, the usual practice was to withdraw British nationality from the majority of those acquiring citizenship of the new state on independence but to provide for its retention where the person concerned had a residual connection - for example through a parent or grandparent – with the UK or a place that continued to be what nowadays would be referred to as a British overseas territory. We would not expect to take a different approach in Bermuda’s case.”

“We would not expect to take a different approach in Bermuda’s case.” Seems unambiguous enough doesn’t it? Not to the BIC, who contend that this could be negotiated at a constitutional conference. Have they no shame?

And then there’s section 3.8, where the Commission analyzed their data in two hopelessly pro-independence sub-sections entitled “Myths & Misconceptions” and “The Benefits”.

Where was the section on the ‘Cons’ you ask, as any objective analysis would surely have included? Evidently it was deemed redundant; the whole document is one big con.

The BIC suggests that Bermuda needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission before addressing Independence; an inspired recommendation indeed. A good place to start would be with the BIC report itself.

| More

By the way, the UBP's press release from today's press event on the BIC report can be found here, and their submission - the one the BIC ignored and the Premier denied existed - can be found here.

The only comment I'll make at this point is to say that Wayne Furbert and Jamahl Simmons flanked Grant Gibbons as if they were bodyguards from the Nation of Islam.

Smile guys. You're winning on this issue.

| More

The Bermuda Sun is on to something with their latest web poll (popup blockers will prevent the poll displaying).

Which is more important to you?

:: Independence
:: British Citizenship
:: Tonight's Dinner

Not surprisingly "Tonight's Dinner" is in the lead with 43%. Independence is bringing up the rear at 17%.

The more the merrier.

| More

Well, yesterday at Rotary Sir John Swan removed the safety and mowed down a lot of folks, including the publication of my column in today's Gazette. I'm outraged.

I guess I'll be doubling up with The Limey tomorrow.

Comments on the Rotary Speech coming shortly...

| More

What's wrong with this scenario?

"At 4.30 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Gus Logie was a three-bedroom cottage away from signing a four-year deal to lead Bermuda to 2011 World Cup qualification.

"And following the intervention of Premier Alex Scott and Government, the former West Indies Test star has no more stumbling blocks to keep him from putting pen to paper and taking Island cricket on to further success.

...

"The spiralling cost of housing meant the BCB could not find suitable accommodation for Logie, his wife and three children, and were considering a public appeal to help find either affordable housing or a sponsor to subsidise the rent.

"But the Premier and Government stepped in yesterday, leaving Logie ready to settle here and continue the job for which he has already earned considerable praise."

So let's just get this right (and for the record this has nothing to do with Mr. Logie), but...

The Premier and Cabinet can step in to provide an as yet unknown intervention to secure housing for the island's national cricket coach, but didn't do anything to secure the 200 homes lost when Bermuda Homes for People collapsed.

| More

A quick follow up on something I forgot to mention in my last post but one reader quickly pointed out.

The BIC will probably argue that because the UBP's submission focused heavily on the mechanism to decide independence (ie. general election vs. referendum) that the BIC excluded it on the basis that it would have been outside of their remit.

Except of course that the BIC went beyond their remit themselves, making a point of addressing the mechanism issue in the report, dishonestly of course implying that referendums have not been used.

They can't have it both ways.

| More

Ah, what little credibility the BIC Report had is now officially gone, after the Royal Gazette report today revealing that the UBP's submission was excluded from the final report.

Even more damning, is the fact that the UBP's submission contained numerous examples of places that had decided the issue of independence via a referendum, something the Commission claimed they could find no evidence of. Unless of course they didn't read the UBP's submission.

Whatever the excuse is, it just won't wash. Either they:

- omitted the examples that were provided because they didn't suit the agenda
- didn't read the submission from one of the island's two political parties
- don't know how to do research or
- just didn't care.

I'd suggest it's the first.

I'm not surprised, this was obviously a setup from day one. The writing was on the wall in the selection of commissioners and advisors being overwhelmingly pro-independence.

Peter Woolcock should re-issue his last cartoon of Alex Scott throwing the Bermudians for Referendum petition in the garbage, with Rev. Lambe throwing the UBP's BIC submission away with it.

Four days old and the report has been blown to pieces.

Like the calls for Cabinet resignations over housing, don't hold you breath for it to be withdrawn. The report did exactly what is was supposed to: enter a dishonest presentation of the 'facts' into the record as the official document on independence.

| More

A request for assistance.

Since the BIC report has provided such a rich source of misinformation, distortions and outright fallacies, I figured this would be a great time to make some new entries in the Claim vs Fact section of the site, which has been dormant although I have a few old but new entries to make as well as move it to a proper database (which is 3/4 done).

So, I'm making a request that you email me with anything that is worthy of a claim vs fact correction in the BIC report, or elsewhere for that matter.

The easy ones from the report that are already coming down the pipeline are the claims that:

1) The BIC didn't learn of any locations that used a referendum to determine independence.
2) The claim that tourism has turned around.

A couple of others are to be included including Tourism Minister Ewart Brown's claims that tourism numbers are improved over 2004.

| More

Schizophrenic? You decide.

The Bermuda Independence Commission (BIC) report, which all of the commissioners signed off on, states that:

"...the tourism sector appears to have stabilized and may even be improving."

Yet today in a Mid Oceans News article entitled "Tourism report shows huge decline in room bookings" (not yet online), President of the Bermuda Hotel Association (BHA), and coincidentally a BIC Commissioner, Mike Winfield (who I hear was a major writer of the BIC report) states that:

"August should be one of our strongest months. Seventy-nine per cent last year was not acceptable and 70 percent this year is even less acceptable."

Doesn't sound like either stabilization or improvement to me. Which one is it Mr. Winfield?

| More

How did I miss this? God I'm thick.

Thanks to TH who has just pointed out one glaring example of the decision on independence being taken by referendum (as dismissed by the commission in the following statement):

"The Commission learned that, in many cases, the decision on independence was determined by means of a general election and, in no instance, did the Commission discover the use of a referendum."

Uh, Bermuda perhaps. In 1995 we had our own little referendum where the answer was 'NO'. But that precedent wasn't worthy of mention.

| More

Yawn. Well, I read the BIC report and made some notes on the bits that are interesting, inaccurate, biased etc..

I was underwhelmed by the dressing up of the same old information that's been out there for years, decades in fact. This is the best they could do? The 80 pages amounts to very little in the way of new info, persuasive info, or things that will spark a debate, if it ever gets started.

There's a clear implied endorsement and recommendation for Independence throughout the report, if not an explicit one. Take for example the fact that there are sections devoted to "The Benefits" - pie in the sky stuff- and "exploding" the "Myths and Misconceptions", but nothing about the "Cons", which are buried througout (loss of UK citizenship, increased costs, international business objections etc.).

And the constant attempt to stress their credibility isn't particularly subtle. Clearly the commissioners have a bit of a complex.

For example, the FOREWORD concludes with:

"In conclusion, whilst we found it a challenging feat, we remained not only a commission on independence, but also an independent commission. [emphasis mine]"

Protesting too much methinks, not to mention the sentence structure. I assume the sentence was intended to suggest that the task of compiling the report was a "challenging feat", but as written states that they found it challenging to remain an independent commission. Freudian slip perhaps.

A few other general comments.

The most glaring and egregious statement is in section 3.2.3 (as originally pointed out by Phil Wells), that the commission couldn't find anyone who'd used a referedum to go independent. (We won't get into the fact that the mechanism was completely out of their scope):

"The Commission learned that, in many cases, the decision on independence was determined by means of a general election and, in no instance, did the Commission discover the use of a referendum."

There are myriads of others including recent examples of East Timor from Indonesia and Quebec's failed referendum in 1995 I believe, which I witnessed while studying in Canada.

Other than that there isn't much of note really. The document is clearly intended to 'educate' in the propaganda sense, and contains far too much editorialising. It even makes the case for replacing the Westminster system, due to it's adversarial nature. Surely that is for a different forum and not the "fact finding" BIC.

It also bizarrely states that "the tourism sector appears to have stabilized and may even be improving". Dr. Brown would be proud that his misrepresentation of tourism stats has been so readily assimilated.

I would sum up my initial impressions after a quick first read as a document that will have little influence and certainly doesn't contain any bombshells to sway anyone or restart the stalled debate.

The polls indicate that the undecideds is a small percentage and that the 60%+ that is opposed hasn't moved at all over the past 6 months to a year. The BIC's report, while a valiant attempt to soften the negative perception around independence, won't change that.

The UK's clear guidance that UK citizenship will be withdrawn is not accepted by the BIC as fact. They seem to think it's something the Bermuda Government can negotiate, probably because they know it's a deal killer.

The report's conclusion is essentially that we should go independent but stay British too.

We want everything without giving up anything.

| More

While I was in the gym the BIC report was posted to the Government's website.

I haven't had time to read it yet, so I'll comment later.

| More

I don't have much to add to UBP Senator Bob Richards' excellent Opinion piece in yesterday's Royal Gazette, except to say that I bet it gave the PLP some serious heartburn.

What I would like to say though is that for me it represents the best of the UBP and why I support them and think they're the best political choice.

Why do I say that? Because Sen. Richards hit the right balance between analysing data, identifying the problem, pointing out the failures of the current administration and offering some avenues for addressing the issue through effective public policy.

The contrast with the PLP's approach, which is to throw out whatever idea pops into their heads for short term political gain before analysing the underlying data and trends, is stark.

Sen. Richards did himself, the community and the UBP a great service with his piece yesterday. If the Government have any sense they'll take his advice.

| More

By the way, apparently the Premier will be releasing the overdue Bermuda Indoctrination and Conditioning report today at 10AM with a press event.

It'll be a valiant attempt to change the topic from all the bad news, one that will probably fail as only Cabinet is interested; too bad most people consider independence bad news too.

| More

RG Opinion (14 Sept. 2005)

What we all knew would come to pass, has. Cabinet incompetence has destroyed Bermuda Homes for People (BHP), which formally disconnected itself from Government’s public relations life support systems; the latest casualty of The Social Agenda. And don’t let the latest promises fool you, the project isn’t “postponed”, it’s dead.

In fact, the housing portfolio is in such dire straits that even the mobile homes are homeless, and immobile; parked out of sight gathering dust while the Minister ponders their home.

What’s revealing about the BHP collapse isn’t that it failed, it’s that no-one’s surprised; not the lottery winners, not those who paid deposits, not the Opposition who predicted this long ago and definitely not a jaded public resigned to either failure or scandal at most Ministries, but in particular Housing.

If it wasn’t so predictable it would be sad. If the affordable housing crisis wasn’t so acute it would be comical. But it’s not. The implosion of the latest housing initiative and the hopes of too many is a tragedy.

That’s not entirely fair though. There have been several successes, even at the redundantly named BHP. Why the redundancy, the equivalent of saying “Paget Kennels for Dogs”? Well, because all the previous projects haven’t been for the people, they’ve been for the politicians.

Take Bermuda Homes for Premiers for example. Bermuda Homes for Premiers is a testament to Cabinet efficiency with the right motivation, achieving unprecedented success providing two Premiers different, and freshly renovated residences, as a compliment to Camden, the entertaining residence.

Premier Scott’s housing situation was evidently so severe that he’s yet to move into “Clifton”, formerly the Chief Justice’s home. According to the Premier’s PR flack, Mr. Scott is sacrificing on our behalf, reluctant to divert critical Works and Engineering resources from other projects.

Or perhaps the usurping of the Chief Justice’s residence wasn’t really necessary in the first place, occurring solely as signal to the Governor that “The Man” is the boss, after Mr. Vereker failed to heed Cabinet’s advice on the appointment? It couldn’t be the latter could it? That would be juvenile.

But wait, there’s more. Bermuda Homes for Ministers for example. Unlike Bermuda Homes for Premiers, this initiative doesn’t house Cabinet Ministers; it manages their real estate portfolios through the Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC).

In Dr. Brown’s case BHM even facilitated the sale of his Flatts property to the BHC – after the BHC renovated it at their expense – for a vastly inflated post-renovation price; all in the name of increasing the affordable housing pool of course.

And least we forget Bermuda Cars for Ministers, Bermuda Travel for Ministers, Bermuda Credit Cards for Ministers. But I digress.

If the Government felt the same sense of urgency at housing “people” as housing Premiers they might get somewhere. Instead we’ll hear that familiar refrain: “Another chance, give us another chance. It’s not our fault. More time, give us more time.”

Cabinet isn’t committed to public policy, they’re addicted to public relations, spending our tax dollars to buy more time and more perks. The results are self-evident.

Day after day, failed initiative after failed initiative, scandal after scandal, we’re treated to press conferences trotting out the usual litany of excuses and finger pointing, followed by hype promising an imminent turnaround, again.

The creative but doomed Bermuda Homes for People saga is all too illustrative of the cynicism, desperation and callous manipulation of this hapless government.

Only 3 short months ago, amid a climate of uncertainty, Government staged a high-profile publicity stunt known as the Bermuda Homes for People Lottery, surely aware that the project was closer to failure than success.

Undeterred, the Premier and his Housing Minister used the hopes and dreams of potential homeowners as currency to acquire more time, three months to be precise. The manufactured public scenes of Bermudians literally dancing in their seats at the news that they’d won a house in the BHP lottery will live in infamy. All that remains today is a short lived photo-op and a gushing headline.

A responsible government, a caring government, a competent government would have ensured that the project was secured, financed and well underway before raising the aspirations of Bermudians. Using aspiring homeowners as props in a stage-managed public relations sham is disgraceful.

The public are so justifiably cynical that there’s been relatively little reaction to the announcement of BHP’s collapse. Instead there’s only resignation; no not a Cabinet one, just that of a jaded and spurned public, resigned to these outcomes.

It’s all too typical. The seven year parade of empty promises and grandly titled initiatives heralding the next big thing will continue unabated. Bermuda isn’t at a crossroads as the Premier said in his televised speech, we’re trapped in a house of smoke and mirrors. Political vaporware is the primary product of the New Bermuda, spewed out as glossy mailings, newspaper ads, press conferences and self-congratulatory speeches promising that more will be promised.

But there’s an elephant in the room, a huge one.

Few people are willing to say it out loud but everyone is thinking it: If this Government is so incompetent that they can’t build a house, what makes them think they can build a country?

| More

A little more of serious comment, after my last post, on the Bermuda Homes for People issue (of which I have a Gazette column on tomorrow):

Perhaps what has struck me the most is just how little reaction there has been to the news that BHP has wrapped up. I don't think this is because people don't care, it's because it was expected. The UBP, in particular Maxwell Burgess, have been telegraphing this for months.

The PLP have misfired on so many initiatives, made so many empty promises and denied the truth so many times, that the general sentiment seems to be that projects are more likely to fail than succeed or get mired in scandal and costs overruns. Sad but true.

But if we go back a few days to when I first heard about this, in a small piece in the Mid Ocean News, I wondered why there was so little in it about the press.

After going back I did find short stories on both ZBM and VSB on the Thursday night and then Saturday's Gazette had a story. It seems that the print media had so little on it as the story broke late on Thursday, in time for the evening news broadcasts but too late for the print media to get on it.

The UBP also seemed pretty quiet, probably not to waste their ammo during the weekend, with Wayne Furbert eventually coming out yesterday with a press conference, calling for Ashfield DeVent and the Premier's resignations (yet again...keep wishing), and posing some questions which they'd like answering (keep wishing).

To be honest, the UBP's response has been inadequate. They've called for resignations so often that no-one pays attention to it, me too, and I agree heads should roll, but they won't, for a number of different reasons. They should drop it and take a different approach. More on that in a future post.

Today's story in the Gazette is very enlightening on what went on behind the scenes and eventually led to the project's demise, which jives with exactly what Maxwell Burgess had alleged many months ago.

So, the Premier's comments to the press yesterday assuring Bermudians that the project is going ahead and that the BLDC is doing their "due diligence" is farcical when presented with the comments of the Chairperson of Bermuda Homes for People as reported today:

Mr. Gaston laid blame for the collapse at the feet of the Bermuda Land Development Company (BLDC) which he said refused to hand over 18 acres of harbour-front property in St. David’s.

Mr. Gaston held nothing back as he spoke out about the project while preparing to leave the Island this week as a result of his frustration.

“The BLDC really fought this every step of the way,” Mr. Gaston said. “We had wonderful support from the community. ACE had promised $5 million. XL, Partner and Ren Re were all willing to go in. Usually the hard part is not the land, usually the hard part is finding the industry and financing.”

BLDC was the problem, yet the Premier wants us to believe that it's the solution! His lack of shame is impressive.

The Premier denied for months that the project was in jeopardy, he dined BHP was insolvent months ago, he denied that Berkeley would be late, he'll deny anything regardless of the amount of evidence to the contrary.

Hasn't he learned his lesson since Maxwell Burgess cut his tail on this very issue in Parliament, when the Premier outright lied when asked if BHP was insolvent?

Evidently not.

| More

Shortest post ever?

The BLDC made BHP DOA, the Minister is AWOL, the PLP are SOL and the UBP are no longer MIA.

| More

There's a little story - but a big story - on p. 3 of the Mid Ocean News today, entitled "BHP winds up".

From the little info that is available it appears that an announcement was made yesterday that the Bermuda Homes for People development at Southside is being "put on hold" (translation: dead), and that those who had put down deposits will have them returned.

Details are sketchy, so I've put a few calls in to see what the complete story is, but I can't help but feel disgusted that the Government staged a high profile housing lottery for BHP to score a few points, while the project was about to fail, is terrible.

To get people's hopes up like that, to only quickly destroy their dream is a sad inidictment of this Government's willingness to focus on public relations not public policy.

More to come on this I'm sure.

| More

After a couple of weeks of vacation I'm back in the swing of things and will be resuming blog activity as well as my Royal Gazette column.

But I must say, August is usually - other than the hurricanes that is - a quiet month. But not this year!

I timed my vacation perfectly to miss for everything from Paula Cox's credibility crumbling 'review' of the Pension Funds to the comedy, or was it a farce that ensued after Phil Wells' pretty entertaining column of a week ago.

So with the PLP's delegates conference looming in October, and Julian Hall stirring the pot, the next few months promise to be pretty entertaining themselves.

| More

Archives