Enrichment not empowerment

Ouch. UBP Leader Wayne Furbert hits back hard...very hard...and deservedly so, in response to the Deputy Premier's dishonest claims to the African Heritage Conference:

"The problem with this government is that it has lost its way. For them, it’s not about empowerment; it’s about enrichment. It’s about putting themselves first."

Enrichment not empowerment. Those 3 words sum it up so well.

"Dr. Brown’s inference that white Bermudians are blocking the Government from meeting the needs of black Bermudians is the worst form of scapegoating. It is a pathetic attempt to shift attention away from his Government’s principal responsibility to help people in need.

"It is important to remember that the PLP Government has been able to exercise total control of the Legislature for nearly eight years now. It has enjoyed the position, the means and the power to make serious progress in areas where people are hurting. But in that time we have been treated to words without meaning and actions without result."

Well done Wayne. Dr. Brown and his colleagues should be called out after his blatantly dishonest speech yesterday.

Full release below:

Statement by United Bermuda Party Leader, the Hon. Wayne Furbert, JP, MP.

It is the style and habit of the Progressive Labour Party Government to use words, slogans and false argument to deflect attention from its continuing failure to meet the needs of the people.

Deputy Premier Dr. Ewart Brown’s comment before the African Heritage Conference that a large segment of Bermuda regards efforts to empower blacks as “evil” is just the latest example.

Not only does his language divide people, but it also puts out a new twist on the Government’s strange and disappointing lack of will when it comes to meeting the needs of the people.

Dr. Brown’s inference that white Bermudians are blocking the Government from meeting the needs of black Bermudians is the worst form of scapegoating. It is a pathetic attempt to shift attention away from his Government’s principal responsibility to help people in need.

It is important to remember that the PLP Government has been able to exercise total control of the Legislature for nearly eight years now. It has enjoyed the position, the means and the power to make serious progress in areas where people are hurting. But in that time we have been treated to words without meaning and actions without result.

I challenge anyone outside the Government to explain in what way “The Social Agenda” empowers people. I challenge anyone to say that this Government really believes in Sustainable Development in the wake of the hospital decision. And what about “Bermuda Homes for People” that left dozens of Bermudians holding a raffle ticket instead of a key to a house?

The reality is that this Government has been more interested in serving its own needs than those of the people. One only needs to look at its record to see that it has no problem mobilizing its will and using its power when it comes to serving itself.

· Perhaps the best demonstration of the Government’s power to get what it wants took place this summer when it steamrolled through Parliament pay rises up to 80% for Ministers and Government MPs; at a time when seniors and single moms struggle to make ends meet.

· When PLP leaders came to power in 1998, the total travel budget for the government was $2 million. Today, it is over $12 million – that’s $1 million a month – a massive and indefensible increase that has virtually nothing to do actually helping people here at home.

· After eight years in power, Bermuda is still in a housing crisis. Yet this Government had no problem finding hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the now-sumptuous Laurels for its first Premier and $1.5 million on Clifton for the current Premier.

The reality is that any opposition this Government faces in implementing their plans is due not to the intent of the plans but to the poor planning and management of them.

The United Bermuda Party, for example, supported the Berkeley School project but we did not support the PLP’s inept management of its construction, which led to an astronomical cost overrun of at least $70 million. With better management, tens of millions of dollars of that overrun could have been used to meet housing needs, to help seniors, to hire new teachers…

The problem with this government is that it has lost its way. For them, it’s not about empowerment; it’s about enrichment. It’s about putting themselves first.

When the UBP in 2004/2005 put forward legislation designed to specifically help people who had been excluded from economic opportunities because of institutional racism, Government ministers and MPs dismissed it out of hand.

The proposed Bill, if it had passed, would have committed the Government to an extensive programme of empowerment for small businesses, including

* Allocating 20% of government spending on goods and services to small businesses – that’s $60 million that could be flowing to small businesses now.

* Training small businesses in bidding for Government contracts.

* Requiring businesses winning government contracts greater than $5 million to sponsor small businesses through a mentoring programme.

* Helping secure financing for small businesses with government contracts from local banks and other institutions.

The United Bermuda Party wants to solve problems. It wants unity in this country and we are prepared to do what it takes to empower people so that we can finally live our lives together moving forward.

This government has been a major disappointment. More and more Bermudians daily are waking up to the fact that they are being let down, taken for granted and played like a fiddle by PLP language that inflames but does not solve.

We need positive leadership. We need to build on what brings us together.

September 29, 2006

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