October 2009 Archives
Bermuda does not need "to wean their economies off credit crunch hit banking, insurance and funds services" as the report suggests.
Whatever economic strains Bermuda is currently under and at the leading edge of is not the fault of too narrow a tax base, but too broad and irresponsible Government spending under the PLP.
The surplus is gone, the debt ceiling is still relatively low but quickly rising and Dr. Brown continues to be enamored with pouring concrete and embarking on major capital projects with no master plan or articulated vision. It's the build it and they will come approach. No-one's coming but we're now building a huge mega-yacht marina in Dockyard (deny Corporation of Hamilton the revenues) for what is a very questionable proposition. Bermuda is not the best located place for a busy mega-yacht destination.
Bermuda's economy is in much better shape than the UK's because we have not adopted their 'best practice' tax and spend model. Our pain is all self-inflicted.
All those people who rolled their eyes about those of us complaining about the double-budget Berkeley, the exploding travel costs, the taxpayer funded economic black hole Music Festival among other things were short-sighted.
That $70M overspend from the Berkeley project would have come in handy now that Government's reliance on easy money has gone away and they're facing certain revenue shortfalls amid exploding spending.
The Future Care debacle is the canary in the coal mine. Bermuda can no longer afford public sector economic hubris.
The PLP' s problem with claiming all the economic and social negatives during their tenure are due to external factors is that it undercuts the claim that all the economic and social successes during your tenure were due to your management of the economy.
Bob Richards' problem is that while he's correct on the core economic issues that matter, I don't get the impression that he's persuasive with people who don't already get it.
"The Finance Minister and the Premier are blaming all of the problems in Bermuda on the external forces, which is quite deceptive -- yes, there are major factors outside of our control, but there are things which are within our control and that is a ball they have fumbled, so you just cannot blame it all on the global recession," he said.
"The Government has some control on the local economy and they have not used that wisely."
Mr. Richards said there were three main areas which Government needed to deal with -- international business, tourism and construction industries.
But there is some truth to the saying that you can lead a horse to water but can't force it to drink.
Things will be quiet here for the next week.
The Premier's phrase of 'evil deeds' reminds me of George Bush and his Axis of Evil debacle.
We know how that turned out.
By the way, when the Premier speaks of independent media as 'one down, one to go' he glosses over the truth, which is that it's actually 3 or 4 down, 90 or so to go...J-O-B-S that would be.
His little vendettas affect real people in real ways. To borrow one of his favourite phrases, it's time for an 'adult' conversation on this topic.
Connecticut, the home of Warren Buffett's General Reinsurance Corporation, has offered a 20 year $9M loan at 2% to the company to remain in the state, amid concern that the company would move to neighbouring Westchester County.
Read what the Connecticut Governor had to say and the importance she places on retaining jobs:
"Gen Re had to make a decision -- stay in Stamford or relocate to Westchester County, New York -- and we were not going to lose those dependable jobs," Rell said. "Smart, targeted loans and investments by the state will prevent" the loss of insurance-industry positions.
Compare and contrast that to any of the empty political rhetoric around the window dressing term limits policy (chasing away jobs) and the attitude from the Government that our insurance companies would never leave Bermuda.
Time to get creative. It's a competitive world out there. Complacency is no longer an option. Other governments are getting the picture.
Not unexpected news that Elbow Beach's main building is closing for the next few years. Bad and unexpected news that the redevelopment will be on a much smaller scale.
Meanwhile, in a severe case of extremely bad timing, the PLP website headline reads "We're #1! Bermuda Receives Top Conde Nast Ranking" with the lead off line of:
"The Platinum Period revitalization of our tourism product is continuing to pay dividends."
This message discipline around the "Platinum Period" tag line in the face of all time low arrival numbers, hotel closures, layoffs and announcements of future announcements regarding hotel development is sheer message delusion.
If Dr. Brown, and the PLP in general, want to be taken seriously they have to drop the Platinum Period shtick and acknowledge reality. Saying that we're 'holding our own' is not reality. We are not 'holding our own'.
Continuing this delusion about tourism being in its ascendancy while it is in an accelerated decline will do serious long term damage to the PLP's credibility as well as Bermuda's long term economic prospects. Dr. Brown won't have to deal with that if he leaves office as he says he will next October, but someone will.
Who in the PLP will have the guts to tell them to drop the politics and focus on the policy. They say the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.
Government needs to stop trying to put a positive spin on things and peddle trumped up stats and empty promises. Build a viable economic model around tourism, and stop throwing money at vanity projects such as the Bermuda Music Festival, The Love Festival and other non-performing events.
Running tourism by press release has exhausted itself. Hard reality should have set in by now.
I broke the previous RSS Feed for this site, but it should be repaired now and emails should get delivered again.
If you didn't understand anything I just said don't worry about it.
I'm still digesting the draft PATI bill, but find it particularly cynical that as widely commented, the legislation is proposed to be:
- going forward only
- take 2 to 3 years to implement
- under the control of the Cabinet Office
All of this dramatically undermines the integrity of the bill.
The cynic in me notes that this ensures that:
- Past behaviour can remain covered up
- 2 to 3 years ensures no messy secrets can be dug up before the next election (max 3 years before next one has to be called)
- Cabinet won't have any unwelcome surprises
Very, very cynical.
I'd also note that MPs approved pay raises for themselves effective immediately, but freedom of information has to wait until they're out of office and cannot look back.
If that doesn't show priorities nothing will. I always thought it should be the reverse; pay raises should apply to the next Parliament so you have to face the voters.
The first job of a politician they say is to get re-elected.
Why is it that when Dr. Brown loses on an issue he says the island needs to 'take an adult decision' on something, in this case gambling?
How condescending is that.
It wasn't particularly adult to try unsuccessfully to ram through a bill he knew he lacked a majority on in Parliament? That felt far from adult.
I believe that bill might have succeeded if handled properly and with respect, rather than by diktat. That move, on the heels of the secretive Uighar move, is what cost Dr. Brown what little political capital he had and now has him held captive to his backbench.
In the hands of a more credible leader who doesn't rule through brinkmanship, the cruise gambling bill may have succeeded.
He is solely to blame.
The text of the speech can be found here.
Not a lot of news in it, the most significant being the rollout of PATI, but I think mostly in line with my speculation that this is about positioning with a shaky economic and social environment.
I've been traveling, so I'm observing things somewhat from afar, but I was just told that the broadcast by the Premier this evening is a paid party broadcast.
That changes my speculation somewhat, but at this point I'll just wait and see like everyone else.
For what it's worth, and I'm usually wrong on predictions, I don't see a lot of value calling an election during the Premier's address tonight. Sure there are some tactical benefits, but the upside seems limited - a two year extension and a slightly larger majority. Both seem relatively immaterial.
If it was called it would be purely tactical, but people often confuse tactics with strategy.
Dr. Brown is more of a strategist than a tactician. I suspect Dr. Brown is going to try and prepare people and position himself for an awful lot of grim economic news over the short term, with the Bermuda First report due out any day now.
No longer can the PLP ride the crest of the economy which the UBP left them. The wave has hit the beach.
The old ideologies no longer apply, and need to be re-assessed. Real leadership changes course when needed. 1960s dogma in a changing 2009 word isn't going to cut it anymore.
I suspect Dr. Brown knows that the Bermuda he governs is in a lot worse shape than the Bermuda he inherited. That doesn't make for a good legacy for a lame duck stepping down in October 2010 (in theory).
With everyone talking about doing things differently why are they all stuck in the same old arguments? Move on folks. Wasn't this what this was about?
Everyone should stop overthinking this stuff.
Say what you believe and do what you say.
I love polls, but enough already. It's impossible to make sense of any of this when you have the parties, the papers and others releasing polls at random intervals which are then put against other polls.
All we've got at this point is noise. (Hint to the press, a chart with trends (same pollster please) would help rather than a 2,500 word treatise).
It doesn't takes a pollster to tell you that support for the UBP is evaporating, and it doesn't carry much weight when you have a party selectively releasing details from a pollster with no history of polling in Bermuda.
The Bermuda First website is now offline after a reader pointed out to me that the draft site was up last night.
The site looks quite promising from a design and function perspective, much more so than gov.bm which is an elaborate brochure.
There needs to be a non-partisan gatekeeper to keep the partisan attacks out of it however. Populating it with a laundry list of party propaganda isn't the way to go.
This was pitched as a non-partisan fact gathering exercise and it should remain that way.
Hopefully when it relaunches they will have stripped out the PLP attack pieces masquerading as opinion.
The much delayed Bermuda First report remains under wraps, but a draft website is up.
Design is very slick and is rigged for good social networking tools, but content is light as I presume this isn't ready for prime time.
Perhaps as a warning sign the Blog Other Viewpoints link includes a couple of extremely partisan verbatim entries from the PLP's hyper partisan blog including:
- Roban: Time to Reform Corporations
- Revealed: UBP Intended to Use No Confidence Motion to Seize Government
These use very partisan language, even going so far as accusing Kim Swan (co-chair) of lying. Nor should we see references to The PLP Government, it's the Bermuda Government, otherwise how on earth can the group be called "Bermuda First"?
Presumably the PLP guiding hand is laying the groundwork for the PR war when the report is released.
If this thing comes out of the gate with that kind of partisanship embedded in it then it's DOA as those blog entries have no place on the site (in other viewpoints or not) and run completely counter to the stated mission of bi-partisanship. The parties and politicians have their own websites to peddle their propaganda. These will pollute and dilute the Bermuda First initiative.
Let's hope that Don Kramer and the other non-political steering committee members stamp this out early.
PS. The domain is also registered by an Arizona based firm. I hope that's merely a domain name registration. There's plenty of Bermuda firms capable of running the website.
With all the focus on the Regiment lately, but more specifically conscription, it got me thinking about public service, but more specifically political service in Bermuda.
I can think of many Bermudians who are not involved in politics but whose character and skill sets would make a positive difference in what is currently a rather lacklustre Parliamentary lineup. Bermuda's Parliament, and politics in general remain dominated by a generation that has been at this for a long time.
When I look at the split in the UBP, and the more muted but clearly present divisions in the PLP, I see more of a generational break than an ideological one. Many people who are involved no longer want to do things the 1960s way.
So my question is:
If you could draft someone (or someones) into Bermuda politics, who would it be and why? (Bermudians only please.)
Shoot me an email with your thoughts and I'll post some of the feedback.
A little strategic skirmish perhaps?
Former United Bermuda Party MP Mark Pettingill says his old colleagues should keep their noses out of Bermuda's foreign policy -- like they told Premier Ewart Brown to do.
Meta message: "We're not the UBP."
Expect more of these. I'd anticipate more disagreements with the UBP than with the PLP in the near time.
Wayne Furbert did the same thing when he left the UBP. His first vote in Parliament as an Independent was with the Premier to be the deciding vote in the truck licensing vote.
Was it on the issue or to establish his independence? I'd go with the latter.
A great case study in situational ethics today, wrapped up in this tortured logic from the Premier:
Premier Ewart Brown called the comments a "strange development".
"Normally, one would expect such a story to come from a certified journalist at the conference. The fact that Mr. Simons authored the story renders it at least suspect. I suggest that you get a quote from the Chinese Ambassador.
"You may recall that we hosted Chinese businessmen some weeks ago. Not one of them raised the issue or said that the Chinese government had a problem. Please note that if the Chinese Government wishes to communicate to the Bermuda Government, it should be done through the UK Government."
A couple obvious issues here:
1) One would expect a story to come from a certified journalist rather than being 'authored' by a politician?
What exactly is the role of a press secretary and Department of Communication if it isn't to 'author' stories to pass on to 'certified journalists. What Cole Simons did is what the Premier does every day when he issues a statement about his meeting with some US politician.
2) The Chinese Government should communicate through the UK Government?
Low hanging fruit here. Dr. Brown is now taking the position that the UK is responsible for external affairs, when he pretended that the Uighur issue was an immigration issue.
Dr. Brown didn't apply the same standards when he communicated with the US government, explicitly withholding material information from the UK Government.
That's situation ethics for you if you've ever seen it.
Now, let's hope though that Cole isn't naive enough to accept this statement from the Chinese Ambassador:
Madame Ying said the Chinese Government would be happy to have the Uighurs in Bermuda returned to China if they have committed no crimes...
The Mid Ocean News was kind enough to waste some column inches on the site being relaunched.
As they said, I'm hoping to be geared more towards substantive policy and strategy/analytics than before, but that doesn't mean I'll ignore the politics. Although if I feel myself being drawn into a direction I don't want I'll try and make a quick course direction.
Still working out a few kinks in the new templates and layout. Bear with me please. I need to reupdate links and properly integrate the twitter feed. The upgrade was more involved than I anticipated and I'm also quite busy for the next two weeks.
But I'm getting there.
Fareed Zakaria - Oct 4. 2008
In a world of competitive capitalism, you need not big government or no government but smart government. We are not in a race to the bottom, on wages, regulations, or anything else. But we are competing against other countries to come up with the government policies that most effectively foster growth, innovation, and productivity. It's a time to figure out what works, not what ideological mantras to keep repeating. It's the age of Michael Bloomberg, not Margaret Thatcher.