Realists and Delusionals

My main takeaway from this budget, other than the pre-election feel to it, is that Bermuda politics is becoming firmly divided into two camps: the Realists and the Delusionals.

Unfortunately the Delusionals are running the show and continue to assert with a straight face that the tens of millions of dollars of waste - or perhaps more accurately termed 'control fraud' - were 'investments in people' or stimulus. It's just not serious, or credible, and quite frankly it is hard to believe it wasn't intentional with the 'disregarding or rules' resembling a business plan if you ask me, consistent across multiple projects with familiar contractors and familiar politicians at the centre of it all demanding those in positions of influence 'just make it happen'.

Paula Cox appears pathologically incapable or unwilling to make the hard choices. She keeps talking about doing things differently, but that's where it ends. Talking about it. The Premier and Finance Minister seems to prefer to attempt to reframe and re-cliche what is essentially more of the same into 'resetting the dial', whatever that means.

This new budget isn't resetting anything, it's minor tinkering on the fringes - some of it worthwhile - but much of it accounting gimicks and a reliance on external forces to bail out the Government while the debt mountain grows and threatens more and more social programs in the future.

I'm convinced that this is a budget to try and get past the middle or end of the year for an election, but unlike with investments where the disclaimer says that past performance doesn't predict future results, with this Finance Minister it seems to.

The only major change was the implicit acknowledgement, coupled with an explicit claim to the contrary, that the payroll tax hike last year was ill-advised and counter productive.

Otherwise it was mostly tinkering and rhetoric. The general theme was more honest than in the past, where the Finance Minister described our economy which was accelerating its contraction as 'post-recession', but it remains mostly committed to the same culture of spending, waste and overly optimistic budgeting and forecasting that has been the hallmark of all PLP administrations.

Bob Richards is again correct in his early summation of the budget, but Bob is a realist, as is the Chamber of Commerce, the accounting firms and just about anyone who has been calling for realism in Bermuda's finances and debt levels. The chorus is getting louder, but it's really up to the public to decide they want realism over rhetoric - and an Opposition that is well positioned and well organised enough to capitalise on this.

The tweaks are welcome, but it's just not going to be enough.

For those of us who were vilified for suggesting (repeatedly) that - gasp - Tourism under Brown was a farce (to be kind); for suggesting that the Music Festival had morphed into the Ewart Brown vanity project rather than tourism events, as I was by the PLP's 'race advisor' in one of the few articles I refuse to link to, the canceling of it as a 'low return on investment' event, is the closest we'll ever get to an acknowledgment that we were correct - not racist. Apology accepted.

And I would add, it is also a positive to hear the news from this budget that St. George's Golf Course is being reopened as a matter of priority, as I called for just 3 weeks ago.

These are some of the small and immediately achievable things, many of them the undoing of Ewart Brown's disastrous vainglorious and self-serving tenure, that can add up to minor wins and validate much of the constructive criticism that received such vitriol in return.

Those are the baby steps. But what Bermuda really needs is a genuine 'resetting of the dial', not more PR, more documents and speeches delivered and printed in heavily politicised PLP green, with grandiose claims to change but very little substantive change.

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