November 2011 Archives

Who says there's nothing to do at night in Bermuda?

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Per my last post about the legislation for the airport duty increase not yet being passed, I received a quick response from the Collector of Customs.

The Provisional Collection of Customs Duties Act allows the Minister of Finance to apply duty rates before they are approved by the House of Assembly once a bill is read a first time.

In the event the legislation fails refunds are then issued.

I'll consider it a charitable donation to an organization in financial difficulty.

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So I arrived back from a trip on Friday night and was hit with 35% tax on the few items I'd purchased while overseas.

I politely advised the customs agent that this was not in effect until the legislation passes Parliament - which it has not yet.

I paid the duty at the 35% rate as it isn't the officer's fault and his hands are tied. But I will be writing to the Collector of Customs to receive my refund and would encourage others to do the same as well.

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BDA Parliament is still not on live TV. It's the only time Gov doesn't like cameras...cuz they can't control it like they a scripted event.

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A quick follow up to the last post.

Firstly, I received a lot of feedback to this post, which is good because I know I haven't been posting much lately so I appreciate that people feel engaged.

Secondly, I did neglect to include a couple of additional comments I'd intended to make.

So, just to continue the thought a bit:

A few people got the impression that I supported the change from within approach. So do I? Well, yes and No.

Everyone has to make up their own minds as to how they feel they can best make an impact, so in that regard I'm not one to judge.

But...I don't think it will be successful in the PLP because I think the leadership is primarily concerned with electability over genuine evolution as an organisation.

I explain my take to people as the PLP govern by press release. It's really about winning the moment, the next 24 hours of news, not winning the future through policy driven results.

I say this because I can point to any number of civil servants who have said to me that the grand pronouncements and Throne Speech promises are completely disconnected from what they actually do.

They often tell me that things get announced but their jobs never change. The PLP see PR as their core function, not policy.

On a slightly related topic, I meant to note what I think is an important potential issue:

With the PLP trying to OBA themselves heading into an election I couldn't help but think back to when the UBP's internal problems exploded.

They exploded under Wayne Furbert, after the UBP had tried to PLP themselves a bit by parachuting some candidates into safe seats, individuals who hadn't really earned their stripes and had very loose ties to the party and philosophy.

A number of them ultimately left the party in a blaze of glory, and are now seeking relevance in the PLP. So far only one has found it, but his relevance is in lending Cabinet some UBP management mojo in Tourism.

I fully expect that the PLP parachuting Opposition affiliated very pro-business candidates will cause some internal problems similar to those the UBP had; longstanding individuals were passed over for more opportunistic players who are not particularly in tune with the party base's philosophy and aspirations.

Resentment builds.

This is the kind of thing that can tear a party apart internally. Saying that, the PLP has a deep reservoir of party loyalty that they can call on, an ability to rally the troops that is impressive and mind boggling.

The public is much more forgiving of their mistakes and misdeeds than they are on the Opposition.

Personally, I think Bermuda will get better management from the OBA. Primarily because they have better ideas and better managers, but also importantly because they know that they can't take the electorate for granted as the PLP continue to do.

That's a big deal. Politicians want to get re-elected. One party is much more sensitive to the electorate's mood than the other.

That will only change when the electorate demonstrates that they can no longer be taken for granted.

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The moves made by the PLP of the past few weeks makes it undeniably clear that the PLP are trying to make themselves look a lot more like the OBA - and to a lesser extent whatever is left of the UBP - heading into an election.

A series of moves are confirmation of an implicit acknowledgment that public sentiment has shifted away from the PLP and towards the OBA:

  • The appointment of former UBP leader Wayne Furbert to Cabinet, who immediately raised the Opposition(s) longstanding concept of a tourism authority
  • The co-opting of Opposition policy positions in the Throne Speech, as well as the direct lifting (without attribution) of exact Opposition phrases like "less red tape, more red carpet" in the Throne Speech.
  • The selection of pro-business candidates Vince Ingham and Stephen Todd, with Vince also in the Senate. It is important to note that both of these individuals had some older and some pretty recent ties to the Opposition.
  • The adoption of Bermuda First recommendations in the Throne Speech

There's a few other more subtle moves, but the message is obvious: you don't have to vote us out to get some better managers and better economic policy.

I was a bit surprised at Vince's appointment. I know Vince reasonably well and worked with him a number of times years ago after the UBP's defeat on a couple of initiatives. None really went very far. I respect him, and it's a coup for the PLP.

But it seems to me to be another of those Jonathan Smith, Stephen Todd kind of moves; decisions that appear to be about not joining the PLP out of commonality of views and philosophies but as a direct way to try and change the PLP from inside.

That's not really an endorsement of the PLP as such. I understand the sentiment although I'm often susprised that people with records of integrity are willing to get tangled up in a party still actively self-dealing.

To an extent that's a luxury that the party in power has in being able to attract candidates because you can throw more at them (Government boards, more Senate seats to play with etc.).

As I understand it there's also a feeling among some who have gone to the PLP that the public are still not ready to make the next step in Bermuda's political evolution of voting out the PLP.

I'm not sure that's an accurate read, but it's a legitimate open question and is surely behind the thinking of some historically Opposition leaning figures who have lined up with the PLP in recent times.

Again, that's sort of the change from within sentiment.

It's also something that the OBA will have to get to grips with and address in voters' minds. The first step is rolling out some more candidates. Not enough have been announced, and that's a mistake as they need to get people in place and working their areas.

Regardless, there's some good news for the Opposition in here, which is an acknowledgement from the PLP that they need to look more like the OBA to get re-elected, both people and policy wise.

That isn't really moving from a position of strength, but it would be wrong to not recognize that this is shrewd politics by the PLP and the Todd / Ingham candidacies are positive for them and their prospects. This is what electoral politics is all about.

My advice to the OBA would be to draw the voters attention to this, both the adoption of their ideas and words, shift to a more OBA look policy and people-wise; take credit for their ideas that the PLP have tried to present as their own, and tell the public that by voting OBA you can get the genuine article rather than window dressing; a watered down knock off trying to cling to power.

The ongoing collapse of the cruise sector is a clear case of mis-management, a lack of vision, infrastructure planning and execution.

What Bermuda needs now is vision and a team of managers in place. That isn't the PLP. They are still reacting rather than leading, and the mismanagement is cascading throughout all sectors of the economy.

The one attribute that was a liability for the Opposition historically could be their biggest asset in 2012 - they are managers. It's not sexy, but it's what Bermuda needs right now to get the Cox debt and unemployment off Bermuda's back so that we can grow the economy and start fixing the past 13 years of poor policy and shallow politics.

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And there goes the power. Quite the November storm.

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The problem with the PLP's anti-OBA message is that within 12 hours they've both attacked the OBA by-election win as a 'UBP's Renaming Charade [that] Didn't Work" and appointed a former party leader of the UBP to Cabinet.

The PLP Parliamentary group have two former UBP members in Parliament, with one being a former party leader, which is coincidentlally as many UBP members as there are in Parliament, including a former party leader.

Sort of muddies the message. It becomes any ties with the UBP are toxic, except when they're not.

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