Recently in Independence Category

The short article today entitled "OECD plans could be death penalty for Bermuda" raises an issue that I'm surprised hasn't been raised locally in any meaningful way.

The PLP proudly boast about the number of Tax Information Exhange Agreements that Paula Cox has signed as if the total signed are equal to points on a scoreboard, and how we're doing everything and anything asked for under the European Solvency II regime, as evidence of the PLP's fiscal prowess.

While these are complex issues that help certain aspects of our international business (large global (re)insurers in particular), they are also hugely damaging to other areas of international business (non-class 4 (re)insurers, capitives for example).

The Premier and Finance Minister continually claims her total capitulation on these fronts as huge accomplishments.

But they are really house-keeping and issues that should be negotiated down to do as little damage as possible while achieving the minimal level of compliance.

The main intent of the OECD and European regulators is to try and help their uncompetitive failing financial centres by rendering Bermuda and others less competitive, not some altruistic campaign for global financial transparency.

Simply being led around by European bureaucrats, doing their bidding, as the Premier and Bermuda Monetary Authority look from the outside to be, is a gift these bloated uncompetitive high tax jurisdiction surely can't believe keeps on giving.

The TIEA's signed are overwhelmingly one sided and aren't doing Bermuda any favours. Simply racking up as many as you can as quickly as you can is an abdication of your duty to protect and further Bermuda's competitiveness.

Signing these TIEAs, and doing what the EU says we should do, does not constitute an economic vision for Bermuda. It is, as Mr. Mitchell from the Cato Institute says:

"Basically ...the death penalty for Bermuda and other jurisdictions," he said.

"Whether they get to their final goal in five, 10 or 15 years depends on how much each jurisdiction fights it."

So far there has been no fight in the Cox Government or Finance Ministry, just capitulation.

I'm surprised the Opposition haven't seized more on this, although it is a bit of a wonky topic. But if broached correctly it is an important topic to a community pretty plugged into international business issues who get the need to continue to innovate and increase our competitive edge, not just become some watered down has-been international finance centre; a shadow of our former self.

If this were sports, and Paula Cox were the coach of a basketball team for example, the other coach would be screaming that her players were all too fit, tall and accurate shooters.

Her response?

She'd be canceling practice, feeding them donuts before every game and benching her stars for the 4th quarter and claiming victory.

When I read press releases such as the last two from the PLP entitled "PLP Government Implementing Global Financial Standards" and today's gushing "Bermuda: Our Star is Shining on the International Stage" that are so devoid of substance and understanding of what created Bermuda's economic miracle, it's shocking. And scary.

Bermuda succeeded because we were different; a good place to do business.

All this foreign driven regulation and anti-competitive political pressure is designed to turn that on its head.

Stop boasting about the TIEAs and Bermuda's compliance with old world financial jurisdictions and start articulating the vision to grow Bermuda's economy and sharpen our focus.

So far it's clear that Paula Cox and her colleagues don't have a clue how to stop Bermuda's economic contraction and are completely banking on a global economic recovery to bail them out.

But the real challenge for Bermuda is not just stopping the bleeding, but getting back the competitive edge that the PLP blew.

Today's Bermuda Sun article presents a huge opportunity for the OBA to go right at the PLP's cluelessness:

The economy is another potential problem area for the PLP but party activists believe people will accept that Bermuda's problem is part of a wider global picture and will trust the PLP to protect Bermudian jobs.

If Bermuda's problems are part of a wider global picture, why then, are Bermuda's companies moving to Ireland - which has far greater economic problems than Bermuda (for now)? That claim doesn't hold up to the least amount of scrutiny. The PLP haven't protected jobs but chased them away.

Why would you trust the party that presided over unprecedented job losses, and continues to now in education and at public golf courses, with protecting jobs? It's a ridiculous assertion.

But the PLP have to say it, because the alternative is to acknowledge that their dogma is diametrically opposed to Bermuda's economic and social well being. The PLP's policies are incompatible with economic prosperity and the social progress and safety net that funds.

The PLP insider said:

"Everything the Opposition wants to do is connected with money and business. However many times they want to change their name it is still the Barritts, the Dunkleys and the Gibbons's.

"How can you fight price rises in the supermarkets when you profit from those price rises? How can you complain about insurance costs for seniors when you own an insurance company?

"When push comes to shove, who do people think will look out for them? The PLP or the Oppostion?"

Not a bad way to redirect from Paula Cox's horrendous economy, one characterised by previously unknown issues to Bermuda like unemployment and foreclosures.

The Opposition, who are conspicuously silent since they launched and missing a huge opportunity to make a strong first impression, should quickly reframe it for what it is.

Everything the Opposition wants to do is about jobs and prosperity for all Bermudians. It's been done before and it can be done again. Just not by the PLP.

That's the connection more and more Bermudians are making. Ask those 30 paraprofessionals just laid off due to Paula Cox and her colleagues' economic mismanagement.

The OBA should be labeling this as "Paula Cox's recession", or "The PLP recession". And "Paula Cox's lay offs" for example. The language is quite simple.

Make the connection for people in a way they can relate to.

And, most importantly, prior to the election. The OBA should be reminding people of what the PLP's last election campaign claimed and did.

They claimed with an admirable poker face that: crime was declining, tourism was up and the economy was bullet-proof.

What are Bermudians experiencing daily? The PLP unwinding their own policies quietly (the latest being the 90 day yacht stay policy), crime continuing to spiral out of control, and the PLP's policy rollbacks a tacit admission that they cannot afford their own election promises.

If they lied to the electorate last time, why should the electorate believe any of their claims, promises and demagoguery this time?

The OBA have to plant that seed now. Today. Not in 2 months in the height of an election campaign when people's buttons are being pushed relentlessly and fear-mongering is in full effect.

We've just witnessed independence raised. There's no way the PLP want to run on Independence as an election issue. No way. It's a colossal loser.

So why raise it then?

Independence is a convenient stalking horse to introduce race during the soft launch of the election period of course. Independence will be quickly dropped, but the racial button pushing will persist.

We've done this dance before. The OBA have to remind the public of what went down in 2007, and what happened in its wake, so that they recognize it for what it is as it unfolds again according to the script.

Then of course it looks contrived and insincere, which of course it is.

As that connection is made they should then ask the voters if they want 5 more years like the last 5; a half decade which ushered in economic and social pain previously unheard of in Bermuda, and overseen by a party too proud and/or blind to stop and reverse it?

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In my previous post I said that Government is playing politics with the police. Right on cue the Premier, after issuing a joint statement with the Governor, comes out with his own and re-politicises things.

Dr. Brown said: "While we've taken action to address the crime issue, we are not yet satisfied and are calling for more reforms. Unfortunately, despite being in government, we are hamstrung in our abilities to act. In spite of the fact that the Bermudian taxpayer pays for our police service, an unelected Governor has full control over operational policing.

"We have repeatedly called for reform in operational policing strategies. Specifically, we are calling for a greater police presence in known hot spots. We are calling for greater community policing to build trust between the people and the police. And, we are calling for international experts to be brought in to help train our police in best practices for reducing gang violence.

"The people of Bermuda expect results. They're going to hold the people they elected accountable. Bermudians are rightfully outraged by the recent violence and are demanding action. We are taking action. We are pleading with Government House to adopt new operational policing strategies. And, we are making the case that those who pay the operational policing bill should have a say over operational policing strategies. We are making the case at the Overseas Territories Consultative Committee while we are in London. We believe that policing in Bermuda must be reformed, not more of the same.

It is clear that the Premier is more interested in the argument than the issue.

As the UBP, the Governor, Larry Burchall and others have pointed out, the Governor doesn't have operational control of the Police; the Commissioner and his Assistants do

That is the way it is and should be.

So this appeal, this 'plea' for operation control, is either disingenuous or demonstrates a willful ignorance of good governance.

The conspiracy theorists claim Government wants operation control to block investigations of themselves. I don't share that view. As I said earlier, Dr. Brown likes the politics of this argument.

I'm convinced that the issue of the Police is simply a convenient way to:

a) breathe life into the dead independence issue by trying to fabricate antagonism towards the UK;
b) draw the UK/Governor into a more active governing role to create the impression that we are under a colonial thumb and that the elected Government is powerless;
c) deflect responsibility for the escalation in crime during the PLP's tenure

The simple truth is that Bermuda has been self-governing in every material respect for decades; and modern democracies have separations between operational policing and politicians.

No amount of political brinkmanship can change that.

There is an ongoing campaign by the Government to try and increase the day to day role of the UK as a means to emphasize colonialism. The hope being that they can start chipping into the huge opposition to independence, issue by issue.

Present our status as a colony as an impediment to managing the island, rather than a neutral factor or even an asset, and hope that over time you can change hearts and minds.

I don't see it happening. But what I do see is a lot of issues getting worse rapidly while Dr. Brown revels in the politics and neglects the policy.

In fact, if the Governor is to blame for not letting the Police get all "draconian" on criminals, then the PLP should be supporting him. After all that was the crux of their election campaign.

This will continue to worsen. Not because the Police need to be told how to do operational policing by politicians, but because the Government are obsessed with using the Police as a pawn in an outdated dogmatic political argument that the overwhelming number of Bermudians are on the other side of.

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The huge turnouts to see the Queen and the outpouring of goodwill along the streets feels like a valve has opened to release the pressure that has been building up.

I wandered down to the ferry terminal today when someone told me the Queen was on her way and the crowd was large, diverse...and giddy. People were thrilled to see the Queen, but I think more than that were really proud to show off their island to a large audience.

There's been plenty of comment about the lack of enthusiasm from the Premier and the Government for this 400th anniversary, which really has felt like a colossal missed opportunity. Overlay that with the constant niggling towards the Governor, the UK in general and the antagonistic approach to the British component of our heritage, and you had a population that was tense. Unnecessarily so.

We've heard relentlessly that because we're not independent that it is somehow 'unnatural' or that Bermuda is not mature. But I think the polls, and the atmosphere on the island this week, have shown that on this issue the Premier and his party are seriously out of step with the public by continuing to try to push an issue that people simply do not want.

I don't think that we Bermudians are royalists in any sense, or somehow enamored with the UK, or afraid of change. I'm certainly not. It seems to me that the constitutional arrangement that Bermudians ratified in 1995 and polls show support in larger numbers today, is rooted in our pragmatism.

The disconnect between the PLP and the Bermudian people is that while the vast majority of Bermudians are deeply pragmatic, the PLP leadership and membership are dogmatic on this issue. What we've seen is a shift from an overt pro-independent campaign to this campaign of contrived confrontation, culiminating with the Uighur issue and the fight over the Police, to somehow convince us that we're being oppressed or treated like children.

It would seem that the enthusiasm for the visit of the Queen has blown open this idea that we don't have shared interests and history, both which should be celebrated and exploited not suppressed.

So we've ended up with our 400 year celebrations feeling like they really started with the Queen's visit because the Government seems so ashamed of who we are as a country. The Bermuda 400 organisers have been working so hard, but it felt like they really didn't have the support of the political leadership. This culimated with the Premier being on vacation for the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Bermuda.

The political campaign to suppress and erase all things British has had the side effect of squandering one of our greatest tourism marketing assets. It's also wasted thousands of hours of energy on an issue that doesn't help advance solutions but creates new problems by embedding real problems in an outdated dogmatic political argument, rendering them that much harder to resolve.

It's been refreshing to see the Bermudian spirit unleashed over the past few days, and people from all backgrounds so excited to be showing off what makes Bermuda such an international success story and a unique blend of cultures.

May it continue.

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Why is it that whenever PLP members get outside of Bermuda they start talking up Independence, but when they get home they play it down? This is becoming a pattern.

Could it be because Bermudians are overwhelmingly opposed to it and they are totally out of sync with the populace?

Some interesting exchanges in the Caymans between other countries and the Bermuda delegation:

Many delegates at the CPA conference raised issues concerning the Progressive Labour Party’s quest for independence in Bermuda.

“People in Bermuda are enjoying a high quality of life, and a high standard of education as well,” said Turks and Caicos Opposition Party Member Arthur Robinson. “Why would Bermuda want to move toward independence?”

“My philosophy is ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’”

Mr. Caines said similar “scare tactics” have been used in many British Overseas Territories to argue against separation from the UK.

“The assumption is that the country would go in a less than stellar direction,” Mr. Caines said. “Would you believe in 2007, we have re–insurance companies and offshore companies clamouring to come to Bermuda?”

“It has very little to do with Bermuda the place, but with effective and prudent governance.”

A representative from Trinidad questioned the motives of certain political parties who promise independence to get elected, and then adopt harsh measures to prevent people from becoming involved in government.

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Today's 12% swing in favour of independence isn't the first time Research Innovations have produced independence numbers that aren't credible and correct next time around.

On October 10, 2006 I commented that:

Reading the latest poll results online, very quickly, from NY, my initial reaction to the Independence results is that they don't really make sense.

Big swings in undecideds such as this, in a two month period, just don't happen - in either direction - barring some major development to change people's minds. And that hasn't happened.

And then 2 months later, on November 28th, 2006 another poll was released and I wrote this (apologies for the broken RG links, they changed their website):

I was right. The latest poll has things back on track, with the last poll clearly an anomaly, although one that makes me question the methodology and interpretation of the results. The article and pollster should have disclosed that the results were inconsistent and viewed skeptically.

So in a 4 month period independence support suddenly went up and then dropped back to normal levels. Nonsense.

Which is why today's supposed 12% move also isn't credible. A statistically massive move like that would only occur with some significant event, not just in a two month period when independence hasn't been on the agenda.

The UBP has their own beef with the polls - and pollster - as well (a conflict I've written about before):

June 3, 2007

Dear friend:

I am writing as a result of a Royal Gazette story on Friday on national polling.

The story reported poll findings by the firm Research Innovations which we consider questionable and suspect.

Our own poll results from early May show a dramatically different picture.


These ratings differ dramatically from those reported in The Royal Gazette. We believe our figures are more accurate for two reasons:
They are supported by our polling in marginal constituencies with a second polling company that has worked in Bermuda for many years; and
The Royal Gazette pollster Mr. Walton Brown is the cousin of the Premier and also, at this time, listed to be a candidate for the PLP at the next election. I believe this constitutes a conflict of interest.

The United Bermuda Party is well-positioned to win the next election.

Our push for integrity in government, education reform, strong public safety, seniors care, tax relief and environmental protection stands in sharp contrast to a government that is faltering in terms of performance and trust.

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Sometimes one statement reveals so much.

Dr. Brown's press release today endorsing polling for candidate selection and condemning "power brokers operating as a controlling clique are permitted to call the shots" leads to all sorts of interesting places, not to mention hypocritical ones.

Firstly and most obviously the hypocrisy: Dr. Brown heaps scorn on the branch structure as a "controlling clique", a committee which had reportedly 9 representatives from the constituency, in favour of the 5 member controlling clique of the candidate selection committee, who stand poised to overrule the branch.

One person's controlling clique is another's democratic committee I guess. Or is it just that one can be more easily controlled.

Here's a suggestion: Hold a Primary. Neither party is fond of them but they're a good mechanism for settling these things.

Meanwhile, the commitment to polling as a democratic method of measuring public support over the whims of a minority surely means that Dr. Brown will respect the polling which has consistently revealed for more than a decade that an overwhelming majority of 2/3rds of Bermudians are completely opposed to Independence? Right?

Or is that not quite what he was getting at?

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Well that didn't take long.

Only 5 months into his time as Premier, the Doc reaches for and takes a gulp from the poison independence chalice. Take a big long draw I say.

What is it about independence? The lure seems just too great doesn't it.

But I can't get over how insulting the Premier was towards the vast majority of Bermudians who are opposed to Independence: we just need to be educated. You see, if you don't agree with Dr. Brown and the PLP elite you're uneducated and ignorant; incapable of weighing the information yourself and reaching the pragmatic conclusion that there's nothing in it for us, just the politicians.

So go ahead Dr. Brown. Hang that albatross around your neck.

They never learn do they?

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Two months ago I commented that the results from Research Innovations latest independence poll didn't make sense:

"Big swings in undecideds such as this, in a two month period, just don't happen - in either direction - barring some major development to change people's minds. And that hasn't happened."

I was right. The latest poll has things back on track, with the last poll clearly an anomaly, although one that makes me question the methodology and interpretation of the results. The article and pollster should have disclosed that the results were inconsistent and viewed skeptically.

I do however take issue with this idea that Dr. Brown has put Independence on the backburner:

Polls have consistently shown a majority of people against Independence, however, Dr. Brown stated before he was elected that Independence remained a "principal objective".

But he indicated he would be placing the issue on the back burner when he said it would not be an initial focal point of his leadership.

Nonsense. It's squarely on the front burner with the heat on high.

Since Dr. Brown was selected, he has done nothing but stoke the Independence flames.

The new Premier hoped to manufacture a confrontation over the location of his weekly meetings with the Governor (which the Dep. Gov. nonchalantly swatted away), attempted to exclude the Governor from the Overseas Territories meetings in the UK, is attempting to try and have the Governor become more active in managing issues which have been delegated for decades, refusing to consult on the Governor's appointment, and his opening comments of the 2006 Throne Speech which were not-so-subtle coded references to Independence:

Many wise Bermudians have lamented Bermuda’s motto, “Quo Fata Ferunt,” where the fates may lead us or whither the fates carry [us], and have remarked that the time has come to chart our own fate, our own destiny and our own future.

Every move that the Premier has made in his first 3 1/2 weeks has been toward achieving two related goals:

1) To try and force the UK through the Governor here to increase their profile and take an active role in governing rather than the hands-off approach of the past few decades, to try and create a perception that we are not self-governing.

2) To try and annoy/pester the UK to the point that they become the one pushing for Bermuda to go Independent, because he knows that he can't sell it to Bermudians.

Dr. Brown has cast aside the positive case for Independence (one no-one has been able to make yet) for the negative one.

He's trying to take Bermuda back more than a few decades to the technical but long since discarded constitutional model so that he can make the case that we don't run our own country.

Shrewd, but desperate.

The other aspect of all of this is that the confrontations are mostly about power. The appeal of Independence to a guy like Dr. Brown is not about achieving some democratic ideal but about acquiring more power.

That is abundantly clear.

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Evil colonial master.

The PLP has ordered all flags be flown at half mast for eternity. Independence is officially dead.

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This little non-event confirms that the current Premier is no different than his predecessor; he's just better at playing the game.

What a bore.

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Reading the latest poll results online, very quickly, from NY, my initial reaction to the Independence results is that they don't really make sense.

Big swings in undecideds such as this, in a two month period, just don't happen - in either direction - barring some major development to change people's minds. And that hasn't happened.

Historically support, opposition and undecideds have remained extremely stable, so a sudden move is odd; particulalry when you consider that the main advocate of independence had a slight downtick in his popular support, yet his signature issue experienced a reduction in outright opposition.

Doesn't add up to me, although the fact that support has held steady does. I just don't see what event would have triggered so many undecideds to reconsider. Nothing happened.

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As painful as it is to start my post-vacation blogging this way, here goes:

I don't for the life of me understand why UBP leader Wayne Furbert felt the need to hold a press conference on Independence today. Sure, most of what he said was fine, but what was the point?

No-one gives a damn, and the PLP have been looking for someone to spar with on this for years now. So far they've just been talking to themselves.

And lately they've even started answering themselves, which is the real sign you need to vist St. Brendan's, aka the Mid Atlantic Wellness Centre.

I don't know what he was thinking. The PLP look like idiots for continuing this in the face of complete and overwhelming disapproval and ambivalence.

I wouldn't be surprised if the PLP come charging out of the gate on this again thinking that they've got someone to argue with.

The UBP is on much better footing when they do what Kim Swan did this week, which is point out that the Government's own Sustainable Development report notes that Government has no housing policy and is just winging it:

"They reported that Government has no clear housing policy, relying instead on initiatives that are ad hoc and purely reactive in nature; that it has an uncoordinated approach to housing that means ‘only a partial view of the housing needs of the Island is being taken’ and it lacks a separate department with clear roles and responsibilities for housing."

If you don't think that Kim struck a nerve then you mustn't have noticed that the Finance Minister made a little statement today and that Senator Walter Roban was out rattling of the very ad hoc reactive initiatives as if they constituted a plan and a coordinated approach.

Leave independence to the PLP. No-one else cares in the least But people do care about housing, crime, education etc.. That's where the UBP is on the best footing.

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Here we go again.

Dr. Brown gets an A for creativity, with an admirable reach to dredge up a reason to go independent, seeing as the previous efforts (including the Premier's favourite that in an independent Bermuda his chauffeur could pick him up on the runway) have all failed.

"In the first place, our thriving colonial heritage has made us heirs to a bureaucracy rivalled only by Whitehall itself," he said.

"Simply put, prospective developers were not made to feel welcome in Bermuda."

This coming from the Deputy Premier of a blindly pro-independence party that has increased the staffing of an already bloated civil service by several hundred bureaucrats during their tenure. All this from a Government that boasted they would bring in the “scissor-man”.

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The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has released it's second report on Independence and Bermuda.

I haven't read it in its entirety yet.

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