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.
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?