Archive for the ‘bermuda politics’ Category

An historic shift

Posted: December 18, 2012 in Bermuda, bermuda politics
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For me, the most exciting aspect of last night’s stunning election victory by the One Bermuda Alliance was not the closeness of the vote but the fact that the Bermudian electorate – and specifically black Bermudians – had the courage to vote for change.

It was a watershed moment in Bermuda’s democratic development, as significant as the Progressive Labour Party’s historic sweep to power in 1998 after 30 years of United Bermuda Party rule. In the same way that 1998 was overdue and had to happen, the same goes for 2012.

I have always held the opinion that Bermuda would only become politically mature when black Bermudians, as the majority of voters,  had the courage to not only elect a predominantly black PLP Government but also to vote them out. The realisation that they truly do have the power to hold Governments of any persuasion accountable is a significant shift. This was an election that Bermudians of all races took very seriously and in which they voted on the issues, and less on emotion and historical allegiance. In future, the OBA and the PLP will underestimate Bermuda’s voters at their peril.

The OBA victory was as decisive as it was unexpected. Most pundits – myself included – felt it would be a close election but that as a new party, the OBA could not expect to win power in its first campaign. I had predicted a 19-17 PLP victory but from the moment Glenn Smith not only beat Premier Paula Cox in Devonshire North West but crushed her by almost 100 votes, it was clear change was in the air. In fact, by the time it was all over, the OBA were just 22 votes and a few spoiled ballots short of a 22-14 win, such were the narrow margins of PLP victory in Devonshire North Central, Pembroke Central and Sandys North.

The Bermuda Sun asked for my thoughts this week on the PR and advertising campaigns of the two major parties contesting next Monday’s election. Both Rhona Emmerson, head of aac Saatchi & Saatchi, and I agreed that generally, they were underwhelming and full of the same old rhetoric. [You can read the full story here].

We both commented on the significant use of socia media in this election by both politicians and voters. As Rhona commented: “This is the first election we have had the full force of social media or even [the opportunity] to comment on stories on newspaper pages. The long-term impact of that on the polls will be interesting to see.”

Barak Obama’s presidential campaigns have shown how important social media can be right down to a local macro level [See these blog posts on We Are Social and the New York Times for contrasting views of its impact.]

Social media has certainly been used more than any previous Bermuda election but I’m not sure how decisive it will be. If a friend “Likes” a party’s Facebook page or Tweets about a political video, how much will that influence your decision on polling day?  Is it engaging young first-time voters or putting them off?

I think social media has definitely played a significant role in encouraging Bermudians to be more open about voicing their opinions publicly but there’s a danger that it encourages more knee-jerk reactions than reasoned debate. Arguably the most-viewed online video was the PLP’s puppet ad [see below] – but did it do the party more harm than good as it was mercilessly ridiculed, including this spoof from Bermuda Memes.

I’d be interested in hearing from readers about what impact social media has had on them in this election. What sites/blogs/platforms did you follow most? Will it affect which party you will vote for on Monday? Has it helped you understand the issues better? Or has it confused you or put you off the whole process?

Post your comments below or on my Facebook page.

Following on from my recent posts about PRCs and Bermuda’s public debt, Nathan Kowalski’s Financial Ramblings From The Rock column in today’s Royal Gazette is well worth a read.

In it, Kowalski, who is a chartered financial analyst and chief investment officer at a Bermuda investment firm, sets out just how serious the island’s debt is and some possible solutions. He says the Bermuda Government needs to adjust its budget by $200 million (either through cuts or increased revenue) to avoid an alarming increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio that could potentially send the island into bankruptcy. Just to give you an idea how much that is, it is equivalent to cutting the entire Department of Health (current spending $191 million).

He says measures to grow the economy must include a change in immigration policy. “Without a pro-immigration policy, it is very unlikely that Bermuda will be able to grow economically,” he writes. “To encourage retention a permanent residence programme and/or full citizenship needs to be offered to foster loyalty and a commitment to the country from future immigrants and current ex-pats.”

 

I don’t pretend for a moment to be an economist but you certainly don’t need to be one to appreciate that Bermuda’s economy is in bad shape. Whether you blame the global recession or the Government, it’s getting worse and shows no signs of recovery into 2013.

According to Bob Stewart, writing in today’s Bermuda Sun, the Island could well be heading towards bankruptcy. Could we really become another Greece? Mr. Stewart, who used to run the Shell Company in Bermuda and knows a lot more about economics than you or I, says that the failing economy and massive debt means Government simply won’t be able to pay for things like seniors’ healthcare and Government pensions. With life expectancy increasing, medical insurance and treatment costs going through the roof, the working population decreasing, and wages fast losing pace with inflation, the math doesn’t add up. It’s simply unsustainable.

Writes Stewart: “There are two major government obligations for which adequate money has not been set aside. These are medical insurance (mainly Future Care), and government pension plans of which there are two major schemes. The first is the Social Security Fund, and the second is the Public Service Superannuation Fund. To meet their obligations, without calling on future tax revenue both of these funds should be funded at around the 100 per cent level. Both are massively underfunded – around 35 per cent for each.

“The total for such unfunded retirement liabilities is somewhere around $1.5 billion which is in addition to the government debt of around $1.5 billion. In other words, Bermuda is in debt to the tune of $3 billion or around $60,000 per Bermudian, including children.”

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The election is less than a month away but as yet, none of our local candidates have knocked on my door. Maybe they’ve done their homework and realised there is no point in canvassing someone who has lived on the Island for 30 years, owns a local business, is the father of a Bermudian child and pays taxes like everyone else but is still not permitted to vote in a democratic election.

It’s a pity they haven’t stopped by because I’d really like to hear what they think about the continued and unnecessary discrimination against long-term Residents and what their Government might do about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the few benefits that a Permanent Residency Certificate (PRC) gives me – for example, I can come and go as I please without needing a work or re-entry permit (albeit at the discretion of the Government) – but it falls woefully short of what most normal democracies would offer people in my position.

Without the right to vote and the absurd restrictions on buying property (more of which in a moment), PRCs are little more than second class citizens in the place that we and our children call home. In fact, we’re not even classed as full citizens in the same way that Bermudians and Status Bermudians (long-term residents who received citizenship up to the 1980s or obtained it through 10 years of marriage to a Bermudian) are – yet to even qualify for a PRC I had to have been on the Island before August 1, 1989, lived here for 20 years, and be over 40 years of age.

Between us, my wife (also a PRC) and I have 56 years residency in Bermuda, so our commitment to the Island is not in doubt – in fact I have lived here longer than I lived in my native UK – so why should we not have a democratic say in affairs that affect the lives of our family?

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So much for the “Media Roundtable” last night. More like the media getting the runaround.

Like him or hate him, it was a slick performance by Dr. Ewart Brown. I was only able to see part of the event (courtesy of Bernews’ inspired decision to trump the rest of the media by streaming it live) but from what I saw,  the Premier – egged on by a partisan crowd – had little trouble in swatting away questions from an overly respectful media by getting in plenty of digs of his own and deflecting any potentially awkward questions with a crowd-pleasing quip. “We don’t stay in Motel 6 – if you don’t mind,” was a typical put-down to The Royal Gazette’s Tim Smith that effectively ended further questioning of Government $16,000 ground transportation expenses on a trip to Washington, DC.

If the event was a missed opportunity by the media, one wonders why – with the exception of acolyte LaVerne Furbert – they deigned to take part in this farce at all.  Did they really think they would be able to skewer Dr. Brown in a circus of an environment in which the Premier played the consummate ringmaster?

Having said that, this was certainly not without risk for Dr. Brown. A more aggressive media could have made it a very uncomfortable and embarrassing evening for him and undermined the legacy he seems so desperate to burnish before he leaves office. But he gambled – correctly – that the media were on a hiding to nothing and that had they really pressed him, he could simply play the victim, being beset once more by the big bad media with their vindictive plantation questions and lies.

So what was in it for Dr. Brown – a Premier who has, for the most part, side-stepped the media with the aplomb of a contestant on Dancing With The Stars and who has been subjected to more media criticism than any other Bermuda Premier? And why now?

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Excellent opinion piece by Larry Burchall in today’s Bermuda Sun attacking the proposed Media Council Act, calling it :

a huge, unwieldy legislative sledgehammer trying to hit a tiny Bermudian ant. The Act seems driven by a Government that has acquired a recent deep paranoia about the Royal Gazette.”