Bermuda’s Washington office to be phased out
Bermuda’s Washington, DC office is being phased out in a switch from a “bricks and mortar presence” to greater use of lobbying, Michael Dunkley told legislators.
While delivering the Budget brief for Cabinet, the Premier noted that an allocation of $206,000 had been estimated for the facility in the 2017/18 year, to cover rent, insurance and utilities until the Ministry of Public Works could find a sublet, since several years remain on its lease.
“Given the recent change in US Government under the Trump Administration and the proximity to Capitol Hill, the prospects of renting the prime location are quite high,” Mr Dunkley added.
The island would also be able to leverage its position via the efforts of Bermuda’s external affairs strategic planning committee.
David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, responded that the Progressive Labour Party did not believe the closure was “in the best long-term interests of the country”.
“We are going to have to agree to disagree on that,” Mr Dunkley answered, telling the House that while there had been good promotional and tourism work achieved from the DC office, such moves were better undertaken by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
Parliament was also told of the Government’s longstanding ties with the Ken Levine, the Washington lobbyist, going back “at least two decades”.
There was $100,000 allocated to Levine & Company for 2016/17, but with the potential for an impact on Bermuda through US tax reforms, an incremental $150,000 has been allocated for 2017/18. The consultant’s hourly rate is $550, Mr Dunkley said, in response to questions from the Opposition.
The Premier said $281,000 would be spent in the present fiscal year, with $290,000 spent the year before, and $218,000 spent before that.
“The high was in 2008, when $409,000 was spent on that consultant,” Mr Dunkley said, adding that unless consultants were kept on “a short leash” it was easy to rack up charges.
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