Atherden: Government must now deliver
Details on how government policies will affect ordinary Bermudians need to be clearer, the Leader of the Opposition has claimed.
Jeanne Atherden said ministers have had plenty of time to deliver on everyday issues that affect the people of the country after a year of Progressive Labour Party power.
The One Bermuda Alliance leader added the public now wanted substance to accompany a checklist of guarantees 12 months after the Progressive Labour Party’s General Election victory.
Ms Atherden said: “I think the people of Bermuda have been looking at the promises that they made and been trying to assess whether those promises have actually been kept and what impact it has had on them.
“I think they are now starting to realise a number of these promises have not been kept, a number of these promises have had a detrimental effect on them and that some of the things they had been given have been taken away.”
She explained: “The increases in social insurance for seniors are now offset by the increase in health insurance premiums, or the fact that there’s a reduction in payroll tax has been offset by the fact that there are some more taxes which are going to hit the bottom line and so it’s like, ‘hey, you give it to me, you take it back’.
“So I think that they’re now starting to say, ‘I need to look a little bit more closely at what’s being suggested’ because in addition to that, some of these things do not have enough information about how it’s going to impact on them and therefore they’re being asked to say, ‘let’s support this’ without realising what’s going to happen.”
Ms Atherden claimed the Government was “definitely not transparent enough”.
She added: “I think that it’s a combination, they’re rushing, with a consequence that some of the legislation they’re putting in is rushed and we have to make changes.”
Ms Atherden told The Royal Gazette: “I think any government has to understand that from the time you’re elected you need to make sure that the contract you’ve made with your electorate ... that contract is subject to review and they’re going to be looking at your performance.”
She highlighted “buses and trash and all sorts of things” the party had mentioned.
Ms Atherden added: “They said, ‘give us this amount of time and we will have it in place and we will order more trash trucks, we will make sure we have maintenance’.
“Well they’ve been in place now, they had money which was left in the budget last year and so if you look right now we still have trash service which is one day a week, we used to have two days a week before and now you have the indication that this is going to be delayed even further, especially when we’re coming into the summer months when one would have thought that this was the time, even if it was only temporary, that you could have dealt with it from a health issue.
“There was the talk about issues with the buses, we didn’t leave enough money for them, even though there was provision to buy buses.
“There was a plan to update the fleet, they had this whole issue of ‘we didn’t leave them enough money with respect to manpower’, well they’ve had enough time.
“There was the concern about the bus schedule — we were trying to implement a new bus schedule which, if implemented, would have solved many of these problems with respect to the numbers of buses that you need with respect to routes. So they’ve had it, they’ve had it on their plate, now it’s time for them to deliver.
“They cannot go back and blame the former government, they have to say, ‘this is us’.”
Ms Atherden said ministers claimed they were checking off a list of pledges but that some needed closer inspection, pointing to a more progressive pensions system recently announced by the Government, which will see a shift away from a flat rate in contributions as part of its plan to create a fairer tax system.
It was said that the most vulnerable will carry a smaller share of the pensions burden but Ms Atherden questioned how the measures would be implemented and the impact it would have on all Bermudians “not just the people at the low end of the scale”.
She added: “So I think that the devil is in the detail. Therefore, we, as the Opposition representing the people of Bermuda, have to ask the questions, but more importantly, the people of Bermuda have to start saying, ‘tell us some more, you promised to be transparent, you promised to collaborate, we’re not seeing enough of this’.”
Ms Atherden said: “You can’t just tick a box without looking to see if has any substance to it?”