Ten new year’s resolutions for Government
As we embrace 2018, many will talk about new year’s resolutions. I have already made mine, so I thought I would write some for the Government to consider that would benefit all Bermudians:
Resolution 1: Engage more in governing and less in politicking. Now this is an interesting one. Finding the right balance is probably the most difficult thing to do for any political party in government in any jurisdiction. And it is more than fair to say that the One Bermuda Alliance when in government did not get that balance right — and before anyone makes comment, I do, of course, include myself in this observation. However, the past six months has been subject to a terribly underwhelming performance by the Progressive Labour Party government as a result of playing politics, from reversing same-sex marriage to taking de facto control of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission to ignoring the benefits of the 35th America’s Cup. It is great politicking, presumably, to appeal to the base of the PLP, but absolutely awful governance.
Resolution 2: Be progressive and not regressive. Progressivism (per Wikipedia) is “the support for or advocacy of improvement of society by reform. As a philosophy, it is based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development and social organisation are vital to the improvement of the human condition”. Such ideals should be based on liberal principles, leading from the front, ensuring the rights of the minority are not trampled upon while guiding the people to do the right thing, even if there is criticism. Instead, we have seen populism take over with kneejerk reactions being the name of the game. This regressive attitude displayed by some ministers is Trump-like and far from progressive.
Resolution 3: Stop the Doublethink. Be consistent with your beliefs and actions. Say the same thing to all people. I have outlined already the many examples of duplicity and Janus-like behaviour of the Cabinet, and what appears to be a disregard for consistency. Saying what you think each audience wants to hear may make you popular, but it is not leading.
Resolution 4: Love all Bermudians and treat them equally. I say this because too often members of government have differentiated between a born Bermudian and a paper Bermudian, either directly or indirectly. The quote “All [Bermudians] are equal but some [Bermudians] are more equal than others” comes to mind. And shrill voices say “24-12” comes to mind when so-called “paper” Bermudians dare make their voice heard. Whether the Government likes it or not, 40 per cent of those who voted did not vote for the PLP.
Resolution 5: Stop bashing guest workers and blaming our woes on them. I continue to be shocked at the bashing of guest workers and the anti-guest worker flames that were fanned by the Government when it was the Opposition. The statistics show a clear correlation: when work permits are at their highest, the unemployment of Bermudians is at its lowest. Instead of bashing guest workers, the Government must continue to pursue those employers who totally disregard the rules. You will recall that the OBA introduced civil penalties and doubled criminal penalties to crack down on rogue employers. This must continue. Stoking divisiveness must stop.
Resolution 6: Be clear and concise in what your policies are. All too often when ministers are questioned in Parliament, there is a dismissive attitude and few direct answers are given. As I have already pointed out, this is particularly so of the Premier, especially when it comes to independence. Whether the Premier likes it or not, in addition to comments made by his party colleagues publicly on the subject, much has also been said by many in the community behind closed doors as to the intent of the Government to take Bermuda down the road of independence. It is time to come clean on the matter. Obfuscation will take us only so far.
Resolution 7: Be statesmen for all of Bermuda. Small signs make a big difference. Ministers should not walk around in public wearing “Landslide 24-12” T-shirts, or PLP lapel pins at government functions. This attitude is parochial. Focus should be paid to representing all the people of Bermuda. Our country needs leadership, not ego.
Resolution 8: Remember what drives Bermuda’s economy. Whether we like it or not, the economy is driven by foreign capital and international business. Rhetoric does little to instil confidence in the Government. Confidence in Bermuda as a well-governed jurisdiction is important. Dealing with the issue of long-term residency as a matter of urgency will go a long way to give assurances to those that have been in Bermuda for 20 years or more that they can be secure in making direct inward investment into Bermuda.
Resolution 9: Appoint as wide a cross section as possible of people to the government boards and quangos. As you may recall, the OBA introduced an open process in that interested people could apply to be members of boards and quangos. In fact, quite a number of board members that were appointed under the previous PLP administration remained under the OBA. I made it a point to retain those people on boards under my ministries that were regular attendees of meetings and made positive contributions — in other words, those who did not just attend meetings for kudos purposes or to collect a $50 paycheque. Frankly, there is no need to purge a board just because there are people on it that may disagree with government policy. Diverse opinions on the boards are an incredible resource and should be embraced.
Resolution 10: Stop spinning. The PLP government is the quintessential spinner. It outspun the OBA many, many times. The OBA did very little to no spinning. While this resolution is similar to “Resolution 1”, less spin equates to better and more honest leadership. Spinning helped Tony Blair to be one of the most successful Labour politicians of the modern age, but when he left office he left under a cloud because of constant spinning. The PLP should be urged to stop spinning and instead lead with honesty and clarity. In the meantime, the public should be urged to fact-check using the simple median of the internet.
Happy new year, Bermuda.
• Michael M. Fahy is a former Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, and Junior Minister of Finance under the One Bermuda Alliance government
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