PLP must not be geared to putting us into reverse
It was interesting recently listening to David Burt, the Premier, saying how well his Progressive Labour Party government and Bermuda were doing with the first quarter financial results from April to June 2018. One of the areas for which he proclaimed good news is tourism. He touted an increase in tourist spending of 6 per cent, which is excellent given that the same quarter in 2017 was the 35th America’s Cup.
Also remarkable was the increased air arrivals this year when compared with the same quarter last year. There were 66,604 visitors by air to Bermuda between April and June 2018, compared with 57,796 in the same period of 2017.
It must be abundantly clear now that the One Bermuda Alliance’s creation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority in 2013 was the right thing to do to correct tourism’s free fall.
Additionally, Bermudians should not forget that it was the present PLP government that wanted the former chief executive (Bill Hanbury) fired and for the BTA to be dismantled in its infancy.
Yet it is now taking credit for the BTA’s positive groundwork on behalf of Bermuda. This is the same PLP that is on record for berating the idea only a few years ago.
In addition, it is apparent that the OBA’s predictions about the spin-off effects of the global coverage of AC35 are materialising. Many tourists who have not visited before are coming here for the first time in record numbers.
This massive increase is initiating a domino effect by them sharing with others how beautiful Bermuda and its people are, and encouraging their family and friends to also visit.
What Mr Burt curiously did not mention was the extent to which credit is attributable to the OBA in other ways.
This includes the increase in ship arrivals for the April-June quarter of 18 per cent owing to starting the cruise season earlier. Additionally, he did not mention that hotel occupancy was also up over the same quarter at almost 80 per cent — a marked improvement when considering that the 2017 quarter included the America’s Cup.
The MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda, in April, would have helped with the increase in air tourist and hotel occupancy. Also, visitor spending has increased every quarter for 2½ years.
Had the PLP and the Premier mentioned these facts, they would have to concede that the OBA was on the right economic track all along. The impact of these OBA-led initiatives are bearing substantial rewards for Bermuda and Bermudians.
Another area he chose to boast about for the first quarter, April to June 2018, was the increase of 322 jobs, of which 83 per cent were Bermudian. This is excellent news and there is none among us who are not happy for our newly employed Bermudians.
However, these statistics beg questions such as:
• Why were the Department of Social Insurance numbers used and not the Department of Statistics numbers?
• How many workers were working at the airport project, the St George’s Hotel and other projects started by the OBA during the 2018 first quarter compared with the 2017 first quarter?
• How many new tourism-related jobs are based on the increase in tourism because of the OBA initiatives?
This increase in jobs would be good to know because these are OBA projects that the PLP objected to as being no good for Bermuda and Bermudians.
If it reveals that this was the reason for the jobs increase, it would again prove that the OBA was right and the PLP was not.
Other questions, such as how many new hires are now employed by the Government during this period compared with 2017?
Were these permanent positions or temporary positions? Was the “101 jobs for 101 days” initiative calculated in these numbers (Budget of $1 million to create 101 jobs)? These temporary jobs did occur during this period.
How many jobs have been created in the fintech disciplines? This is the only PLP initiative created thus far that is supposed to create hundreds of jobs for Bermudians. Is this where the 322 jobs came from?
My former independent Senate colleague James Jardine often voiced that employment numbers are usually a year behind, but these numbers seemed to come out very quickly. Why is that?
Will social insurance numbers be used every quarter moving forward or just when it suits the PLP narrative?
The PLP and the Premier taking credit for increases in tourism and employment would be hypocritical because the PLP fought against all of the economic developments that it is now taking credit for.
If the PLP was so wrong on the benefits to Bermuda, Bermudians and the economy from creating the BTA, the America’s Cup, the airport, the St George’s Hotel and other projects, why should we now have faith that it is steering us in the right direction?
Will the PLP experimentation with cryptocurrency prove to be fruitful?
Can we trust the projections of economic growth and the continued health of the economy under the PLP governance that got us in the predicament we found ourselves in by the end of their previous administration in 2012?
The PLP needs to be reminded that the OBA economic stimulus will come to an end one day.
It is to be hoped there will be economic growth under the PLP to take its place. The consequences for failure to provide this growth will have dire repercussions.
Lastly, we must all require the PLP to be transparent, without gimmicks and politricks. We must require them to truly “Put Bermudians First” and not put us in reverse.
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017