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John Barritt

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  • Apr 11, 2014 8:00 am

    Can economic growth continue?

    A change is as good as a rest, Mr Editor, so this week a break from my usual.

    Everyone wants more and few among us desire less. As a general rule I think that’s pretty true. The trouble is that it also presents a challenge in today’s economic climate and Bermuda is no exception, perhaps even the more so given what we are: an isolated island community of 20 square miles with limited resources.

    Economic growth is often advanced as...

  • The kind of exchange and challenge we should see
    Apr 4, 2014 8:00 am

    The kind of exchange and challenge we should see

    The annual Budget Debate is behind us. Time to take stock. How was it for you? The debate, I mean.

    Frankly, I wonder how many people bothered to listen in. Even for a period of time.

    Mind you, there was plenty of opportunity for those who were interested, spread out as it was over three days a week for just over two weeks for a total of 56 hours.

    You might however, have had difficulty following along. It is far easier if you...

  • Mar 28, 2014 8:00 am

    Put the backbenchers to work

    The Bermuda Legislature is threatening to catch up to 21st century governance. I kid you not.

    A Joint Select Committee (JSC) is proposing an independent commission of legislators to manage the operation of both the House on the Hill and the Senate below. Yawn?

    The committee doesn’t stop there either. The JSC is also calling for the establishment of an Ethics Committee and the drafting of a comprehensive Code of Conduct to which...

  • Mar 21, 2014 8:00 am

    A cat among the pigeons

    The value of an independent, objective opinion is not to be underestimated, particularly perhaps in politics, and not withstanding if it is the work of a lawyer. No, Mr Editor, I am not thinking of my own. I am referring instead to the opinion of a London QC which was obtained by the House Committee on Elections courtesy of the Centre for Justice here in Bermuda, which has certainly set the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. Or so it would...

  • Silence isn’t all that persuasive
    Mar 14, 2014 8:00 am

    Silence isn’t all that persuasive

    The politics of distraction, some call it. I am not so sure. It’s all plain politics, if you ask me: the good, the bad and the ugly.

    We really shouldn’t be too surprised either. Politics is what politicians engage in, some of them being obviously better at it than others.

    The criticisms, the accusations, the questions and the answers (or not) are all grist for the mill of public opinion, another means by which voters get to...

  • Mar 7, 2014 8:00 am

    The frog and the scorpion

    Politics will change when politicians change, one reader told me after last week’s column. He has a point. Albert Einstein put it another way: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” That too, strikes me as a good place to begin: with our thinking.

    But that may not be so easy. First, there is the very nature of politics. Here I can think of no better...

  • Feb 28, 2014 8:00 am

    The devil is in the detail

    The devil is in the detail when it comes to the Budget and the beauty of the Budget Debate is that MPs are given the time to examine Government accounts a.k.a. the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure — and in detail should they wish. In fact, a total of some 56 hours is set aside for the annual exercise; usually over two weeks, starting Monday meeting three days a week. You might think that sufficient. Maybe. It all depends on how well our...

  • The privatisation groundwork has still to be laid
    Feb 24, 2014 8:00 am

    The privatisation groundwork has still to be laid

    You asked, Mr Editor, for my take on the 2014/15 Budget. Here you go in no particular order: —

    First, I thought the Statement was pretty faithful. It followed the One Bermuda Alliance script as we have come to know it since their election. There were as a consequence no real surprises.

    Nor was there any immediate pain or disappointment with no new or increased taxes, and no claw back of concessions. Apparently no job losses in the...

  • Feb 21, 2014 8:00 am

    The physics of politics

    He said, he said, all right: a good headline, Mr Editor, and a fair summation of what has become a sad, sorry spectacle. Sordid too: disclosure of the existence of a surreptitious tape recording by one MP of another, the contents of which we have yet to hear, and an open mic the contents of which were there for all to hear. No question that all of this has become a talking point up and down Bermuda, I’m sure, and most probably abroad as well,...

  • Feb 14, 2014 8:00 am

    It’s time for some questions

    There is nothing quite like a good PQ to start the day — on the Hill, that is, where parliamentary questions (PQs for short) are now a featured part of the day’s agenda. It is known as Question Period that typically comes up fairly early in the morning and lasts no more than an hour. How boring, you think. Not so. Question Period can make for a very lively exchange that is both educational and entertaining as the Opposition (and backbench...

  • Feb 7, 2014 8:00 am

    Bill Gates walks into a bar.....

    The news made my head spin too: Bermudians are better off now than they were ten years ago. The average income of a two-person home was reported to be $2,767.00 a week or $144,000.00 per year. I expect a lot of Bermudians were wondering just who these people are — and here I am thinking of our seniors, the underemployed and the unemployed, all of whom must number in the thousands, and who are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to make...

  • Jan 31, 2014 8:00 am

    No use moaning, it’s a done deal

    There is no need for debate on conscription, we are told. The two parties are agreed. There will also be no referendum on gaming, and not because the two parties necessarily agree on gaming, but because the OBA Government believed the Opposition PLP had plans to sabotage the vote, which is denied, as it so happens.

    Either way the people won’t be having much of a say. Except maybe on how integrated casino resort gaming should be run in...

  • Jan 24, 2014 8:00 am

    Education is not just a job for Govt

    Unruly and disruptive behaviour was back in the news again recently but, no, not in connection with the House on the Hill, members are still on recess, and for another three weeks, which will make it nine weeks in total. No, this time the headlines were about students and our schools, and ironically these disturbing reports about student behaviour surfaced around the time Government, under yet another new Minister for Education, was unveiling...

  • Jan 17, 2014 9:04 am

    The other deficit — trust

    Trust is a small word with big implications. It cannot be manufactured. Nor can it be conjured up at will. Trust has to be earned. It is the critical ingredient in any good relationship and, you don’t need me to tell you, very few relationships survive long without it. On the other hand, with trust much can be achieved.

    Okay, already, I hear you: enough with the preaching. So here’s the point: politics too, are ultimately about...

  • We fight on in her absence
    Jan 10, 2014 8:00 am

    We fight on in her absence

    Much has already been written and said about my former colleague and good friend Mrs. Louise Jackson, all of it complimentary, all of it deserved, and today, on the eve of her funeral, I want to begin the column with my own special tribute.

    Louise was a regular reader too, who, and this won’t surprise any of you, always told me what she thought in clear and forthright fashion. Sound familiar? It should. You always knew where you stood...

  • Let’s play match game 2014
    Jan 3, 2014 8:00 am

    Let’s play match game 2014

    This column is for all those readers who think I am too darn serious, too darn often. I know, I know, I can be: just not this week, for a change.

    Instead I give you my idea of a fun way to see off the old year and to usher in the new, as well as a chance to pocket $100.

    I have literally combed through my back issues of The Royal Gazette (yes, really) to come up with a set of quotes, reported remarks of various people over the...

  • Dec 27, 2013 8:00 am

    Less secrecy please

    I don’t know whether you know, but there is a committee of the Legislature that has been meeting secretly on the Hill, doing some pretty important work. I know because I was called to appear before the committee recently. They wanted to grill me about some of the things that I have been writing about in this column. Sort of. I confess that I am exaggerating some to make a point and, yes, to get your attention.

    The committee is the joint...

  • Dec 20, 2013 8:00 am

    Didn’t see that coming

    Betcha didn’t see that coming, did you? I know I didn’t. Mind you, neither was I aware that the Opposition PLP were apparently plotting to undermine the referendum. I had not heard a peep until the Premier claimed a plot was afoot, and quite how that would work and to the detriment of those wanting a yes vote, is still not clear to me.

    On the other hand I was aware that the PLP, like many others, myself included, were unhappy with the...

  • Dec 13, 2013 8:00 am

    Well, better late than never I suppose

    Better late than never, mother used to always say. Government has now given us some better idea of where they intend to go with the SAGE report and its recommendations. There will be a take note motion in the House on the Hill today — which means members get to air their views and ideas and concerns, which should make for a long day and evening, assuming all speak, and barring any surprises, there will be no voting — which is to be followed...

  • Dec 6, 2013 8:00 am

    Have the OBA got no shame?

    Somebody somewhere, I bet, must have thought that they were pretty darn clever. I don’t. First of all it took them practically a year to come up with the referendum question. Secondly, none of us likes to be played for a fool or for stupid. The question is anything but even-handed, not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, political or otherwise.

    “Do you favour the introduction of regulated casino gambling for the purposes of...

  • Nov 29, 2013 8:00 am

    Better planning required

    Talk about calling it like you see it. There is this paragraph very early on in the Report of the SAGE Commission that is very hard to get over. It reads: “The Commission has identified that the Civil and Public Service does not have sufficient leadership skills and capabilities at the right management levels, nor are the necessary skills and capabilities present in an appropriate number of individuals, to meet the challenges that Bermuda is...

  • The Avis approach to politics
    Nov 22, 2013 8:00 am

    The Avis approach to politics

    It was an effective and memorable advertising campaign that Avis once ran: we’re number two, we try harder. This same principle is probably equally applicable in politics, most especially in two party contests where finishing second means last, out of the running and definitely without power.

    So you have to try harder, not just to win back the confidence of a majority of the people, but also to be noticed, to be heard and to be...

  • Nov 8, 2013 8:00 am

    Quaint occasion that reflects who we are

    Throne Speeches tend to be overrated, I think, mostly by the politicians and those who write them- and, no, they are not always one and the same. A wordsmith (or two?) is often required to weave together all the disparate pieces which often come in the form of contributions from each of the various Ministries. The hope and the aim is a coherent and appealing plan of action that reads well. It was ever thus.

    But in all my years, first as...

  • How to get things done in politics
    Nov 1, 2013 8:00 am

    How to get things done in politics

    A few further words this week on collaboration or clobberation if you prefer, prompted in part by a new book which I have just finished reading: “Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked”.

    It is written by Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s “Hardball” fame who worked for the former US Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.

    The Gipper was of course US President Ronald Regan. It was the subtitle that first...

  • Oct 25, 2013 8:00 am

    Cuts are fine, but where’s the shared sacrifice?

    Desperate times often call for desperate measures. On the other hand, desperate people are known to do desperate things. The two are not mutually exclusive. Discerning the difference is key — and that’s not always that easy to do. Washington D.C. is a prime example. But, hey, we’ve got our own problems so let’s stick with what’s been happening (or not) here in Bermuda.

    The SAGE Commission is about to deliver its much anticipated report.

  • Oct 18, 2013 8:00 am

    The more things change....

    Here’s one voting option you might not expect to see on the ballot here in Bermuda any time soon: None of the above. I kid you not. The right to exercise the vote this way was recently won in India — and thanks here to the keen reader who sent me a news report on the decision of their Supreme Court which ordered India’s Electoral Commission to provide a slot on ballots which would literally give voters the option to choose “none of the...

  • Oct 11, 2013 8:00 am

    Full disclosure is a no-brainer

    Disclosure of interests by parliamentarians has touched off fierce debate — in some circles — and so it should. It is one of the issues with which the Select Committee on Elections is trying to come to grips, and for good reason. Modern practice today requires more disclosure, rather than less.

  • Oct 4, 2013 8:00 am

    Collaboration? More like clobberation

    Collaboration huh? It’s a word that has been bandied about a lot lately and it is starting to look like it means different things to different people, depending on the context, who is using it and for what reason. Confused? Don’t be. How about we start by looking look up the definition. The concise Oxford English Dictionary is a good place to begin. Mine reads: -
    “1. Work jointly on an activity of project;

  • Will they or won’t they
    Sep 27, 2013 8:00 am

    Will they or won’t they

    Neverendum talk of will they or won’t they hold a referendum on gaming looks like it may soon be coming to an end. Maybe. We are told that there will be a vote early next year before the next Budget.
    However, this assurance comes after we were first told that we could expect one either late this summer, or early in the fall. So much I suppose for the fierce urgency of now: it will have been a year since the OBA was elected.

  • Sep 20, 2013 8:00 am

    Our number one problem

    Houston, we’ve got a problem. It’s a great line from a pretty good movie (Apollo 13) and by its simplicity conveys effectively what lies ahead. Telescopic vision is not required. Eyes Wide Open (not Shut) will do. So it is, I think, with the work of the SAGE Commission.

  • Sep 13, 2013 8:00 am

    So, who exactly is in charge around here?

    Now is an opportune time to reflect on the type of government we have here in Bermuda — and not because MPs are trooping back up the Hill today for an extraordinary September sitting.

  • Sep 11, 2013 8:00 am

    And the winner is.......

    A week or two back you’ll remember I said it sometimes pays to have a sense of humour about the serious matters of state.

  • Sep 6, 2013 8:00 am

    It isn’t brain surgery

    It isn’t rocket science. It isn’t brain surgery. Collaboration, while challenging, is not impossible. But it does require the political will and major effort to achieve the possible. Otherwise, like the word transparency and its equally attractive twin, accountability, calls for collaboration and cooperation are meaningless unless they are translated into demonstrable and meaningful action.

  • Aug 30, 2013 8:00 am

    $50 for the best punchline

    Funny or not, sometimes it pays to have a sense of humour about the serious matters of state. Case in point: In response to predictions about more job losses before the year is out Finance Minister Bob Richards was quoted as saying, “statisticians don’t run governments, economists do”. Now, I don’t know about you but on reading this I kept thinking there was a punch line there somewhere. Like: “Really! So that’s the problem.” Or: “Okay, now we...

  • Aug 23, 2013 8:00 am

    Signs of a new direction on drugs

    Drug testing to detect and refer for treatment is a good thing; drug testing simply to catch and expose users not so good. While a combination of the two may not be so bad, to focus exclusively on drug testing is to sidestep a wider debate that needs to be had. It ignores events and developments elsewhere which are pointing to a new direction — and this is the point to which I alluded in my column last week.

  • Aug 16, 2013 8:00 am

    These are the dog days of summer

    These are the dog days of summer when the heat and humidity tends to get to us all. So I wasn’t too surprised when one astute reader drew me up on my pointed comments last week over the difference between full-time and part-time cabinet ministers.

  • Never discount the maths of politics
    Aug 9, 2013 8:00 am

    Never discount the maths of politics

    Cabinets come in all shapes and sizes depending on needs, except maybe in politics where size is important. Carpentry it isn’t. Size matters because it is often a numbers game of deciding who is in and who is out.
    Never ever discount the mathematics of politics. We currently have a cabinet of 13 under the new One Bermuda Alliance Government, which is practically the maximum permitted under the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968.

  • Aug 5, 2013 8:00 am

    It’s not sexy, but it is important

    Eyes tend to glaze over when discussing how the operation of the Legislature might be improved. I understand. It isn’t a high priority for a lot of people and it doesn’t make for the sexiest news. But the importance of reform on the Hill is starting to catch on, and not just because MPs have finally decided to set up a committee to look into how this can be achieved. Readers of this column have been responding with some useful ideas of their own...

  • Jul 31, 2013 8:00 am

    ‘Um, um, where did all de money go’

    View from Off the Hill
    Sixes and fours, bumpers, googlies and spin. It’s Cup Match folks and not another day on the Hill. That also means it’s a short week so I will stick with a little quick line and length, which is never a bad approach off and on the field.

  • Jul 26, 2013 8:00 am

    The question of status in return for an investment

    Status for investment in lieu of austere measures is arguably a clever and compelling way of framing the argument. Austerity is not proving that popular in any number of jurisdictions, let alone here, and there is growing doubt as to its efficacy in any event. But please, let’s also recognise from the outset that any opening up of status will be an emotive issue for a lot of Bermudians, mostly for black Bermudians but white as well, and for...

  • Jul 19, 2013 8:00 am

    Don’t sweat the small stuff

    You can’t beat the wit of Oscar Wilde. “I live in constant fear of not being misunderstood”, he once lamented. Of course Mr Wilde was no politician. Politicians have the opposite lament: they want to be always understood whatever they say however they say it. The recent SAGE Commission controversy is a case in point.

  • Jul 12, 2013 8:00 am

    Direct democracy through social media

    Talking of modernising the Legislature, I was very recently reminded of that great line from the movie ‘Network’ when TV anchorman Peter Finch encourages thousands of his viewers to throw open their windows and shout in unison like him: “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!”

  • Jul 5, 2013 8:00 am

    Lapdogs could have some bite in committee system

    Watchdogs or lapdogs? If asked, Mr Acting Editor, I’m pretty sure I know which role the voting public would prefer their MPs play on the Hill.
    There is no good reason why backbench MPs, i.e. those who do not sit Cabinet, should be reduced only to voices who parrot the party script, with some variation here and there, and who must vote the party line no matter their own personal views.
    My view is that they deserve more to do.

  • Govt loses control of a motion - and now we have a bipartisan committee
    Jun 28, 2013 8:00 am

    Govt loses control of a motion - and now we have a bipartisan committee

    Different day, same old story, Mr Acting Editor, except this time arguably a better result, depending, I suppose, on which side of the divide you are on. An Opposition motion to establish a bipartisan committee finally succeeded on the Hill. Can’t say I have been there and done that.

  • Jun 21, 2013 8:00 am

    We need laws for tolerance in our vitriolic little country

    Riddle me this, Mr Acting Editor, as we reflect on the recent equal rights debate. How is it that those who espouse tolerance, exhibit so little for those who have views with which they disagree? I am not just talking about reported exchanges on the Hill, but those who also took to the blogs, posting their views, venomous, and vitriolic, on occasion, most of them volleyed from behind pseudonyms.

  • Jun 14, 2013 8:00 am

    Not going to London would have been a missed opportunity

    The dreaded i-word was bound to come up, I suppose Mr Acting Editor. It was too good an opportunity for some to pass up on the opportunity to revive the issue of independence for Bermuda. I suppose too, that like clocks that have stopped ticking, it will eventually turn out to be right one of these times. But not this time, I don’t think; at least not yet.

  • Jun 7, 2013 8:00 am

    Lessons have been learned, I’m sure

    Forget Commission. Sage advice was required. Like that of a former colleague of mine who, whenever we found ourselves in difficulty, used to love to remind us of the advice he received from a wily veteran before him: If you are in a hole, put down the shovel, stop digging. Simple, straightforward and sound, Mr Acting Editor. Effective too.

  • May 31, 2013 8:00 am

    A gathering storm over the offshore world

    It is a general rule of thumb most understand: if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck. But few ever think or care what kind of duck. The same might be said of a mounting challenge Bermuda is facing. Tax haven or offshore financial centre? Tax evasion or tax avoidance? Illegal or immoral? Aggressive or defensive?

  • May 17, 2013 8:00 am

    We need to change the way PAC operates

    It’s been nine weeks since MPs trundled up the Hill to do business.
    A nice break, you might think, but let’s not be too harsh here. The work of Government doesn’t just stop because the House is in recess. Besides we all know that the real work doesn’t happen up there on the Hill, it is down there around the Cabinet table that the actual decisions are made, and then taken to caucus for review and approval.

  • May 10, 2013 8:00 am

    Gleaning proposals while securing political cover

    Ventriloquism isn’t just for dummies, Mr Acting Editor. It can also be a very useful and effective political tool. No, I am not referring to bloggers and petty party hacks posturing and posing behind pseudonyms. Those people are about as subtle (and recognisable) as a slap in the face. I am thinking of something a little more sophisticated and elaborate than that. Here’s how it works: —

  • May 3, 2013 8:00 am

    Operation Ceasefire: We need to spell out the goals

    Spare me the wisecracks about great minds and fools but that was some coincidence Mr Acting Editor, two of your Friday columnists DJLT and JB separately and independent of each other, as you know, reflecting on the tragic events in Boston and each wondering whether Bermuda really has the necessary will to tackle gang warfare in the Island.

  • Apr 26, 2013 8:22 am

    Can Bermuda respond to crime like Boston did?

    See something. Say Something. Know something. Say Something. Those are not just words, Mr Acting Editor, but powerful advice which, when acted upon, can constitute an effective tool in helping to combat crime and bring criminals to justice.
    Now think Boston.

  • Apr 19, 2013 8:00 am

    Value for money in Bermuda means quality service

    Everyone who lives in Bermuda is an expert in tourism. So am I. But I am going to try and avoid political bickering, the predictable petty ping pong of partisan politics as to whose national plan we are working from, whether the Tourism Authority is really a Board and where the Minister will fit in. Eschew all that, Mr Acting Editor.

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