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John Barritt

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  • The more things change, the more they don’t
    May 1, 2015 8:00 am

    The more things change, the more they don’t

    Some things never change, Mr Editor. Or so it seems. It was back to the future when I recently had occasion to pick up a copy of the Report of The Royal Commission into the 1977 Disturbances, better known as the Pitt Report, and thumbed through some of its recommendations.

    One of the concerns back then, believe it or not, was the way in which Bermuda’s legislators conducted our public business.

    “We also observe”, the Commissioners...

  • PATI: costly but well worth the price
    Apr 24, 2015 8:00 am

    PATI: costly but well worth the price

    Be careful what you wish for. Funny that, Mr Editor, but the admonition is probably best appreciated on hindsight.

    I have in mind here PATI, the Public Access to Information legislation which became effective (finally) on April’s first, April Fool’s Day — and whether there was any significance to that date remains to be seen.

    People have been asking me what I think about it: quite a lot, actually.

    I was a long-time...

  • Apr 17, 2015 8:00 am

    ‘Blame game’ – it’s the voters who always lose

    We remain stuck on stuck. Or so it seems, Mr Editor. The blame game rages unabated as each party seeks to put the blame where they each think it (self) justifiably lies — at the other party’s doorstep.

    The approach is exceedingly helpful, er, unhelpful, depending I suppose on which side you happen to support.

    But I wonder if, for just once, the debate on what’s best for Bermuda could be lifted to new heights. You might not think...

  • Never let the perfect be the enemy of good
    Apr 10, 2015 8:00 am

    Never let the perfect be the enemy of good

    Exhortations to do better are fine as far as they go, Mr Editor, which usually isn’t very far, really. But maybe, like me, you cannot help but think that we could use something more.

    Sure, we should call out bad behaviour when we see it and condemn in strong terms what we regard as irresponsible. What the heck, if nothing else it makes us feel like we have done something. But whether it will actually change anything is another matter.

  • Apr 2, 2015 8:00 am

    What’s happened to Salaries Review Board?

    Leftovers and loose ends this week, Mr Editor, as we catch up on correspondence and queries.

    First off, one reader wanted to know more about the members of the Legislative Salaries Review Board that by law is supposed to review parliamentary salaries every two years and to make recommendations. Good question.

    I did check the Government website (www.gov.bm), which lists committees and boards, but it wasn’t there.

    The...

  • Don’t squeeze the Charmin!
    Mar 27, 2015 8:00 am

    Don’t squeeze the Charmin!

    Forget for a moment (if you can) recent events on the Hill. The story of that week, possibly the month, or maybe even the year, Mr Editor, may yet turn out to be the one headlined: “Charman: Corporate tax would benefit Bermuda.”

    Heads were spinning, phones ringing and tongues wagging, I bet, after that one — and I won’t even get into what was tearing up the blogs. It was no early April’s Fool joke either. It read like Mr Charman was...

  • Why our politicians need tighter briefs
    Mar 23, 2015 8:00 am

    Why our politicians need tighter briefs

    There must be some other way, Mr Editor, and of course there is.

    It is just a matter of will and reorganisation on the Hill. We just need Government to lead the way and Ministers to start by tightening their briefs. Say what?

    I am, of course, referring to the recently concluded annual Budget Debate, which actually very rarely resembles debate and all too often, if you happen to tune in (good luck), sounds more like remedial...

  • Reform is possible with required political will
    Mar 20, 2015 8:00 am

    Reform is possible with required political will

    It ain’t easy. Mr Editor, never was — and most likely never will be. Think about it for a minute: long days, late nights, three times a week for two weeks. A Budget debate that is anything but a debate. Two parties, two viewpoints and some very strong differences of opinion — and that’s putting it mildly: maybe too mildly in view of recent events. Invariably decisions that go against you and, wham, bam, thank you ma’am, it’s a wonder that all...

  • PAC: we can learn a lot from across the pond
    Mar 13, 2015 8:00 am

    PAC: we can learn a lot from across the pond

    Readers write, Mr Editor, and I am grateful. They are never wrong and I generally enjoy what they have to say. This week I feature what one astute reader had to share with me: the views of the retired head of the UK Civil service, Lord O’Donnell, on the importance of the work of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) across the pond.

    This reader has obviously been keeping up with what I have been writing about PAC here and its most recent...

  • Collaboration? Maybe a
lot more than you think
    Mar 6, 2015 8:00 am

    Collaboration? Maybe a lot more than you think

    Here’s a novel exercise to undertake, Mr. Editor, when assessing the Annual Budget Debate. Let’s look for a change at the issues and approaches on which the Government and Opposition appear to agree and put to one side for a moment the differences, the real, the imagined and the manufactured. You might be surprised (pleasantly, I hope) at the number of items on the list. Heck, you might also start to think that there is sufficient common...

  • Do we really need outsiders to do our work?
    Feb 27, 2015 8:00 am

    Do we really need outsiders to do our work?

    This is serious business, Mr Editor, governing Bermuda. If you had no sense of how serious — and that’s no small “if”, you do now.

    The 2015/16 Budget Statement makes it pretty clear, although I agree pretty is not exactly the right word here.

    What makes it even clearer is the apparent about-face the Minister of Finance and his Government are about to take. Despite signs that the economy may be turning around, albeit slowly, and...

  • People pin hopes on results, not promises
    Feb 20, 2015 8:00 am

    People pin hopes on results, not promises

    Tough: that is what we have been told to expect with the 2015-16 Government Budget. We will soon know whether that means tough for those who had to put it together, or tough on all the rest of us. Or both.

    No guesses or predictions or special wishes here; the document is drafted and ready for delivery, and instead today, Mr Editor, a kind of political potpourri of leftovers as we brace ourselves for the worst. But you will detect a...

  • DUI stats say it all, let’s find a solution
    Feb 18, 2015 8:00 am

    DUI stats say it all, let’s find a solution

    Traffic, Mr Editor, traffic: it seems everyone has an opinion about the problem and the solution — and why not?

    We are all drivers, riders or users of the road in some way, form or fashion; and if we are all a part of the problem — and we are — then we should all be part of the solution.

    Road summits are good. So, too, will be any sustained multifaceted education campaign. But a one-off big police crackdown, I am not so sure.

  • Time for PAC to flex its legislative muscle
    Feb 16, 2015 8:00 am

    Time for PAC to flex its legislative muscle

    PAC, man, is no game. Nor should it be, Mr Editor. At least not the one I am constantly going on about. Readers will know where I stand on the matter of the Public Accounts Committee. It is long since time that this bipartisan parliamentary committee started to flex its legislative muscle and got on with the job of tracking how our Government manages our money and not just years after the fact, after funds have been spent and the damage has...

  • Conflation – we need more of it, folks!
    Feb 13, 2015 8:00 am

    Conflation – we need more of it, folks!

    Talk about juxtaposition Mr Editor. Former Premier and astute businessman Sir John Swan thinks we are about to fall off the edge of a cliff. An OBA spokesperson affirms her party’s confidence in a confidence survey of Bermuda businessmen which indicates that we may be turning the corner, and declares that the Government is on the right track.

    Confused? Don’t be. They are only opinions and both may be right. We may yet go...

  • Brace yourself for possible health rates shock
    Feb 11, 2015 8:00 am

    Brace yourself for possible health rates shock

    It was only a small slip, of information, Mr. Editor, but it struck me as a possible tell. In the throes of the dispute over furlough days, the BPSU declared that they had been threatened with a 19 per cent hike in health insurance premiums. Around about the same time, the rest of us were put on notice by the Finance Minister to expect (his words now) a tough Budget in a little over a week’s time.

    Inquiring minds begin to wonder; no,...

  • Build lines of communication
    Jan 31, 2015 8:00 am

    Build lines of communication

    Maybe, Mr Editor, it is a waste of time and space going on about the need for greater collaboration and cooperation, as one keen reader of mine has suggested.

    Sure, they are fine words, he says, that need to be said from time to time, but nothing is going to change.

    On one thing he and I agree: nothing is going to change until the people who have the power to bring about change, make change happen.

    He thinks that unlikely.

  • A good time to dust off the SAGE report
    Jan 30, 2015 8:00 am

    A good time to dust off the SAGE report

    Hindsight, as they say Mr Editor, is 20/20 vision. It is easy to say that they should have done this or they should not have done that. Nonetheless, there are always lessons to be learned from looking back.

    As I watched this week’s events unfold, I got to thinking about the SAGE Commission and the Commissioners’ recommendations. You remember them, don’t you?

    Commissioned by the One Bermuda Alliance Government, the fulfillment of...

  • Who has failed whom over the DPP decision?
    Jan 26, 2015 8:00 am

    Who has failed whom over the DPP decision?

    The DPP decision was as confounding as it was disappointing, Mr Editor, on two fronts.

    We know this much: the appointment is in the discretion of the Governor. The Bermuda Constitution Order does not require him to consult with anyone or any one body. He is free to appoint as he sees fit. Mind you, he did tell us that HE did do some consulting; his decision was in line with advice received from a “Judiciary and Legal Services...

  • A different approach needed
    Jan 23, 2015 8:00 am

    A different approach needed

    Calls for collaboration and cooperation sound and look an awful lot like wishful thinking, don’t you think Mr Editor?

    If the banter on the blogs is any indication, we have people on either side who keep scorecards, lengthy lists of the wrongs that each party has committed or of things that have been said, one about the other, that point up why neither side will ever work together — or should not.

    Stop it people. We have got to...

  • Cannonier return smacks of internal politics
    Jan 20, 2015 8:00 am

    Cannonier return smacks of internal politics

    Politics offers up plenty of twists and turns, Mr Editor, some of them predictable and some not so predictable. The unpredictable can be a pain. When asked what could scupper his government’s plans former United Kingdom Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously replied: “Events, dear boy, events”.

    That we understand. But politicians who twist and turn is an entirely different matter, and while political contortions may be readily...

  • Our children deserve absolute commitment
    Jan 19, 2015 8:00 am

    Our children deserve absolute commitment

    It was a criticism that was bound to be levelled, Mr Editor, and so it was. Bermuda could use an America’s Cup approach to public education.

    Everyone knows it too, and have known for a long, long time. How long? Long enough.

    Our political parties have certainly recognised this — at least when it comes to acknowledging the problem in their campaigns and their promises to fix it.

    The need for educational reform has been a...

  • Cutting political corruption
    Dec 23, 2014 8:00 am

    Cutting political corruption

    This letter was prompted in part by my column headlined “Important to tie your camel” about the need for a stronger more active and robust Public Accounts Committee and the need for greater and closer oversight of Government spending.

    The following is a list of anti-corruption steps that can be implemented by the Bermuda Government to dramatically reduce political corruption.

    Many of these steps have been enacted into law in...

  • OBA lacking communication skills
    Dec 23, 2014 8:00 am

    OBA lacking communication skills

    This letter was penned by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous and was sent not long after my columns following the Throne Speech, one of which was entitled “Constructive work for idle hands”.

    The speech underscores the OBA’s inability to sustain communication with the community. There’s a major “say-do” gap. It’s hard to argue with what’s been said in the Throne Speech, but harder still to follow what ends up being...

  • Legislation of elephantine proportions
    Dec 12, 2014 8:00 am

    Legislation of elephantine proportions

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither apparently was the Casino Gaming Act. This, Mr. Editor, is legislation of elephantine proportions: some 100 plus pages of over 200 clauses that any reasonable person might regard as complex, if not complicated, most especially for those not versed in legalese, and certainly difficult to digest in one sitting whether in the House or out.

    You have to wonder though as it highlights once again the...

  • A hole in our hearts
    Dec 12, 2014 8:00 am

    A hole in our hearts

    There isn’t just a hole to fill on page 4, Mr Editor. There is a hole in all our hearts. I am saddened to know that my column will no longer get to bask in the glow of Peter’s good humour. He was a great companion to all of us each Friday over the years. His wit and his wisdom and his charm, evident each week in his cartoons, will be sorely missed.

    May Peter now rest in peace – with that unmistakable trademark smile on his face, I am...

  • Write on, inquiring readers
    Dec 5, 2014 8:00 am

    Write on, inquiring readers

    By John Barritt

    Readers write, Mr Editor, and they are seldom wrong – as well you know. Much like voters, which most of them probably are. This week I share a few. Comments, that is.

    Feedback was strong on recent columns on the need for stronger parliamentary oversight of Government spending whether it be the proposed new airport project, the recently completed acute care wing of the hospital or the Port Royal Golf Course...

  • Nov 28, 2014 8:00 am

    Important to tie your camel

    By John Barritt

    The Arab proverb has it right, Mr Editor: Trust in God but tie your camel. It is good sound advice that makes even more sense (and dollars and cents) when it comes to Government and Government spending. Just look at the track record — and what better place to begin than with reports of the Auditor General. They make the case better than I can.

    The Port Royal golf course “special report” (which, as it turns out, is...

  • Nov 21, 2014 8:00 am

    Children please, it’s time to grow up

    No need for sub-titles, Mr Editor, or interpreters. No need to read between the lines either. I shall try and keep it plain and simple and short. I tell my grandchildren all the time, as I did my children before them, two wrongs don’t make a right. I know, I know, you say that you didn’t start it and I hear what you say you heard, but that’s not the point. I want you to do better than that. Try, please.

    Now you and I both know it’s an...

  • Nov 14, 2014 8:00 am

    Constructive and critical work for idle hands

    Maybe, Mr Editor, there is another way to make the point. Hurricanes do tend to bring out the best in us. We all face a common enemy. We all share a common goal. We cooperate and we collaborate and we all get to participate in cleaning up and turning the Island around. We are pretty good at it too. So the call goes forth, a plea even, for a similar community approach to the economic challenges we now face. Enter Throne Speech 2014.

    The...

  • Nov 7, 2014 8:00 am

    The hands of Esau are at work

    They’re back, Mr Editor. The House on the Hill reopens today after a 16-week absence with all the usual pomp and pageantry the colony can muster for the occasion. But, as one faithful reader has already speculated, the dignity and civility on parade today will very likely quickly dissipate as members of the two parties get down to business and go after one another.

    Okay, maybe. But not necessarily on the first day back. Tradition has...

  • Oct 31, 2014 8:00 am

    Time to change the approach

    We are in a hole. Our Government is in a financial hole. We all know what needs to be done, where we need to get to. The disagreement is over how. But surely, Mr Editor, that comes as no surprise … to anyone.

    Yes, we expect our Government to lead. The governing party was elected promising to do just that, ie to turn this economy around and to improve Government finances. But lead does not mean dictate.

    People want to be...

  • Oct 24, 2014 8:00 am

    It took a hurricane to unite us

    “A plague upon this howling!”

    With apologies and credit to Will, Tim, I lift a few lines from his play to make a few points about the still-vex’d Bermoothes. Vex’d? Then maybe, Mr. Editor, but not so much now. Thankfully.

    “I do now let loose my opinion: hold it no longer: this is no fish but an islander, that hath lately suffered by a thunderbolt.” [Trinculo]

    Well maybe not a thunderbolt. For all I know, there may have been...

  • Oct 10, 2014 8:00 am

    Measure twice, cut once

    By John Barritt

    Consultation, Mr Editor, I am all for it. Our people deserve the opportunity to be engaged on the issues of the day and the difficult decisions facing their government. I would even go so far as to say that as voters they are entitled. Attempts this week are therefore welcomed. They are steps in the right direction. But they are only steps and whether it is a question of too little too late — or more accurately perhaps,...

  • Oct 3, 2014 8:00 am

    Increasingly irresponsible government

    The joke is, Mr Editor, that we obtained responsible government almost 50 years ago with passage of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968 and that it has grown increasingly irresponsible ever since. You think I jest. I don’t.

    It depends on how you think government should work. But let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I am not going after the UBP or the PLP or the OBA. Rather this is a critique of how our government has...

  • Sep 26, 2014 8:00 am

    Why nations fail ­– and succeed

    You thought maybe I might touch on Scotland this week, right? Wrong. Try Botswana. Yes, Botswana, Mr Editor, and if space permits I think I can bring it back to what happened in Scotland. Stay with me now.

    I have just finished reading a fascinating book, Why Nations Fail, the product of 15 years of painstaking research, co-authored by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, one a professor in economics at MIT and the other a professor of...

  • Sep 19, 2014 8:00 am

    Politics, lies and ice cream

    Speaking is relatively easy. The thinking bit is harder. So always be sure the brain is in gear before putting the jaw in motion: I have never forgotten that admonition. The same is true for writing, don’t you think, Mr Editor? Well, we try. So when readers write it gets even better; right on, readers, even when, no especially when, you think we‘ve got it wrong. What was it that Alan Greenspan, the famed US economist was reputed to have said...

  • Sep 12, 2014 8:00 am

    Something that is needed

    Functional unity is a beautiful thing, I reckon Mr Editor. But like beauty, functionality is in the eye of the beholder, or perhaps when it comes to politics in the eyes of the beholden. Of course, we would all like to see a little more functional unity among all of those who constitute our parliamentary functionaries, known collectively the Legislature, whose chief function, according to the Bermuda Constitution Order, is to make laws for...

  • Sep 5, 2014 8:00 am

    Plain old grit for the mill

    Position is the art of gunnery, Mr Editor, or words to that effect. A former comrade in arms, politically speaking of course, not literally please, used to remind us of this at critical junctures in caucus discussions on issues of the day. I think we all understood what he meant. Strategy is important in politics. Timing isn’t everything either, but it’s important too.

    Two very recent events prompted the remembrance and I will come on...

  • Aug 29, 2014 8:00 am

    More than lost opportunities

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s an old saw, readily understood by most, which I have always rather liked, Mr Editor, and that’s because I also happen to think the reverse is true.

    That’s why, for those who wonder, I go on from time to time (actually pretty regularly, I will concede) about the need for parliamentary reform and why I believe it was one of the keys to changing the way in which we run our government and conduct our...

  • Aug 22, 2014 8:00 am

    The dialogue of the deaf continues

    People are looking for answers, Mr Editor, and when people want answers they start by asking questions. Hmmn, questions. Fair enough.

    On the Hill in the House, there is a parliamentary version: Question Period. A fair chunk of time is set aside each morning, our representatives meet to give members an opportunity to question Ministers of the Government. Albeit narrow in scope and limited in purpose, the goal here isn’t just to elicit...

  • Election promises 
should be costed
    Aug 15, 2014 8:00 am

    Election promises should be costed

    This is one for the books, Mr. Editor. Literally. In the Canadian province of New Brunswick the Progressive Conservative Government there brought in legislation that requires the government of the day to provide voters with a fiscal update of public finances 60 days before an election, and further that all political parties contesting the election tabulate and publish a costing of their promises in advance of polling day. Wow. This particular...

  • Jul 30, 2014 8:00 am

    Twisted words of political double-speak

    T & A, Mr Editor, transparency and accountability, are the key to good governance. Both words are bandied about frequently by those in and out of politics, myself included. The two principles are, we are told, the dynamic duo to democracy, the Batman and Robin if you will, that can set things right; or, on the other hand, the one-two counter punch should you be on the wrong side of what’s right.

    The challenge sometimes is figuring...

  • The elephant and the mouse
    Jul 25, 2014 8:00 am

    The elephant and the mouse

    Disappointing, Mr Editor, is just one of the words that comes to mind (there are others) — and on so many fronts. First, it took ten weeks to produce the report. Ten whole weeks. It should never have taken that long and the blame here doesn’t fall entirely to the party chairman. The people who knew what was what were in the OBA caucus. They only had to tell each other and the party chairman what went on. I think we all thought that would...

  • Will for reform is needed
    Jul 18, 2014 8:00 am

    Will for reform is needed

    Bob Dylan wrote it. Jimi Hendrix aced it. From All Along The Watchtower:

    “There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief.

    “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.”

    Maybe so, Mr. Editor, maybe so.

    First, it should come as no surprise that I believe in a strong and independent Legislature. It is key to good governance. The role the Legislature is required to play is set out carefully...

  • Jul 11, 2014 8:00 am

    Win was a hollow victory

    It was a whopper that came up a cropper, you could say Mr Editor. Let me explain myself. The One Bermuda Alliance Government looked to be stuck with an investigation by a Commission that it seemed it neither approved of nor wanted.

    Initial reports cast it as a victory for the Opposition PLP (which it was) as it was their motion that succeeded thanks to support from one member of the OBA backbench and the disqualification from voting of...

  • Jul 4, 2014 8:00 am

    Living in ‘paradis fiscal’

    There’s nothing like a road map to see what lies ahead here at home and abroad. But I begin with a disclaimer, Mr Editor: I have no crystal ball. First, our Finance Minister got me to thinking with his frank admission fresh from his promotional reconnaissance in France. We don’t see eye to eye, he reported on his return, and nothing he had to say to the French caused them to change their minds. We have some “philosophical” (ahem)...

  • Jun 27, 2014 8:00 am

    Immigration — the third rail of politics

    You could call it the third rail of local politics, Mr Editor: immigration generally, status specifically. For those who don’t know, the third rail is a metaphor often used to describe an issue so fraught with controversy that any politician, or Government for that matter, that tackles the subject will invariably suffer, politically. It is the exposed electrical conductor that has to be handled with care, preferably by those who know what...

  • Jun 20, 2014 8:00 am

    Roll up the sleeves and get on with reform

    The absence of information helps fuel speculation. Dots left dangling get connected, whether the dots warrant it or not, and that which might otherwise be viewed as unreasonable comes across as reasonable.

    As you well know, Mr Editor, it happens a lot in politics: sometimes innocently, mostly not.

    Let me give you a current example. Developer Nathan Landau was reported as having given $300,000 to the One Bermuda Alliance election...

  • Jun 13, 2014 8:00 am

    Time for some accountability

    GM got me to thinking, Mr Editor: General Motors, that is, the car manufacturer that was recoiling under intense scrutiny and withering criticism for those faulty ignition switches that claimed 13 lives and caused countless other accidents and injuries. It was what GM did in response that caught my attention.

    The company commissioned an independent investigation by a former US Attorney and then — wait for it — made the findings public.

  • Jun 6, 2014 8:00 am

    Noise we can all do without

    What’s past is prologue. The bard had it right did he not, Mr Editor? It’s also so much better than saying, again, and again, and again, that what we so often see is what we get, i.e. the same old, same old. Like you, I try to keep up with debates on the Hill but when I tune in I soon find myself tuning right back out. They might as well all be on rewind: stuck on stuck. Like so many of their political partisans hiding behind pseudonyms...

  • May 30, 2014 8:00 am

    That dog won’t hunt no more

    Fissiparous was a word that had readers thumbing through their dictionaries last week, Mr Editor. It had them thinking and talking too. Good. So, too, did the challenge of trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. It ain’t easy.

    This week, same subject, but a different approach to change things up, a bit. This is a favourite line of mine that originates in the southern United States, I believe, first employed on the ‘big stage’ by LBJ...

  • May 23, 2014 8:00 am

    It’s not possible to unring the bell

    Here’s the thing, Mr Editor: ever tried putting toothpaste back in the tube? Try it some time. It isn’t easy. But that is what the OBA Government is facing and they need to be very, very careful here as they try to get back to running the country. The usual spin just won’t cut it.

    We don’t need to be told that there are bigger more important issues at stake here than the sad, sorry debacle now known as the “Jetgate” affair. All of us...

  • F John Barritt — in his own words
    May 16, 2014 8:00 am

    F John Barritt — in his own words

    A son remembers his father, Mr Editor, and I do so today with his words, not mine. Rummaging this week through papers he gave me some time ago, I happened to come across a speech which I think he must have given 46 years ago, on the eve of the 1968 election, I believe — his first.

    It helps explain, I think, how and why he came to be involved in politics. It is also reflective of the man and his times. The speech was relatively short...

  • May 9, 2014 8:00 am

    Neither helpful, nor productive

    Everyone has a story to tell and most of us quite naturally want our stories to be heard. So for me last week’s march was no surprise. Nor were the numbers of those who took part. Whether we like it or not, there are a lot of people out there who are hurting, who are angry and who are disappointed. They are out of work or underemployed and struggling, wondering, if not worrying about what may be coming next. For those who were looking for a...

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