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Charles Swan blasts PLP’s Red Sea of debt

Delivering the United Bermuda Party’s Reply to the Budget, the party’s finance spokesman Charles Swan noted that he and Kim Swan are the only two remaining MPs elected under the UBP banner.

“We truly know the meaning of doing more with less as we continue to fight for the people of Bermuda by keeping their issues at the forefront,” he said.

He thanked Speaker Stanley Lowe for allowing the party, which was replaced as the Official Opposition by the One Bermuda Alliance, for the opportunity to present their reply.

However, Mr Swan did not manage to get more than eight minutes into his speech without having it interrupted twice by points of order made by Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess.

First, Mr Burgess complained that Mr Swan had not provided him with a copy of his speech.

Mr Swan replied that the party was on a tight budget but had requested that the Sergeant at Arms make copies for Government members.

Then, a comment in the speech raised Mr Burgess’ ire. Having criticised Government for its controversial land licence policy and overemphasis on attracting cruise ship visitors Mr Swan referred to “the plethora of violations prior to the recent introduction of good governance legislation” and “a Government hiding behind the unethical, as opposed to the illegal, behaviour of its own elected members”.

Mr Burgess jumped to his feet to say: “The Honourable Member is imputing improper motives.”

Mr Swan replied: “Then I speak with a squeak Mr Speaker.”

However, he acceded to Speaker Stanley Lowe’s order that he strike the words from the record of the speech.

“You have to withdraw that. You can’t say with any certainty ...” chided the Speaker.

Mr Swan then continued his speech. He praised National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief for his efforts to address gang violence including embracing the gang intervention programme Operation Ceasefire. However, Mr Swan said Operation Ceasefire was originally his party’s idea.

He noted that the police budget increased by $10.41 million this year but is still pitched lower than the actual amount spent in the last budget year.

He expressed “deep concern” over the safety of corrections officers who are working in a more dangerous place with the proliferation of gang culture.

He highlighted further concerns over the annual $85 million interest payments on Bermuda’s national debt and blamed the situation on “excessive PLP spending” which has led to a “Red Sea of debt”.

“Each year as our billion dollar debt has grown, the interest alone on that debt has now become the equivalent of the cost to operate an entire government department,” he said.

He also criticised Government for a “previous adversarial approach towards international business” and an “inability and / or refusal to properly manage, direct and control people, projects and resources”.

He condemned what he described as a lack of leadership and questionable policy decisions.

“Notwithstanding this, and to the Government’s credit, in recent months there has been a lot of catch, patch and follow-up legislation and policy backtracking. Even with this, however, the net results still remain,” he said. “Bermuda’s Government has been underperforming for years, and Bermuda now finds itself continuing to underperform. Only now it is during the most trying of times. And our people are at risk because of it.”

Turning to the topic of education he called on Government to broaden the technical training services offered by the Bermuda College.

He said his party would like to see certain areas of the education system privatised and outsourced such as cleaning and maintenance services and purchasing.

Mr Swan said Government should encourage community groups to establish community programmes to foster the neighbourly spirit that “our Country sorely needs today”.

He applauded the Economic Empowerment Zones established at the east and west ends of the Island.

However, he called for the town of St George to be revitalised through a public-private partnership “that will seal the deal for the George Hotel and Marina to become a reality for this World Heritage site”.

He said the St George’s golf course should be restored and a ferry terminal established at Marginal Wharf for a dedicated east end ferry commuter service.

Mr Swan encouraged Government to work on investment and action at Morgan’s Point and Daniels Head and on repairs to the Evans Bay public dock which is being increasingly used by boaters, swimmers and fishermen.

He pledged the UBP would work to ensure Bermuda remains a premier international financial centre, invigorate tourism, see the economy diversified and have economic opportunities improved for all Bermudians.

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Published March 03, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 03, 2012 at 6:46 am)

Charles Swan blasts PLP’s Red Sea of debt

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