Brakes of the ‘fiscal vehicle’
January 21, 2013
Please be so kind as to assist me in breaking a long-held pledge: to not use your column to give advice to the Government, or to the Minister of Finance. However, as the new Minister of Finance is currently preparing his first Budget Speech, and no doubt drafting consequential legislation with the objective of putting Bermuda’s finances back on track, I feel obliged to break that pledge. First of all I recommend that Minister Richards (and the officials in his Ministry) pay particular attention to Martha Myron’s article in Friday’s paper, January 19th: “Moneywise, page four. it contains some first-class advice that will, if followed, help the Government find its way back, in a reasonable time frame, to fiscal normality — ie, a balanced budget on current account.”
Secondly, to avoid being embarrassed a second time by any Cabinet colleague, dare I say unilaterally, spending money without prior approval, the Minister of Finance should follow this tried and true policy: inform the Secretary to the Cabinet (and all Ministers) that no Cabinet Paper that refers to the spending of money (above monies already approved in the Budget, and by definition, Parliament) be allowed to go to Cabinet for discussion unless it contains a paragraph specifically stating that the Minister of Finance has seen it (beforehand) and approves.
The Minister of Finance must make it abundantly clear to everyone, to Cabinet colleagues in particular, that he, and he alone, is in charge of the country’s money, and that he is clearly
not a “cog in the wheel”, quite the opposite — the Minister of Finance is both the dynamo and the brakes of the whole ‘fiscal vehicle’. It is the Minister of Finance, under the Constitution, and he alone, who in responsible for the financial affairs of the country. Cabinet, parliament, international business, the Chamber of Commerce, and the people of Bermuda as a whole, will sleep more soundly, if we are repeatedly made aware of that fact. Finally, Mister acting Editor, I am reminded of the postcard that was available in the ‘80s, recommending that parents give it (as it contained some sound advice) to their daughters as they headed off to university. It said simply: “Here are six ways to say ‘no!’, in six different languages.” When I was the Minister of Finance I thought that the postcard was more appropriately designed for me — the Minister of Finance! I promise not to write any more letters to the Editor, but I do certainly hope that Martha Myron continues to write her excellent column.
DAVID J SAULEditor’s note: Dr Saul is a former Finance Minister and Premier