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Three measures to help Bermuda

July 17, 2014

Dear Sir.

As a 14 year resident of Bermuda (but not citizen) I follow the island’s ups and downs with great interest.

At the moment we appear to be in a mudslinging ‘down’ period with the government being dogged by side issues which do nothing to advance the cause of the whole island.

I would like to suggest three strategic measures which are not on the radar at the moment but could serve to ensure that all future governments focus on progress not politics.

Like so often in life, the day to day nagging issues get in the way of the major changes that are needed to bring future improvement.

I’ll try to be brief.

1. Eradicate party politics.

This is currently the most divisive system the island could be burdened with. The British System of government is notoriously combative and on an island with 60,000 inhabitants there is no place for it. (I am British) MPs should have one objective ‘Providing Bermudians with the right conditions to prosper, mentally, physically, and financially’.

Fighting political battles in an attempt to get their party elected should not be part of the brief.

I have suggested alternatives in the past, if there is any interest in this idea I’ll be happy to expand.

2. Along with 1 ‘reduce the size of government.’

At the risk of repeating myself here are statistics I have quoted on these pages before. (figures from 2009) Bermuda has 36 MPs for 34,000 voters roughly 1 per 1,000 voters one per 1,700 members of the population.

MPs salaries range from $35,000 to $55,000 per annum.

Bermuda has 13 cabinet members with salaries up to $200,000 per annum.

There are 11 Senators in the upper house who are paid a salary but I’m not sure how much.

The car pool available to these officials costs $350,000 a year to maintain (excluding gas).

There are 108 government advisory boards and 38 Quangos who must be paid something for their efforts.

It’s clear that government expenditure has to be cut drastically, why not start at the top and cut the number of MPs? This measure will go hand in hand with point 1.

3. Create an autonomous government accounts department.

While the Auditor General produces wonderful reports on Government projects including the memorable ‘Misuse of Public Funds’ 2011, which can be found online.

The Auditor doesn’t seem to be able to prevent government financial abuse, any well run company needs an accounts department that makes sure projects are delivered on budget and day to day expenditure is under control. Is it too much to ask that this island should have the same thing?

The purse strings should be taken out of the hands of elected politicians and put firmly in the hands of professional civil servants who are responsible for tight budget control. I suspect that no extra jobs need to be created; there are already two departments that collect funds (Customs and the Tax Commissioner) plus one that audits the books (The Auditor General). Combine all three and give them the job of expenditure control too.

Politicians should decide what projects are needed and how funds should be made available then hand over the execution to a dedicated team. This single brave step should ensure that public funds do not mysteriously disappear in the future.

These three measures will prove very difficult to instigate (due to vested interests) but they could serve Bermuda well for the next century and more.