Slippery slope towards banana republicanism
The Royal Gazette of September 24 and 25 contained three related articles showing the dramatic decline in the wellbeing of Bermuda's working population.
The Fairmont Southampton is to close for 18 months with a resultant 750 job losses — of which 500 are Bermudians.
The numbers of persons on financial assistance is now just under 2,500.
The Premier authorised a loan of $800,000 to a non-Bermudian, Anthony Blakey, to create a recording studio at Dockyard — despite the common knowledge that recording studios went out of style about 40 years ago. This loan smacks of dishonesty and fraud. More important, the $0.8 million is not available to help with job losses and to assist those on financial assistance. The loot has gone to a fraudster.
Those of us who follow the financial shenanigans of government were not really surprised, as cavalier stewardship of government funds has been a hallmark of the present government for quite some time. Readers with long memories will recall the financial mismanagement at the Berkeley Institute, the police boat to interdict drugs at sea, and the handouts to Sandys Boat Club and Warwick Workmen's Club. There is also the Caroline Bay fiasco. I could easily name more than a dozen other instances involving irregular financial transactions by the Bermuda Government.
The failure of government to manage public funds in a responsible manner has been conspicuous by its absence for many years now and the public, sadly, has become resigned to financial incompetence.
At the same time, the wastage of public money has, in large part, resulted in even greater government borrowing so that Bermuda has now one of the largest public debts per capita in the world. Increasingly, we are beginning to resemble Zimbabwe, Argentina and Bangladesh. Around the year 2000, the public debt of Bermuda was zero. It is now more than $120,000 for every Bermudian.
Bermuda in 2000 was one of the best-managed economies in the world, unemployment was non-existent and jobs were plentiful. Bermuda was a shining example to the rest of the world, especially by comparison with economic mess that characterised the United States, Britain and the other countries mentioned earlier.
It does not take long for a star performer to become a has-been, and for prosperous people to become unemployed and poverty-stricken. It also does not take long to become a banana republic. If the Bermuda Government continues to carry on for ever spending like there is no tomorrow, eventually there will not be a tomorrow.
The Government, instead of reforming itself, has simply increased its borrowing almost month by month so that we have now become a debtor country par excellence.
Not only that, the Government has thumbed its nose at the Bible whose many strictures against borrowing and financial mismanagement are encompassed in the statement in Proverbs 22.7 that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender”.
What has the Premier to say about all of this? The headline of September 25 states “Premier apologises for $800,000 loan”. An apology for wasting $800,000 while people go hungry, unemployed and on financial assistance?
You apologise for bumping into someone on Reid Street, or treading on the toes of someone at the checkout desk. An apology for wasting or misappropriating the massive sum $800,000 just doesn't cut it. What about the hundreds of Bermudians who are on public assistance or jobless? That money belongs to them and should be used for their benefit.
Time after time, government has behaved in a disgraceful manner, and all the taxpayers and financially weak get is an apology from the Premier. Where were the financial controls, the checks and balances one finds in properly governed jurisdictions? Who pays the penalty for this disgraceful financial mismanagement?
The answers are obvious: it is the poor, the unemployed, those on financial assistance and the honest, hard-working taxpayer — the majority of whom are black. It is they who are being robbed by government financial incompetence.
The Governor, the Bermuda Cabinet and Members of Parliament are given the title of “Honourable”, largely because they occupy positions of responsibility and trust. That trust has been betrayed by all of them, most notably by members of the Cabinet led by the Premier.
They are all dishonourable people, who, if they had any sense of honour, would resign in disgrace.
That, of course, will never happen.