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A fishy state of affairs

With all the other lack of funding issues we have at present, Beverley Connell wonders why the plant is being put forward as an essential infrastructure project at this time

Dear Sir,

The Government’s Economic Recovery Plan of 2021 included an initiative for a “Shoreside Facility to Process Fish”, under the category of “Infrastructure Investment”. It is one of six infrastructure projects developed by the Government listed in its ERP, which was launched two years ago. The scheme is being spearheaded by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.

In March 2021, David Burt, the Premier, said that ground would soon be broken at Marginal Wharf in St David’s for this fish-processing plant and he told the House of Assembly a $1.07 million grant for the centre was included in the budget for the Cabinet Office. The general public’s reaction to this initiative was varied at best, and certainly was not helped by the unavailability to the taxpayer — who of course will be funding this project — of research such as a feasibility study on the merits of the plan.

It has taken two years and, finally, the fish-processing plant has moved a step closer to reality with the completion of a business plan by the BEDC for the project, which will be presented to the Government for consideration soon and then hopefully shared with the public.

I read on the Government’s website that it will be also “supporting a co-operative purchase of larger shipping vessels to increase the domestic capture of fish, reducing imports and providing the option for exporting fish ...”. It is not clear to me what exactly that government support means. Does it mean the taxpayer will fund (some of) the purchase costs of fishing boats for the Government and/or private sector co-op participants? Does it mean we will also be funding future maintenance costs on these vessels?

Then there is this “providing the option for exporting fish” statement. Given the high prices of locally caught fish, what astute foreign fish-selling business would buy fish from us at our exorbitant first costs for ultimate resale elsewhere? Is there research that supports this? How does a fish-processing plant located at the East End of the island make sense when the majority of the fishermen are at the West End? Do the fishermen really want this? Maybe when (if?) this business plan is shared with the public, there will be a grand revelation of facts, data and research that will back this initiative as being financially viable and a good use of taxpayer dollars. But until then, I am not convinced.

With all the other lack of funding issues we have at present — roads in disrepair, ageing bridges, failing Tynes Bay waste facility, Lefroy House government seniors home in disrepair, etc — I have to wonder why this is being put forward by the Government as an essential infrastructure project at this time, if at all. Why does this take priority? This initiative makes no sense to me and, given the financial “hole” we are in, I feel it illustrates poor fiscal policy on the part of the Government.

This government keeps getting involved in grandiose projects, expanding where it should not go and costing us money we don’t have. It should just set favourable, responsible regulatory policy to encourage the private sector, both local and foreign, to invest in Bermuda and then for heaven's sake, step back and get out of the way.

“Most bad government has grown out of too much government”

— Thomas Jefferson



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Published May 20, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 20, 2023 at 7:31 am)

A fishy state of affairs

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