Log In

Reset Password

I am back for some unfinished business, says Dickinson

More work to do: Curtis Dickinson explained his reasons for challenging for the leadership at a meeting on Monday (File photograph)

Curtis Dickinson launched his challenge for the leadership of the Progressive Labour Party out of a desire to serve Bermuda, he has said.

Speaking at a public meeting at the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters on Monday night, Mr Dickinson added that he felt he had left “some work unfinished” after he resigned as Minister of Finance in February.

The question-and-answer session, which went on for more than an hour, was billed as a discussion on tax reform, with Mr Dickinson listed as the guest speaker.

Although Mr Dickinson did talk extensively about the island’s financial challenges – he warned that the Government could not tax itself out of debt – he also spoke of his upbringing, his reasons for quitting a lucrative banking career abroad to return home, and his role as a father to three children.

Mr Dickinson will challenge David Burt for the leadership of the party — and the post of premier — at a PLP delegates conference next month.

Referring to his decision to challenge Mr Burt, Mr Dickinson said: “I didn’t come to that decision lightly. I took some time for myself and my family and reflected on what I was going to do next with my life.

“I was certainly not starved of opportunities, but I did believe that I did leave some work unfinished.

“When I left my job in banking in 2018 it was to join the Government as a minister in the Cabinet with the express purpose of using my experience to help the country move forward.

“I was certainly aware of our situation fiscally. I knew how much debt we had. I knew that we had to have a strategy to get back to a place of balanced budgets.

“I believe the experience I gained over three decades working in the financial services industry in New York and London and Bermuda … I thought I could bring that to bear.”

Describing his humble origins, Mr Dickinson said: “My mother was barely 17 when she had me back in the 1960s. She had dropped out of high school in order to have me so she never finished high school.

“My mother was a phenomenal woman who I believe had she got to finish school would have gone much further in her career.

“My mother insisted that education was the way forward, the way to improve your lot in life. She had a forceful personality and in some ways ruled with fear and I was a very obedient child for the most part.”

“By any stretch of the imagination, I’ve done really, really, really well, and I’ve done well on the back of efforts of a number of really phenomenal women, among them my mother and grandmother and certainly my wife. There are lots of others.

“You know that there is a saying — that to whom much is given, much is expected.

“With that, I felt it makes sense for me to take time out of my professional career and be of service to the country.”

On the subject of the economy, Mr Dickinson likened government finances with that of a family balancing its budget, and that in order to pay off debt, revenues needed to increase and expenses needed to be curtailed.

He said: “When I was growing up, my mother couldn’t go and just borrow, borrow, borrow just because she needed stuff — we had to figure it out based on what she earned.

“Sometimes it was tight and I can remember telling my children this because they complain about how they’re hard-pressed when the internet goes down. I can recall eating by candlelight because the power had been turned off.

“I think most families make decisions around what their needs are and what their wants are and, depending on what the situation is monthly, they focus on the needs and the wants get taken care of if there’s anything extra.

Mr Dickinson said that after living for 25 years overseas his family returned to Bermuda following the death of his grandmother in 2006.

He said: “My mother had become ill and I figured that people getting older are getting sick. We only had so much time and I’d rather my children know who their family is. It was the single best decision that I made because my children got to know my mother. You can’t replace that.”

The meeting was recorded by Maya Palacio of Media Maya and can be found here.

Dickinson on the economy

Successive Governments for the past 20 years have overspent — and that habit needs to change if Bermuda is to bring down the national debt, according to Curtis Dickinson.

During Monday’s public meeting, he said: “When I assumed office [in July, 2017] we had slightly less than $3 billion in debt and we chose not to raise the debt ceiling at all. Our plan was to live within our means.”

He added that further borrowing was necessary to meet the Government’s Morgan’s Point obligations.

The Government was forced to borrow further when the Covid pandemic struck in 2020. It devised a financial aid package to support thousands of Bermudians who temporarily lost their jobs after the island was forced to shut down for three months.

He said: “We couldn’t very well have people not eating because they couldn’t work. It would have just been a human disaster. That is an obligation of the government.”

Mr Dickinson said that governments had to show discipline in balancing the books — and the current administration needed to raise revenue and curtail spending in order to do so.

He said: “I know that’s a very simplistic way of looking at things and there are situations where governments need to go above and beyond and I accept that fully.

“But for 20 years, the Government of Bermuda has been spending more money than it’s taking in, and we now find ourselves with a debt burden of $3.35 billion.

“So what do we have to do? We have to live within our means, find ways of increasing revenue and do a better job of managing our costs.

“We have to spend more wisely, manage our costs and look at ways of earning revenue. We have to get this economy moving, more activity, more people working. The answer isn’t ‘I’m going to tax everybody’.

“The first step is to stop borrowing. The second one is to start paying it down. And what we’ve tried to do is refinancing the debt at lower costs. That bubble burst earlier this year when the Federal Reserve started increasing rates.

“On the cost side we have to look at how we do things. Are we being as efficient as we can be? I think all of us can find opportunities inside the government to do things better. That actually helps to manage those costs. It’s a combination of looking at the revenue side, looking at the cost side.”

Mr Dickinson warned that there were many favourable reasons why international companies domiciled here — but that they always had the option to leave.

He said: “If there are changes to those reasons, companies have propositioned to reconsider whether they should stay here. There is a myth that no one’s going to leave. I can tell you that those companies that are public companies have Plan Bs.”

He said that tax reform was on hold at the moment until the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development had fleshed out proposals for a universal 15 per cent corporate tax rate.

“My philosophy on tax reform is one in which we try to work together as Government with all the stakeholders with a view to finding something that works for Bermuda.

“I think if you go in with an approach that says ‘I know what I want and I’m going to get what I want come what may, I think that’s disaster. My history as your Minister of Finance for three years was to work towards finding common ground with stakeholders around issues that we had.

“A solution that works for government but doesn’t work for business is not a solution. A solution where we can get together and figure out how we can create something that makes sense is a solution.

“No solution is ever going to be perfect where you get what you want but that’s just the way life works.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published September 28, 2022 at 7:57 am (Updated September 28, 2022 at 7:57 am)

I am back for some unfinished business, says Dickinson

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon