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Burt’s speech hopefully signals a change of attitude

Leader of the Progressive Labour Party David Burt (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

As an individual who has spent a lifetime fighting for economic inclusion, I found there to be some key aspects in the Opposition leader’s Reply to the Throne Speech that sounded encouraging.

Although no specifics were given, the figure of 5 per cent growth of gross domestic product that he projected for his plan of diversifying the economy had to be drawn from bold initiatives. Included with his projected figures is proposed a special committee, purposely designed to vet and analyse the viability of potential new projects.

Our GDP is in and around $5.6 billion and a growth of 5 per cent is in excess of $250 million, which is no “Ma and Pa” business growth indicator. I want to be the first to congratulate the leader of any party to quantify a direction. I want to also lend support to setting up a task team to help realise that goal. I was in favour of the defeated joint select committee legislation proposed by Wayne Furbert, which was designed to do similar.

One of my criticisms of the One Bermuda Alliance leadership is, first, not having a plan of inclusion and, second, its construct that blocked any possibility through its Ministry of Economic Development’s tunnel vision and focus on existing models that ensures the status quo remains.

Even if the critics would call the Opposition leader’s projects merely platitudes, I would contest to say at least for the first time, it is not an empty Throne Speech reply — high on social promises without an economic stimulus involved. Also, it is a deliberate plan of inclusion with numbers attached, unlike government Throne Speeches that are devoid of any consideration as an attempt to empower new sectors of the economy.

If I did not know that these possibilities to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues exist, I would brush off David Burt’s speech as electioneering. However, seeing the rejection by this government and its reptilian response to new capital in different hands, I have to conclude with a measure of disappointment that it is not in the DNA of the present administration to advance any programme that results in real inclusion.

If the Opposition can propose that under its watch there will be a renewed commitment with a “clean hands” approach — unlike their past to “grab the basket” through unauthorised, government-sponsored economic redistribution — it should be welcome news to everyone.

The best model to achieve economic diversification and inclusion is by growing the economy. Make a bigger pie and have more people attend the party, rather than take from the rich and give to the poor. In Bermuda, this has always been possible; it just never became the approach or will of any government.

The United Bermuda Party never intended to advance a truly level playing field and the Progressive Labour Party has been oblivious to all the mechanisms to sustain and foster real growth.

Entrepreneurs with vision and ability have always existed within the black community, but they have been targeted and destroyed, if not totally avoided to advance the agenda of successive governments.

Let’s hope that the speech by Burt is a signal of a changed attitude, which will mean concomitantly that he will have to broaden the tent of the organisation he represents.