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OBA have some difficult decisions to make

New Speaker of the House Randy Horton (Photo by David Skinner)

The new OBA Government has made some interesting moves.Getting Progressive Labour Party MP Randy Horton to agree to be Speaker of the House was a coup it increases their majority by reducing the number of Opposition party voters by one.Some people have criticised Mr Horton for making the choice, I congratulate him on making this decision. Here’s why:Whether you agree with his decision or not, you have to admit that he has shown enormous strength of character in so doing. Leadership is partly about making difficult decisions.It’s actually kind of cool and interesting karma because there he sat on the backbench for years, basically an outcast of the PLP, but he successfully won his seat in the recent election. If the PLP had won the election would he have been given a ministry? Probably not.So at his age, possibly considering retirement, this could be his last political hurrah and what an honourable way to go out as speaker of the Honourable House.This could also be seen as a slap in the face to those who have chided him during his political career.His decision can also be seen as teamwork, a departure from the ethos of ‘only party’ politics. It shows political maturity and a willingness to work for Bermuda’s benefit.I applaud the OBA for taking a pay cut. It seems that the previous Government had full-time Ministers and that for the most part we now have part-time Ministers. If they had taken a pay cut from their primary source of income and were asking civil servants to do the same, I’d consider it more than just a symbolic gesture.It shows a degree of integrity; the OBA has delivered on a pre-election promise.However this is money they weren’t making before the election; taking a cut from a batch of new money is not really that painful.Most of the Island recognises that the Civil Service is too big but I am learning that this is very like a marketing concept: Fifty percent of the money you spend in advertising is wasted; the problem is that nobody knows which 50 percent is the 50 percent that is wasted.I see Government as identical to this. You know that we have to cut but where do you cut? Do you cut education? Social programmes? Do you cut the Bermuda Police Service budget? Nope. This really is a difficult decision.Some people who may not have really thought the idea through suggest that you just fire people. Well, all you are doing is moving them from being employed to lining up at Financial Assistance. Again, a difficult decision.We must wait to see if abolishing term limits improves the job market and if this initiative is responsible for new jobs. It’s too early to tell really, but if we don’t get more Bermudians working soon, the dark days will in fact get worse.In the absence of term limits, we must have a careful review of work permit requests and suitably qualified Bermudians MUST be given priority for any job for which they meet the requirements. Failure to do this will find the PLP in Government at the next election.There are so many Bermudians that are currently unemployed or underemployed that when you talk about relaxing any policy that they think protects jobs for Bermudians, people get rightfully anxious, upset and concerned.They want to understand how we plan to get them working whilst we are relaxing policies that they feel were put in place to protect them. Many of them don’t understand that in order to get them working, we need to get some new people into the country.I was listening to Governor George Fergusson reading the Throne Speech the other day and was alarmed to learn that Bermuda has had four consecutive years of economic contraction whereas the US only experienced one year of negative growth. This is not good and is a sign that our economic woes cannot be solely based on the global recession, contrary to messages sent by the former administration.It is clear that we made some decisions over the past few years that were not in the best interest of Bermuda’s long-term financial health. I was chatting with my financial advisor the other day and we agreed that you shouldn’t have to borrow to meet operational expenses. No business can run this way.But this is the problem in which Bermuda finds itself. We are borrowing to meet payroll and operational expenses. We have to find the fat in Government and trim it and at the same time reduce our borrowing. We have to get to a point where we only spend as much as we make.Put simply, if Government’s revenue is $900 million, we should not spend more than $900 million. We should actually spend less than that.

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