The Premier’s Top-Up Plan
Most of the public are familiar with the mobile phone industry’s top-up plan for its prepaid devices. It is a means by which a customer can replenish their mobile device with time or data credit without extending the validity period.
I, as a parent, provide a personal top-up plan with two children in university. My children have a predetermined amount of money put in their accounts monthly to cover their costs while in school. But, frequently, they may call home for the “Jones top-up plan”, which is a means of replenishing their funds as a result of an unbudgeted expense item such as a weekend trip with their schoolmates.
Not to be outdone, the Premier has his own “top-up plan” for his colleagues in Parliament to supplement their salaries for public service. For those backbenchers who did not make the cut for the Cabinet positions, there is made available the Premier’s Top-Up Plan. With 30 elected Members of Parliament and five appointed senators, the Premier has many hungry mouths to feed. To keep the natives from getting restless, the Premier must ensure that all his loyal subjects are provided with additional access to streams of income.
At a time when Bermuda’s debt ceiling has risen to $3.5 billion, with hundreds of people out of work and businesses closing because of the pandemic, this government increases the size of its Cabinet by one additional ministry and gives junior minister titles to all five of its newly appointed senators — padding their salaries an extra $11,000 annually.
It hands out government board chair and membership positions like candy, which constitutes a money grab to friends and family within its parliamentary team. Nothing for the wider population of workers — uniformed or other — who find themselves jammed up financially, or the scores of Progressive Labour Party supporters who honked their horns and held up their green flags in victory.
Oh no! It would not be so bad if it was a private, profit-generating company that was the top-up machine. But no. This is the public purse that you, Joe Public, pays into whether you are working or not.
The political elite among us extend their political power base by clever use of the public purse. Bermuda, you voted for a government that will take care of their own first and the rest of us will have to work it out for ourselves.
Annual budget surpluses will not be the priority; after all, they have Covid-19 as a convenient excuse. Discretionary spending will not be the order of the day. Let our grandchildren pay back the debt.
So, to you PLP backbenchers who are feeling unwanted and undervalued with no Cabinet or government board positions secured, take a stroll to the Premier’s office and ask for his top-up plan.
Tell him, “Senator MJ sent me.”
• Marcus Jones is a One Bermuda Alliance senator and the Opposition spokesman for finance