What a difference a year makes
Wait? It’s the middle of December?!? As years go, 2020 has certainly been infamous. 2020: double digits now etched on our collective psyche. Infamous. Yet, to me at least, 2020 also went by remarkably quickly.
The past 12 months have sped by faster than the Hollywood Rip-Ride Rockit — one of Florida’s fastest rollercoasters, since you asked. Perhaps 2020 ripping by is only a trick of the mind — a human coping mechanism to ease Covid strife — but this year seems to have rocketed along.
Odd, isn’t it, how slowing life down makes it speed up?
In the Chinese Zodiac, each year is assigned an animal. 2020 is “The Year of the Rat”. That seems fitting, doesn’t it? And not that cute rat from Disney’s Ratatouille, either. You remember the one I mean, the cooking-obsessed rat with his chef hat and apron? Not that one. 2020 is more like a rat from the bubonic plague — carrying lice and lethal disease.
Numerically, 2020 used to be an excellent thing. 20/20 = perfect vision. Given where Bermuda is now, we had better be clear-sighted. Because, economically, things will get worse before they get better.
Might as well face it
December normally ushers in festive cheer: candles, holidays, and, perhaps, a touch of eggnog. Yet December’s first sitting of Parliament ushered in a truly sobering moment. The Minister of Finance announced that Bermuda’s national debt was $2.95 billion.
Questions from the Opposition revealed that this staggering sum was only our net debt — our gross debt, the finance minister responded, was $3.35 billion. A further Opposition question exposed that $3.35 billion was in fact Bermuda’s gross debt in August. Four months later, our debt is likely spiralling far higher.
During the 2020 Election, I was canvassing with OBA candidates Jarion Richardson and Vic Ball when the topic of Bermuda’s debt came up on the doorstep. A voter in Smith’s said she understood our massive debt was bad for Bermudians, but she asked what our debt meant in real terms.
Quick as a flash, Mr Richardson, now an MP, said: “Picture our island with no buses. That’s what $3 billion of debt means.” To her credit, the voter’s response was equally as quick: “You need to tell people that.” And she was right.
Our spiralling national debt is an extremely serious issue. And the $3.35 billion figure from August 2020 doesn’t even include our largely unfunded public-sector pension obligations. If we don’t get a grip on things now, we will run out of options. 20/20: it’s time to see clearly.
A numbers game
Keeping with the numbers theme, how about this: 30-6.
If you are reading this online, then some anonymous blogger will likely post “30-6” below the article. This is to remind us all, in case we forgot, that the Progressive Labour Party has 30 seats in Parliament — and the OBA has only six. The implication behind “30-6” is that what the OBA has to say should not count for anything. But the Opposition was elected by the people, too. And we have an important job to do.
On social media, I see that we remaining OBA MPs are being called “The Six”. And we six will continue fighting for you. And for all of those who may not have voted for us in 2020 as well. Because Bermuda needs a strong Opposition. And this government must be held to account.
And we’re not merely The Six by the way. We have our OBA team in the Upper House: senators Ben Smith, Marcus Jones and Robin Tucker. And we have our dynamic new chairwoman, Catherine Kempe, together with all the candidates who ran in 2020. We all continue to work for you.
So, yes, our numbers in the House are diminished. And, yes, we are outnumbered by the PLP. But we are fighting on — for you. We have a new Opposition leader, Cole Simons, who has pledged to put his size-14 foot down when necessary.
So, yes, it’s 30-6. But there is a tactical advantage to being surrounded. As General “Chesty” Puller of the US Marine Corps famously observed: when surrounded, you can attack in any direction ...
• Scott Pearman is the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Transport, and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22)