Sickness, death and economic ruin
“A leader is a someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improves the system the live under”— Sam Houston
In the run-up to the last General Election, I was asked by Mike Sharpe what was my greatest fear. I expressed that my greatest fear was the Progressive Labour Party being the new government on October 2, 2020. The reason for this is its long history of mismanaging Bermuda from a once-thriving business and tourism destination into our present social and economic decline.
The scale of the PLP victory in the last election afforded me the opportunity to step back from political commentary and reflect upon the direction that Bermuda is taking. In short, I have gone from being concerned, to seriously concerned, to now sounding the alarm at what I am experiencing personally and what I am witnessing taking its toll on people and businesses around me.
Before Covid existed, Bermuda and its economy were in a downward spiral. The Government was spending money faster than it was earning it. Businesses were closing at an alarming rate. The Premier and the Cabinet were attacking the judiciary, the free press, civil servants and “billionaires with sailboats”.
It is without question that neither the Premier nor his Cabinet can be blamed for Covid. However, they are unquestionably responsible for the political and economic conditions we were in before March 2020. A ruined economy before Covid ties our hands behind our backs when we need resources to weather this storm.
I trust that I do not need to remind Bermudians that we have seen the debt grow significantly and our government has raided the sinking fund in an attempt to hide our demise. It is so bad that the Premier advocated for people to plunder their pension funds to start businesses in a severely crippled economy.
This is the poor condition that Covid caught us in. Little was going right for Bermuda before 2020 when the virus arrived. However, in a twist of fate, the pandemic became the PLP’s saving grace.
Because world economies closed and flights were grounded, we were able to get to zero positive cases quickly. In an instant, the PLP went to the polls two years early to capitalise on its handling of the health crisis. It managed to convince the majority of people that voted that its handling of Covid over those few months warranted another five years in office.
The bait-and-switch tactic worked like a charm. The PLP avoided in-depth inspection of its political failures and the economic disaster it created, and rode its handling of Covid successfully to the polls. It appears to have worked so well that the PLP is now drinking its own “Kool-Aid” and is forgetting that this is a marathon and not a sprint.
Bermuda, here we are. Four consecutive years into this PLP government, one year since the pandemic started and six months after the election. Almost every business, social and economic indicator is worse than before. Jobs are continuing to be lost, businesses are continuing to collapse, education is in ruins, parents are stressed and crime is escalating. The economic growth that was curtailed and restrained by the PLP continues to expose it and its inability to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
Frankly, the leadership blunders are compounding into a national crisis. Serious questions are being raised about the political handling of the pandemic itself. Questions are being raised about the consultant responsible for our testing regime reporting directly to the Premier. If true, this poses an incredible opportunity for numbers to be skewed and reported in a less than transparent way. The Premier’s recent revelation of being Covid-positive but not having Covid comes to mind.
People are asking why we are listening to politicians primarily rather than the experts. Why are the Chief Medical Officer, the head of the hospital and the Bermuda Health Council relegated to secondary roles when this is a health emergency? Shouldn’t these be the people we rely on to make public-health decisions to protect us? Are they being sidelined to further a self-serving, political agenda?
For the past few weeks, our Covid numbers have risen dramatically and out of control. This is finally forcing a nationwide shutdown now almost a thousand Bermuda residents are Covid-positive.
This will undoubtedly further the downward spiral of the economic crisis that we were in before March 2020. It is difficult to process what is the endgame is for our leadership except surviving politically for as long as they can while life gets harder and harder for the rest of us. The economic plan that was recently put forward smacks of desperation. A space strategy, national digital bank, fintech and a fishing facility are what we are relying on to change our economic fortunes.
The thing about a crisis is that it requires real leadership. It cannot be bluffed and spin-doctored away with clever speeches and bait-and-switch tactics. Bermudians are paying the price for the blunders of poor leadership. People are literally dying, losing their jobs, losing their businesses and losing their homes. Our lives and livelihoods are at stake.
Premier, your poor decisions will continue to erode our economy and, ultimately, the future of the nation. Bermudians, how long will we allow our economic demise to continue?
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017, and more recently a candidate in the General Election in Smith's West (Constituency 9)