Curtis Dickinson bailing before ʽit’ hits the fan?
“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say”— Bill Carney
The short answer is no one really knows. However, when an incident as spectacular as the finance minister of Bermuda quitting a mere week before the tabling of the National Budget, it is inevitable that the whole country will be speculating.
We are keenly aware of the importance of the finance minister’s portfolio. He is Bermuda’s chief financial officer, who manages the development, administration and disbursement of our taxes and national resources. Although, from the way the Progressive Labour Party government has been running the country, you wouldn’t think so.
The finance ministry is a cornerstone of our government because it is responsible for the management of the financial affairs of the country. The ministry ensures that our books are balanced and that the Government can pay its bills. It oversees the collection of taxes and other revenue, and how it is spent for the benefit of Bermudians.
So when the finance minister quits and vacates his post with immediate effect, at such a crucial time, the logical conclusion is that the financial affairs of Bermuda are in serious peril. This along with obvious irreconcilable differences between he and the Premier, David Burt, has resulted in this shock resignation. Such differences usually extend to the heart of serious issues with severe financial consequences.
If we assume that Mr Dickinson did not quit because of his own wrongdoing, then the only other plausible explanation is that he could not, in good conscience, put his name to a decision that Mr Burt is insistent on making. He couldn’t bring himself to sign off on some issue and the Premier wouldn’t listen, so the only thing to do is to abandon his portfolio and take a back bench in Parliament. He decided to abandon a $180,000-a-year job and accept a $56,000 backbench position.
The obvious question for all of us is, what decision would be of such a magnitude that it would warrant such a drastic and radical response? It is already being speculated in the mainstream media and online chats that it has something to do with a government guarantee or grant to the Fairmont Southampton for the renovation and revival of one of Bermuda’s leading hotels. An economic investment involving hundreds of millions of dollars certainly fits the bill even if the Premier says this is not true.
If, based on sound financial data, the former finance minister truly believes that the taxpayer would be throwing good money into a bad deal, but the Premier would not listen to him, he did the right thing. When the stakes are that high and the consequences for all of us are that extreme and serious, then his choice was clear.
However, let’s take it another step further. Even if Fairmont Southampton is the issue of his resignation, this issue isn’t the sole issue. I would suggest that this disagreement is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Does anyone believe that things have been going great between them, but this issue alone was enough to cause the finance minister to quit at the worst time, causing maximum damage to his Cabinet colleagues and the Premier?
The fact is that he has been a key player in a government of incompetent and irresponsible financial management. This has been a government void of any ideas to turn around our economy. The PLP has opted for playing politics and playing on people’s fears rather than actually attending the fiscal wellbeing of our country.
I have warned Bermudians repeatedly about the disaster that neglect and mismanagement of the economy would lead to. The former finance minister, for all of his credentials and experience, has been a part of that mismanagement. He has presided over a deteriorating fiscal situation without any concrete solutions. He has been David Burt’s right-hand man, patching and plugging holes without any real solutions, while other holes keep popping up all over the place.
He has presided over reduced pension contributions, he has allowed people to raid the pension funds and he has caused working-class Bermudians to wait longer to receive their pensions. He has provided tax increases and new taxes on a population already struggling after the sugar tax and a significant rise in health premiums. This has resulted in a big rise in the cost of living on the people who can least afford it.
Ultimately, it is now clear that Bermuda has hit an economic iceberg and that the PLP Titanic under the captaincy of David Burt is sinking.
It is most plausible to believe that Mr Dickinson has been whispering to Mr Burt all along that Bermuda is on the wrong financial course, but the Premier would not listen. Therefore, Mr Dickinson is doing the only thing he can do — spare himself the harsh judgment of history by sensationally resigning just before “it” hits the fan.
I could sugar-coat it but unfortunately for Bermuda, the situation really appears to be that bad. Therefore, I am advising my Opposition colleagues to heed the warning and head to sea with the biggest vessel to be found and with as many lifeboats as we can.
Bermuda and Bermudians are drowning and need to be saved from the disastrous, ineffective, catastrophic, dreadful, appalling, hopeless and failed leadership of David Burt.
Unfortunately for Bermuda, recent developments have caused the island to take a turn for the worse. The Premier is now the new finance minister. Under his first reign in the role, he gave a former premier and admitted PLP donor $1.2 million, only for him to be charged with corruption months later, and he lent $800,000 to a music producer who ran off with our money.
Bermuda, our economic ship is in grave danger.
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017, and more recently a candidate in the 2020 General Election in Smith's West (Constituency 9)