We need to put people’s trust back in government
Trust in our political leaders should be the cornerstone of a healthy democracy; that belief that politicians and their ministries will act in our best interests.
Distrust in politics is corrosive to a healthy democracy and in Bermuda this has become more prevalent as time passes and the perception of “them and us” is reinforced in words and deeds.
This erosion of trust has driven behaviours in Bermuda that are alarming and require a reset.
The electorate is becoming disengaged from the process of collective responsibility to drive the economy forward. If business is hampered by bureaucracy, then government is seen as an obstacle to progress rather than as a facilitator.
At certain times, it is important for government to put the brakes on market forces, but the perception must be that it is for the greater good and not for the good of a select few.
Recent initiatives by the Government to take active control of the corporations of Hamilton and St George point to a government that does not trust market forces and seeks to exert more and more direct control over our private-sector affairs.
History shows us that such centralised control leads to inefficiencies and lack of engagement by the people.
Once our government and politicians create a system of overarching control in our society then unless they deliver, they will lose the respect and trust that are the best solution to the needs of society.
Bermuda is a service economy and a large part of that is driven by the presence of international business and the trickle-down effect that it has in all parts of society.
The work of the Bermuda Monetary Authority as a largely autonomous government agency is a shining example of how government, providing that it does not override its decision-making, can facilitate business in a business-friendly, but well-governed environment.
This contrasts with other aspects of our government, which are essential for the future wellbeing of our people.
The poor governance of our education system and public transport have been a constant source of comment, and have the biggest impact on those Bermudians with the greatest need for help.
Governments are elected on a manifesto that promises outcomes which will be delivered on behalf of all Bermudians. The successful delivery of these outcomes will in turn lead to economic prosperity and stability, eliminate inequality and establish trust in the government of the day.
Failure to deliver has the opposite effect and can engender instability and inequality. These failures may be actual or perceived, but the impact is the same — an erosion of trust.
What can be done to rebuild trust?
Today we need to take stock of our collective responsibility to move Bermuda back on the road to social and economic progress.
It is incumbent on all in society to do their part; politicians must fulfil their promises to society to act for the greater good and the electorate must hold them to account for the job they were elected to do.
Election to high office in Bermuda by the people is a privilege and not an entitlement, and carries with it a duty of service on behalf of the people.
Any failure, actual or perceived, individually or collectively, is an indication that change is needed.
Trust in our political leaders is a vital component of an orderly and stable society.
Bermudians expect to lead fulfilling lives in a safe and stable environment.
Bermudians expect their taxes to be spent wisely for the common good and not wasted on ill-conceived projects or inefficient government services.
Bermudians expect to be well educated, safely housed, have access to good healthcare, an assurance of a pension upon their retirement and that their children will have a future in Bermuda.
We live in a global economy and offer the world incredible benefits, which have become an important part of our island economy. What we need now is to put our own house in order and use those gifts and the undoubted talent of our people to rebuild trust in our democracy, which will serve the greater good of all Bermudians.
• Sir John Swan, a National Hero, was the Premier of Bermuda from 1982 to 1995