What wonderland is David Burt living in?
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”— Abraham Lincoln
If you listened to the Budget Statement delivered by David Burt on February 25, you can forgive yourself for feeling mystified and confused. In essence, the Premier told us that Bermuda is in great economic shape. In fact, he told us that things are going so great that payroll taxes will decrease and everyone will get a 10 per cent discount for licensing their vehicles.
Most Bermudians came away from listening to or reading his words wondering why the reality in which we live differs significantly from the fantasy island the Premier has tried to paint. The majority of us certainly do not feel the island is in good economic shape.
Let’s think about and question the reality we see every day. If things are so great why are so many people out of work or underemployed? Why is Washington Mall mostly empty when there used to be thriving businesses there? Why is it getting more difficult to pay the mortgage or rent to keep a roof over our families’ heads? Why are people having to decide whether to pay bills that keep the lights on or feed their families? Why are our young people fleeing our island to go to other jurisdictions? Why are our retired seniors leaving Bermuda to live their final years away from their island home and families?
They will tell you that in David Burt’s dreamland, it is too expensive to live here. Soaring healthcare costs and the cost of living are so high that their pensions cannot sustain them.
The Premier selectively quoted statistic after statistic, declaring the wonders that the Progressive Labour Party has done for our country. One of those statistics that he pointed out was about his pet project — fintech. He told us how companies are flocking here, producing a significant number of jobs and how this the greatest thing that has happened to Bermuda. One is hard-pressed to see the evidence of which he speaks, except international scandal after scandal and Victoria Place, which still stands empty.
When a labour government glosses over that the economy has lost 10 per cent of the jobs in the workforce in the past few years, you know it has lost its mind. He even tried to take Bermudians for fools when he said it was the PLP that was responsible for the increased employment that was reported in 2018-19. What he fully knows, and hopes you would forget, is that employment is a lagging economic indicator, so that increased employment would have been from decisions executed years before. To be clear, they were One Bermuda Alliance decisions — such as the St Regis hotel and LF Wade International Airport projects.
The Premier made promises during the snap election to take advantage of Covid when Burt saw the opportunity to do so. However, his poor management of Covid has only made matters worse for the majority of Bermudians, especially the Black middle class and working poor.
In a shameless attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, he didn’t stop blaming the OBA for the country’s present financial predicament. It seems as though he hoped you would believe that a party that governed for just over four years is responsible for our present abysmal economy. He was hoping you would forget that the PLP has been the ruling government for 20 of the past 24 years. He is hoping you would forget why the PLP was booted out of office in 2012 and what has continued to happen to our country economically since 2017.
There are a number of realities that he can attempt to sweep under the rug, but he cannot hide. The number of opportunities for Bermudians to find employment is shrinking. The net worth of average Bermudians is a fraction of what it was when the job market was healthy. Our home values are significantly decreasing. Bermudians used to have a healthy economy where job opportunities were plentiful.
In David Burt’s wonderland, ageing workers are encouraged to raid their pensions to pay for today’s bills to the detriment of their future. They are also encouraged to use their money to fund business ventures in an economy that is failing. He didn’t mention that we have had 18 straight years of deficit spending. He neglected to say that our debt is on an unsustainable path and that reality will come home to roost soon.
Another statistic conveniently hidden is that there used to be 12,000 work permits when Bermuda had a growing and prosperous economy. Now we are at 6,000 permits with limited opportunities for Bermudians.
Therefore, the question is being asked, was the OBA right when it has expressed all along that having more people on island increases opportunities for Bermudians?
Another distressing statistic that was not mentioned is that there are 3,000 fewer jobs in Bermuda than a few short years ago. Bermudians are living the harsh reality of this. The lines to the feeding programmes are long, while Burt and his colleagues deceptively paint a rosy economic picture of our island home.
There is one further statistic that David Burt is so quiet about; the one that says close to 10,000 Bermudians have left the country in recent years. There is no place or opportunity for them in Mr Burt’s paradise, so they have left in desperation to find opportunities elsewhere.
Some have completely given up hope, while many others are waiting in vain hoping for opportunities to return under this PLP government.
So, David Burt should be given props for spin-doctoring our true reality and his audacity to paint such a glowing picture to hurting and suffering Bermudians. This is the worst kind of politics that contrast the reality that we are living and experiencing. This type of politics serves no one except the Premier at the expense of Bermudians and Bermuda as a whole.
He cannot fool everyone all the time and those that are already fooled will soon snap back to the reality of David Burt’s Bermuda. If you do not believe me, ask the former finance minister.
• 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)