How can we turn things around?
“The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe because its handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them.” — Unknown
Bermuda, somewhere along the line, we as a society have lost our way. We have continuously elected a government that has overseen our demise economically and socially, and even the decline in the education of our children. If the Progressive Labour Party lived up to the name “progressive”, we should be expecting that our country would be incrementally changing for the better.
Instead, it has come to mean that those in leadership positions and their hand-picked supporters are progressing while the majority of the island is suffering and are paying for the consequences of the mishandling and mismanagement of Bermuda.
It is clear that since 1998, when the PLP came into power, the quality of the life of a vast majority of Bermudians has steadily declined. We had a privileged position of having a budget surplus to having an incredible debt of $3 billion. There used to be surplus employment opportunities providing Bermudians with endless possibilities for full and part-time work, but now we have some of the highest levels of unemployment seen in our history.
Recently, the Minister of Economy and Labour glossed over there being 30 per cent unemployment among the youth of Bermuda. This statistic should awaken us all because we are already feeling the results through increased violent crimes. Unfortunately, if we believe things are already bad, let this statistic be a forewarning that things in our country will only get worse.
Gun crimes and stabbings are a mainstay in our local news. The cost to live here has skyrocketed; therefore, Bermudians are fleeing the country in record numbers. The tourist industry is a mere fraction of what it was and this industry is where many working-class Bermudians obtain their livelihood.
Any reasonable leader can see that the Travel Authorisation Form is hurting the tourism industry and the numerous Bermudians that depend on it for their family requirements. However, to our continued reputational risk our premier, tourism minister and Bermuda Tourism Authority chairman are the champion tourism killers.
Our sickness and death rates during the pandemic rank among the worst globally per capita and this was supposed to be one of David Burt’s greatest achievements. Our taxes, and food and healthcare costs are rising exponentially while we were promised our cost of living would be decreased.
The value of our homes has shrunk to a mere fraction of what it used to be. We are seeing far too many resignations of good people who no longer want to be tied to the gross level of PLP mismanagement of our country. These are worrying signals that we are heading in the wrong direction in a downward spiral to economic ruin.
Unfortunately, the grim statistics could go on and on. So the question must be asked: “What are Bermudians gaining from the PLP?” Or maybe the better question must be asked: “What Bermudians are gaining from the PLP?” The answer to this particular question is intriguing.
We know and hear that there are certain individuals making off like bandits while the majority of Bermudians are “feeling the pinch” of this economic disaster. Social-media rumours are plenty that the Premier himself has gone from a man of very modest means when he was elected to office barely five years ago to now owning a house in the most affluent and posh residential community in Tucker’s Town.
Of course, we are all aware that this rumour may not withstand scrutiny, even though photographs of the property have been posted, but rumours tend to derive from warranted suspicion.
What is a fact, though, is that except for the select few that are directly benefiting from the tenure of this government, most Bermudians have seen their personal wealth diminish significantly. Many others are outright suffering, with the majority of them suffering in silence.
Working-class Bermudians were hoping the PLP was going to improve their standard of living. We were looking for a bigger stake in our own country so that we could be better off than the generation before us. We wanted our children to obtain the best education towards a life of upward mobility.
We wanted better wages and more employment opportunities in a growing economy to raise our standard of living. We were hopeful of a better future in our elder years with more contributions to our pensions. We certainly did not anticipate having our contributions cut and using pension money today to pay bills, put food on the table and pay rent.
Those who voted for the PLP did not want to give up hope that it would finally deliver. Unfortunately, there are even others that are so committed to the “PLP all the way” but blind to the destination. The fact is the PLP has been given chance after chance after chance, but continuously fails to deliver.
It is abundantly clear for even the blind to see that PLP promises are only to win votes and then ruin the standard of living for those same voters. Bermudians are feeling such a steady decline in our economic and social lives that we are now at the point of no return.
We have even forgotten what it feels like to be optimistic about our future. We have had two announcements regarding the Fairmont Southampton and a new digital bank, but all we feel is higher taxes, higher deficit spending, Arbitrade, Binance and another international scandal on the horizon.
We know in our heart of hearts that we have to change this government to prevent further disaster, but our electoral system says we have to grit our teeth for the next three years and bear it.
However, in the meantime, this provides the opportunity for the PLP to change its leadership and change course before we are all doomed. Alternatively, we can stay on this doomed course, with our economy in shambles, with increased economic pain for the population, and with the PLP tenure ending in utter disgrace, leaving a monumental rescue plan for its successor.
• 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)