Getting the job done for Bermuda
I am amazed at the capacity of a well-intentioned legislature to do good things for the people it serves.
The just-finished summer sitting is a good example of what I'm talking about.
In the weeks since it began in mid-May, MPs, senators, ministers and civil servants have progressed the people's business on many fronts: supporting family health, reforming the justice system, insuring the underinsured, protecting privacy, planning our energy future, expanding economic opportunity and shielding people's capacity to help others.
Let me touch on a few in no particular order.
Tourism minister Shawn Crockwell brought forward the St George's Resort Act for the construction of a new hotel above the Olde Towne.
It's a project that will create hundreds of jobs and career opportunities for Bermudians for years to come, revive the East End economy and provide a big shot in the arm for our tourism industry.
I was pleased with continuing progress on changes to the Children's Act to help children affected by parental separation.
The Co-Parenting Mediation Council, set up on August 1 by community minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin, is progressing the structure that will guide mediation. The goal is to keep parents who are separating involved in the lives of their children, to make custody and divorce proceedings constructive and less acrimonious. It's important work, creating positive possibilities for many lives, young and old.
The Government's decision in early August to waive fees that charities faced for police security checks on their volunteers will help them to get on with the business of helping people.
Two Bills brought forward by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz initiated long-overdue reform of our antiquated legal system.
The reforms, which are in keeping with the concerns and objectives of Bermuda's Chief Justice, are designed to ensure that justice is applied efficiently “without diluting fairness”. The health minister, her staff and concerned people from across the Island are working hard to set the healthcare system on to a path we can afford.
The need to improve individual health and wellness is integral to this work, as was evidenced by a survey this summer showing 74.6 per cent of Bermudians either overweight or obese, and 42 per cent of the total population over 18 reporting three or more chronic-disease risk factors.
To improve disease management, promote healthy lifestyles and more efficient use of services, health minister Jeanne Atherden announced four new benefits under HIP and FutureCare that take effect on September 1. They are:
• Personal Home Care Services enabling people to remain in their homes and reduce hospital stays
• Increased specialist visits for better disease management
• Preventive care management to stay healthy, and
• HIP for young Bermudians up to 18 years of age with coverage for specialist, dental and overseas care
These are all positive steps to help Bermudians live healthy lives and within our means.
Economic development minister Grant Gibbons has been busy fulfilling his broad responsibilities.
He has introduced draft legislation to protect people's rights in the collection, use and transfer of their personal information — critically important protection in an age of instant communication and rapid technological change that has made all of us more vulnerable to inappropriate use of our personal information.
Dr Gibbons also tabled a draft Electricity Act, which will revolutionise Bermuda's energy industry by opening doors to independent power producers, wider use of renewable energy sources and competition in electricity generation.
The Act sets the stage for an energy future that is more sustainable, affordable and secure.
This summer has also shown evidence that more than two years of our work to make the economy strong again is starting to bear fruit.
Finance minister Bob Richards announced Bermuda's GDP grew 3.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year. Unemployment is down to 7 per cent from 9 per cent. Our once moribund retail sector has recorded 11 straight months of growth, with June recording an astounding 7.1 per cent rise. Real estate sales are up, signalling a return of value to the family home. Median gross annual employment income is up 5 per cent. Air arrivals remain flat but visitor spending is up significantly, indicating Bermuda's marketing is starting to connect with more valuable customers. Morgan's Point got first-phase planning permission and America's Cup preparations continue apace.
All of these initiatives and results point to progress on the many challenges facing the people of Bermuda.
There is much more to be done to bring relief to the many families that continue to struggle, but I want to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues, civil servants and the many agencies across the Island for an amazing job — getting it done for Bermudians.
Despite the terrible negativity that dominates so much of our public life, it doesn't hold a candle to the good work that Bermudians are doing every week to make the Island work better for one and all.
So let's have faith in each other. Let's keep together and give good work a chance to work. Let's use this momentum to keep moving forward. The future is looking bright.