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Sixteen months and two shuffles

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Shoe on the other foot: David Burt’s track record is being questioned by his predecessor as premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

I am curious and concerned upon learning of the Cabinet shuffle by David Burt, the second in 16 months after the election last year.

In addition, it must be noted that the Premier was misleading in his comments when he went to great lengths to emphasise the consolidation of ministries from 11 to ten.

He should have acknowledged that it means nothing, as the overall budget total for all ministries will stay the same, there is an increase in the total number of ministers, an increase to the total amount paid to ministers and thus an increase to the taxpayer.

I am curious as to the reason that Zane Desilva is returned to Cabinet after he was fired or resigned this year over scanning fees. Could it be that since $1.2 million has now been paid to “settle” this matter, they have kissed and made up? If this is the case, it begs the question as to who is really in charge.

A former premier threatens legal action against the Government, a minister resigns and then the Government pays out a huge settlement at taxpayer expense, and with that the former minister is appointed as the Minister of Tourism and Transport — the same portfolio his friend and former premier held when there were so many questions about decisions made during that time.

One cannot help but note that Desilva now will sit in Cabinet and have a direct influence on gaming, which has progressed little under the Progressive Labour Party government. And the position of executive director at the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission has been vacant for more than a year. It should be noted that the individuals involved in the secretive scheduled New York City gaming meeting, of which so many questions remain, are in place with the responsibility to make critical decisions.

I am also curious and concerned about the need for an increase in the Cabinet, with two ministers having little or no direct responsibility but being paid a good cheque at taxpayer expense.

The Premier has provided little justification for a Minister without Portfolio and a minister within the Cabinet Office to support a premier who now does not have the finance portfolio.

It is also noteworthy that former minister Michael Weeks, after a very short spell in Cabinet, has been dropped without explanation while at least two other ministers remain, one the Attorney-General with alarming legal issues in the family and another having made grossly insulting public comments while overseas on government business. The perception of an uneven playing field appears real for many.

The new PLP chairman is on record as saying the party has a depth of talent on the back bench. However, sadly, if this is the case, it is not evident in the most recent Cabinet selections, as the newest MP, who has yet to deliver a maiden speech, and a fired former Cabinet minister are brought into the inner sanctum. So much for the supposed talent on the back bench, which has worked for the past 16 months supporting the Premier.

While the PLP likes to talk about what it has done since the last election, it is clear that the economy has slowed, with important economic indicators highlighting the concern. Education appears to have regressed, and teachers and principals have shown their unhappiness; healthcare costs have risen under this government; there has been no progress on immigration reform; transportation challenges have grown; seniors are struggling; housing costs escalate; and there are few jobs available for Bermudians.

This is not a good track record.

All Bermudians wish the Government to succeed because it means that Bermuda and our people are better off. However, as a former premier and present Opposition Member of Parliament, these recent Cabinet changes raise many questions and concerns, and don’t send a positive signal about how we will deal with our challenges.

Bitcoin will not create many Bermudian jobs and will not be a third pillar of the economy.

As always, results, or lack of results, will provide the answers. Be assured that I will be watching and holding the PLP government to account.

Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, an Opposition back bencher and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)

Michael Dunkley