Ex-Premier Scott: Sustainable development body’s role is critical
A “viable” Sustainable Development Roundtable should be actively involved in major projects such as the redevelopment of the waterfront, according to former Premier Alex Scott.
“A lot of the questions that have been raised would have been answered in one round-table meeting and it would have avoided your Government being in one place, the Corporation of Hamilton being in another and the private sector being somewhere else,” Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette.
“If sustainable development was alive and well as envisaged by myself, the development of the waterfront would not be in the dilemma it appears to be.”
Mr Scott had envisaged a Roundtable which would have not only advised the Government but championed the cause of sustainable development in public.
The former Premier went on to say that his administration had decided against introducing gaming to the Island because it was not in keeping with the principles of sustainable development.
“Gaming is not a sustainable development initiative. There's no country saying ‘to go forward we must have gaming',” he said.
“How could you be putting gaming in place, which has a record and a reputation for doing injury to the social fabric of the country, and your young men are saying ‘we are not part of the economy and we are going to use nefarious ways to get a piece of the action?'
“Gaming just really means there's a lot of money looking for a home. The house gets the profits and the community gets the problems. That would help a few investors, developers and entrepreneurs but it lives off of taking money out of the community. It doesn't put much back.
“Atlantic City has created more corrupt politicians than any number of a series of Hollywood movies and Bermuda can expect the same. It can bring the worst out of your parliament.”
He added: “So, if you are really committed to it (sustainable development) you are committed to points of principle that are in the interests of the public and the people you serve.
“Seems like a simple thing but when you try to do it — it separates those who are interested in the public from those who are interested in themselves.
“Sustainable development is really the agenda of the public.”
Little has been heard from the Sustainable Development Roundtable in recent years. And this newspaper has been unable to speak with its current head, Philip Seaman, who has said he is not required to speak to the press.
Nor has Mr Seaman made any other public appearances in the capacity of the chair of the Roundtable since his appointment in February.
Environment Minister Sylvan Richards who is responsible for the SD department, has also failed to respond to queries about the $500,000 a year programme.
It is not known whether the Roundtable has made any recommendations to Government on the waterfront redevelopment or gaming. In a prize-winning submission to the SAGE Commission, the body looking into Government efficiency, civil servant Magnus Henagulph recommended that the Sustainable Development Department should be cut saying it doesn't offer value for money.
But critics such as Mr Scott and former Roundtable member Stuart Hayward say it should stay and be made more functional.
Mr Scott, who as Premier launched the sustainable development project in 2006, said the role of the Roundtable was critical.
“With a viable Roundtable operation there would be no challenge that Bermuda couldn't face,” he said. “The SAGE group would only become a point of reference — they would make their recommendations to Government”, but the SDRT would have its input.
“And Cabinet would have a wealth of information always at their fingertips that reflected the community's view,” he added.
Mr Scott rejected criticism that he had hired a foreign consultant to launch the project saying the contract was a short one and it ensured that Bermuda's effort was consistent with what had happened elsewhere.
“It was successful, and it was helpful and it was the ideal use of a consultant. That is, they came, they advised and they leave.”
But he said ultimately, the leadership of the sustainable development effort had to be in the hands of Bermudians.