Premier says OBA lacks patriotism; Richards won’t lie to be a patriot
Premier Paula Cox has accused Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards of a lack of patriotism in the latest round of the war of words over Government’s handling of the economy.
But Mr Richards says that the Premier’s criticism is misplaced.
“How a patriot for Bermuda could ever stand in front of an audience and side with the leader of a competitor jurisdiction against his own, defies belief,” Premier Cox said.
“The OBA instead sides with Cayman and wishes for Bermuda to ignore the key organisations like the OECD and initiatives like the Solvency II initiative, and they want the voting public to buy into a flawed model of fostering international business growth with the hallmark being light or no-touch supervision.
“Bermuda’s national interest should always come before partisan warfare.
“These most recent utterances cause one to question how far the OBA is willing to go to score political points. We have to be better than that.”
Mr Richards said that he had never criticised Solvency II at a press conference yesterday.
The Premier was speaking at a press conference yesterday in which she sought to clarify Bermuda’s policy with respect to organisations like the OECD and the EU’s Solvency II initiative.
She said that the Bermuda Monetary Authourity is not adopting Solvency II in Bermuda.
“Ironically, the Opposition is accusing this Government of doing the very thing that we are actually bending over backwards to avoid,” the Premier said.
“In fact, as has been made clear on more than one occasion, rather than adopt another jurisdiction’s rulebook, in this case the European Union’s, we are taking great care to develop a supervisory framework that will work for Bermuda.”
Ms Cox said that the BMA viewed it as inappropriate to adopt a “one size fits all” regulatory framework.
“In this context, Bermuda has been very clear that while it seeks equivalence under the Solvency II directive for its large internationally-active insurers and reinsurers, this must be a practical form of equivalence.
“It must be one that is appropriate and relevant and which works not just for Brussels but also for the entire Bermuda market.
“We should stress here that equivalent supervision is not identical supervision.”
Mr Richards indicated on Monday that Cayman Island Premier McKeeeva Bush had a valid point in his assessment of Bermuda’s competitiveness.
“Everybody including Cayman Island is scratching for business,” he said.
“The criticism that the Cayman Island has labelled Bermuda with I think has some justification. It’s just the way it is. They see us for what it is and that’s the reason why we are losing business.”
Mr Bush recently stated that Cayman Islands could take reinsurance business from Bermuda with more favourable Immigration laws and land ownership policies, doing so “without the malice, without the inhibitions of race, without the inhibitions of transport”.
Mr Richards said that it was those comments by Mr Bush that he had referred to because the Caymanian Premier had hit upon some home truths.
“I have never, ever, spoken out against the Government’s attempts to get Solvency II equivalency, never. So we’re on board with that,” he said.
“As fraught with difficulty as it is we’ve always been on board with that.”
Mr Bush, said Mr Richards, had noted that Bermuda had talked about reducing fees, reforming Immigration policy but had done nothing, while the Cayman Islands had taken action in those areas.
“Those statements are true,” insisted Mr Richards yesterday.
“If I have to be a liar to be a patriot, then I am sorry, I am not a patriot. I will always tell Bermuda the truth.”
Asked whether she was more disappointed in Mr Richards than Mr Bush, the Premier said: “Disappointment suggests that you have someone in high regard and that you are disappointed in his behaviour. I think as a patriot, my view is that we can disagree and we can disagree vehemently and we can disagree violently.
“But I think Bermuda’s interest comes before partisan warfare. And that is what is sobering and concerning. You don’t throw Bermuda under the bus you can throw me under the bus, but don’t throw Bermuda under the bus in order to score political points. And those are some of the rules of engagement in my view. National interest comes before self-interest and political interest.”
Mr Bush touts his country’s choice not to seek equivalence with the EU’s imminent stricter regulation of insurance companies, as an advantage of domiciling in Cayman. The rules, known as Solvency II, due to take effect next year, will mean insurers have to hold more capital and raise standards of corporate governance.
Bermuda has pursued “third-country equivalence” with the European Union’s new Solvency II regulations to ensure that the Island’s global reinsurers will not be competitively disadvantaged in the European marketplace.
Mr Richards said that Bermuda had no choice but to pursue Solvency II equivalence because the major insurers had demanded it.
“I don’t know if it will make us more competitive, it is something we have to do.”