OBA: We will create 2,000 jobs
The One Bermuda Alliance said it would create 2,000 jobs over the next five years by “implementing pro-growth economic policies”.
The figure was contained in the party’s “jobs and economic turnaround plan” to help pull Bermuda out of its financial crisis.
Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards also revealed that plans are afoot to “reduce the cost of electricity through proper regulation of the energy sector”.
Asked to elaborate, he replied that Belco enjoys a monopoly, but the parent company Ascendant has been acquiring other companies.
“We think the use of a monopoly to do that indicates that the rates we’re paying for electricity might be a tad high,” he said.
“So we will be looking into that aspect as it relates to perhaps getting more stringent regulations, so instead of using those profits to expand into other businesses they can return some of those profits to Bermudian users.” Belco declined to comment on the remarks.
The plan says about 5,000 jobs — held by Bermudians and non-Bermudians — have been lost and say: “The OBA turnaround plan will create 2,000 jobs over the next five years by implementing pro-growth economic policies.
“These 2,000 jobs will come in a range of sectors including construction, hospitality, retail, financial services and international business.”
He said the figure of 2,000 jobs had been calculated from analysing workforce data from the past 20 years.
Unveiling the turnaround plan yesterday, OBA leader Craig Cannonier said: “The fact that we have more than 10,000 Bermudians unemployed or underemployed is astounding — never before in our history — and it tells us that something has gone very, very wrong. Bermuda, it is very fortunate that this election should be held now, because you finally can have a say about the direction your country is heading; whether you want more of the same with the current Government or change with the One Bermuda Alliance.”
However last night, Premier Paula Cox responded by saying: “The OBA's dangerous plans would lock into place two Bermudas — one Bermuda that looks after big business and their friends and another Bermuda for the rest of us.”
The OBA plan has six goals — the first of which is to grow jobs. Plans to achieve that include partnering with the private sector to market Bermuda to the international business world, and making the Island more welcoming by fast-tracking work permit approval for high level staff.
It said it would also suspend the “job killing” term limit policy for two years and partner with a leading university to establish an International Risk Institute to offer courses in Bermuda. The party believes such an institute would stimulate tourism and create new career opportunities for Bermudians.
The second aim is to control Government spending through measures such as an Office of the Contractor General to oversee projects, and cutting down on the use of consultants. The party also pledged to reduce the number of Government cars and reduce Ministers’ pay by ten percent, and set up a “spending and Government efficiency commission”.
In an apparent reference to the housing at Victoria and Albert Rows in Dockyard, the Opposition said they would “renovate existing Wedco buildings in Dockyard rather then build new units, leading to cost savings”.
The third plank of the plan is to reduce Government debt through measures such as a Public Debt Advisory Board to assist the Ministry of Finance in debt management.
The party committed to create opportunities by expanding preschools to make early education accessible to all, especially single-parent households, and enhance early intervention for learning and behavioural difficulties.
And the plan also states it would “implement a fully integrated, modern technical curriculum, beginning in middle school” to ensure all students have early exposure to a technical / vocational aspect to their education.
When it comes to strengthening Government services, the party would set up Operation Ceasefire to help gang members move away from that lifestyle. The would also “ensure that families who are struggling financially get the child day care and financial and housing assistance they need” and “reopen the hospital medical clinic to ensure access to medical care for the most vulnerable members of our society”.
The final point of the plan is reducing the cost of living.
In addition to reducing energy costs through regulating the energy sector, the One Bermuda Alliance said it would also “lower energy costs for households, hotels, businesses and the hospital through the promotion of combined heat and power generation and more energy efficient building design.”
It further pledged to waive stamp duty for first-time homeowners buying properties valued at under $1 million.
The plan was announced on the same day that the Progressive Labour Party revealed its election platform. Asked if his party would be releasing its own platform, Mr Cannonier replied: “In a few days we will give you a few more things as well that will come with the plan, but out of this we recognise that ... the economic recovery plan is the number one concern for the country and so we must focus on that. We have put out in prior time what we want to look at as far as crime is concerned. We’ve talked about education and the things that we want to do there. It is all comprehensive and in this plan as well. So as you get a chance to look at it there are more specifics in the plan that speak to where we are going.”
Mr Cannonier also explained: “My colleague Bob Richards and his economic team have been working for months on this plan. Their work is based on literally thousands of conversations and interviews over the past year. We have built a plan from the ground up — reflecting the needs and aspirations of Bermudians from all walks of life.”
However, Ms Cox said: “We are most concerned about their alarming plans to overhaul our education system. Their plan pushes our Bermudian public school students into the trades from a very young age. The trades are very noble and we honour our tradesmen and women. However, we find it deeply troubling that the OBA plans to track our public schoolchildren away from their dreams from the tender age of 11 and push them into the trades.
“The OBA specifically notes that they will begin an aggressive technical education programme in middle schools and track it all the way through Bermuda College. This is disturbing. Our public education system is student-focused and designed to allow our students to pursue their dreams — be that in the trades, business, law, medicine or whatever their dreams so desire. The OBA's plan would lock into place two Bermudas wherein a permanent class of tradespeople is created while those who can afford to send their children to private school can seize other opportunities.”
She added: “Their plans to further lock into place the two Bermudas also includes bringing back the indigent clinic — second class healthcare for our people — and putting into place a ‘cuts commission’ and a ‘big business board’ to deal with the debt. They would cancel the new Albert and Victoria Row buildings and they would fast track work permit approvals to bring even more guest workers to our shores. And in the midst of these drastic and damaging steps backward, the OBA is also proposing a ‘cuts commission’ — putting at risk the valuable social programmes that thousands of Bermudians rely on to get by.”
Ms Cox concluded by saying: "It's now clear that the OBA is little more than the party of big business and the PLP is the party that stands strong for all Bermudians. The stakes couldn't be higher on December 17.”
The OBA document can be viewed at www.royalgazette.bm attached to this story or www.oba.bm.
The OBA’s six point turnaround plan pledges to:
Ÿ Grow jobs
Ÿ Control Government spending
Ÿ Reduce Government debt
Ÿ Create ladders of opportunity through investments in education and skills training
Ÿ Strengthen Government services
Ÿ Reduce the cost of living