Bean: The people are losing trust in the OBA
More job losses, possibly as many as 2,000, is the most serious concern of Bermudians following the release of the SAGE Commission Report.
This from Opposition Leader Marc Bean after the first of a series of town hall meetings to examine the recommendations to cut spending.
The Progressive Labour Party maintains any solutions to Bermuda massive deficit must go beyond cutting jobs and programmes. But he is confident hard times “force people to consider alternative solutions”.
“People quickly acknowledged the situation we are in. But their minds shifted recognising that the recommendations in the SAGE Report inevitably lead to 1,700 to 2,000 people losing their jobs,” said Mr Bean of the One Bermuda Alliance appointed Spending and Government Efficiency Commission.
“That stark reality makes people put on their thinking caps and that was the whole purpose of the meeting.
“People complain that political parties are irresponsible and not connected to the people. We're doing something the One Bermuda Alliance Government never did as Opposition. And I can't really see them doing it as the Government.”
Informing the Bermuda public of the facts contained in the report was the main goal, he said. Moving forward on recommendations based on full-scale inclusiveness is the objective.
Mr Bean challenged Bermudians interested in the recommendations to think outside the box on alternative solutions.
Parliamentarians will debate the 140 page report in the House of Assembly on Friday, December 13.
The way forward, said Mr Bean, will be to gauge the views of ‘Mr and Mrs Bermuda', particularly the middle class sector financially under siege.
Based on the feedback generated he said it was clear the Bermuda public was keenly interested. But he said “the people are losing trust” in the first-time OBA Government.
“That's the overriding element within the minds of the people who don't feel they can trust these people,” said Mr Bean.
Asked what he would like to see develop as a result of the report, he said the solutions would have to go deeper than “reducing the deficit and eradicating Bermuda's debt”.
“I don't think a broad enough analysis on the various approaches has been undertaken.
“Yes, you could make spending cuts, that's fine. But we would also combine it with tax cuts, or we could combine it by increasing other sources of tax revenue, meaning, diversifying our economy.”
Those areas include the blue economy, online gaming, free economic zones to bring capital and create entrepreneurship.
He argues that would increase economic activity, which would then trickle down into Government coffers in the form of new taxation.
“That's why I say a holistic approach to restarting the economy is not just about spending cuts. That might be the first step,” said Mr Bean.
“Government has to look to increase its revenue sources by creating additional revenue sources instead of raising taxes.”
Ultimately he said: “Government needs to get out of the way and stop saying no to people and stop allowing special interest groups to say local citizens shouldn't have the opportunity to use their creativity to generate wealth, and take care of their families.
“It's not just the Government, there's other institutions like the banks that are a hindrance. They haven't done nothing!
“And they're not innocent in terms of the overall global economic meltdown; let's not be fooled. Even from “the simplest things like opening up various bank accounts for legitimate business — it's difficult. It's hindering economic development.”
He stressed that the concerns raised are not exclusive to the black community “who need to fully participate in the Bermudian private sector”.
“We all have to consume but we should also take the opportunity to fully compete. For 30 or 40 years the private sector has in the minds of the majority of people in this country been something outside of themselves.
“And so, there was a reliance on Government employment, and that's because of the historical injustices,” he said.
“The obstacles for the small businessman are immense and we're not open for business at the domestic level to allow Bermudians to fully participate and compete.
“There's still a lot of blockages being erected and I don't understand the thought process behind it. But it certainly cannot be beneficial for the upliftment of this country.
“You can't say on the one hand you want to cut and reduce the size of Government but on the other hand you then restrict the opportunity for people to fully participate in the economy unless you want people to be dependent on you; unless you want people to be serfs or second class citizens.
“How could that ultimately be beneficial to harmony and peace and progress in this country? We need to have some serious conversations.”
He conceded that the Civil Service “has grown exponentially and good stewardship means reducing its size and its scope”.
But he said more has to be done for people to continue “to raise their standard of living and care for their families”.
And he predicted rougher times after Christmas. “It'll be rough in January and February and that's not exclusive to Bermudians.
“People spend and consumption is high but a lot of that is based on credit not cash. It's not for me to say or tell people how use their money, they're free to do it. But we would advise them to be wise and prudent.”
As political representatives of all the people he said the Opposition “will take the lead to explain the recommendations”.
“But to judge, or give our personal, political or party view on the recommendations, that would pre-empt the debate on December 13.
“ ... There is acknowledgment that Bermuda is in a dire straits, but there are question marks as to whether this is the right approach and could there be a more balanced approach.
“There were calls for ideas on economic diversification, looking for new revenue sources and the Wage Commission that we proposed in the Throne Speech Reply.
“We're going out and we're doing the work on behalf of the country by presenting the facts — that's our job.
“We're not just going to get up there and emotionally resist these recommendations. It's important that we rationally look at the recommendations, put on our thinking caps and think of alternatives.
The next PLP meeting on SAGE will be held next Tuesday, starting at 7:30pm at The Dalton E. Tucker Primary School, formerly Southampton Glebe.