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100 days: a look at the progress made

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

With the PLP Government now well and truly settled into their new roles, The Royal Gazette examines what progress the new administration has made on its key promises.

Parliamentary oversight

A plan to set up three watchdog committees recommended by the Spending and Government Expenditure Commission is now in draft form.

The Parliamentary Oversight Committee was steered by Lovitta Foggo, the Minister for Government Reform, but the final decision is the responsibility of Speaker of the House of Assembly Dennis Lister II.

Ms Foggo said in the last session of the House of Assembly that she had been a “fierce advocate” over the past few months for the key Sage Commission proposal to set up committees to scrutinise public spending.

But Mr Lister II, appointed in September, last night told The Royal Gazette: “What I try to remind everybody is that although it is 100 days, the Speaker has been in office just over a month.”

He added: “We hit the ground running, recognising that the Government has committed to reforms. I myself am very much committed to making sure that we benchmark ourselves by what is best practice in other jurisdictions.”

Mr Lister added that the Speaker's office staff had “worked hard to compare and review other jurisdictions, and the parliamentary oversight committees are part of those best practices”.

Mr Lister said: “We are fully committed to it. The committees have been agreed to by the standing orders committee, the structure has been agreed to and we look to have it tabled in Parliament as soon as possible. Right now we are drafting the correct wording, to make sure that it fits Bermuda.”

Jonathan Bell

Overseas entertainers

A plan to make event promoters hire Bermudian artists has yet to come into effect.

The PLP pledged that Bermudians would be hired alongside any overseas entertainers that are brought to the island.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said on Wednesday: “The new policy on entertainers is being drafted. The Department of Immigration is working with the Bermuda Entertainers Union to agree on a final draft.

“As the public may recall, the Minister of Home Affairs has committed to consultation with all affected organisations prior to publishing any new or amendment policies.

“Similarly, once the final draft has been agreed, the Department of Immigration will consult with key stakeholders to obtain their feedback before approving the policy for publication.”

The policy change was intended to reverse a move made by the One Bermuda Alliance Government.

Shine Hayward, a Bermudian musician, said the change would provide a boost for local entertainers.

He said: “This is a win-win situation for international and local artists who get to exchange with each other. It also gives local artists an opportunity to gauge where they are.

“When all things are made equal, which they rarely are, the audiences get an opportunity to realise that their local artists deserve to be treated the same as international artists.”

Owain Johnston-Barnes

Schools to get wi-fi installed

Wi-fi has been installed in at least two public primary schools as the PLP starts to fulfil its election promise.

The PLP said it would “commence the installation of wi-fi in all public schools and ensure all schools have functioning computer labs”.

The Ministry of Education said East End Primary School in St George's, and Purvis Primary School in Warwick, were the first to begin the transfer to wireless.

The installation was said to have been completed by September 11.

However, East End principal Julie Foggo told The Royal Gazette: “I don't know when it will be ready as they are constantly working on the building.

“We have the equipment but it is not ready yet.”

Julie Alexander, principal at Purvis said that installation was complete.

A statement released by the ministry of education read: “The installation of wi-fi in all public schools is still on schedule to be completed by September 2018.

“At East End Primary School there was a visually impaired student who needed wi-fi access to use their Braille instrument during class.

“The Purvis Primary School received devices donated to the school which required wi-fi access. Both schools had wi-fi installed by September 11 in response to their requests.

“The Department of Education will continue the installation of wi-fi in all public schools.”

Sarah Lagan

Tax Reform Commission

The Progressive Labour Party pledged to establish a Tax Reform Commission to make Bermuda's tax system fairer, stimulate economic activity and to create jobs for Bermudians.

The Tax Reform Commission Act 2017 was passed in the Senate on Wednesday, and PLP Senator Vance Campbell, the junior finance minister, said this meant the Progressive Labour Party had met its pledge to create a tax reform commission within 100 days of being elected.

He added, legislation creating a commission to review Bermuda's tax system is just one step towards building a “better and fairer Bermuda”.

He said: “We must reverse growing income inequality and at the same time reduce the cost of doing business. We must fully examine our system to ensure that it is the right system to power our economic growth well into the future.”

He added: “As part of that, we pledged to create a tax reform commission, drawing from both political parties, international businesses, local businesses, trade unions, hoteliers, academia, and the Bermuda Bar.

Lisa Simpson

Health and safety in class

An “urgent” review of health and safety in public schools formed part of the 100-day election pledge.

The Government held a press conference in August to update the public on progress made over the summer in a number of schools.

Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said at the time a “year-round maintenance plan” would be introduced.

The One Bermuda Alliance had already conducted an intensive review of health and safety across all public primary schools.

A live, colour-coded progress report was available on the education ministry's website to keep the public informed on work which had been completed, was under way or yet to start, but the document appears to have been removed from the education ministry's website.

During the OBA's time in power, teachers at TN Tatem refused to enter the school due to concerns over mould. A report was prepared and work was done before the Ministry of Education gave the green light for them to return.

But teachers were still not satisfied with the condition of some rooms and pupils had to be relocated to Clearwater Middle School on a temporary basis.

Under the PLP, Dellwood Middle School teachers also refused to enter the building and remedial work was carried out.

But just before the school reopened, teacher concerns surfaced again and the ministry kept the school closed until more work was done.

Sarah Lagan