100 days: MPs must get on the ‘same page’
The Progressive Labour Party’s “great rush” to deliver change has been blighted by mixed messages and disorganisation, political observer Denis Pitcher said.
Mr Pitcher praised David Burt, the Premier, for his efforts to sell Bermuda to the international business community during the 100 days since the PLP’s landslide General Election victory on July 18.
However, he said PLP Cabinet ministers had undermined that work with rhetoric that could be negatively received by potential investors.
Mr Pitcher called for government MPs to get on the “same page of the same plan” and avoid getting caught up with short-term populist notions that could cause damage in the long run.
He said the One Bermuda Alliance had made a poor opposition so far and that its approach of leading from an “ivory tower” was unlikely to restore its political fortunes.
Mr Pitcher, who has never been affiliated to any political party, spoke to The Royal Gazette to evaluate the PLP’s progress on the 21 promises it pledged to carry out in its first 100 days in government.
If Day 1 is considered to be July 19, yesterday was Day 100.
The PLP has not provided an overview of its record but, based on announcements so far, eight of the pledges appear to have been completed, ten are in progress and three are unknown.
Mr Burt said yesterday an update on “the success of the 21 initiatives” would be delivered in the House of Assembly next Friday.
Mr Pitcher, who has published a live progress report on the pledges on his blog 21 Square, argued most of them have rarely been mentioned over the past 100 days.
He questioned the PLP’s skills in communicating its message, which he said was also a serious failing of the previous OBA government.
Mr Pitcher picked out the creation of a tech hub — for which a Request For Information has been issued — as one idea that could reap benefits for the island.
He said re-establishing the Bermuda First advisory group, which was confirmed yesterday, was a vitally important step towards the island’s long-term economic and social future.
But he was less complimentary on the party’s overall performance.
Mr Pitcher said: “The PLP seem to be in a great rush to deliver change, while at the same time being very disorganised.
“The first 100-day pledges have been mostly forgotten, having rarely been mentioned in press releases, with the majority of them remaining incomplete or delayed.
“On one hand, our Premier is doing an admirable job of selling Bermuda as a welcoming place to do business.
“On the other, comments made by some ministers could be negatively perceived by people considering an investment in Bermuda.”
Some have expressed concern over comments in recent weeks about international business from home affairs minister Walton Brown and social development minister Zane DeSilva.
Mr Pitcher said: “What perception do we create when a minister proclaims ‘There are elements in international business who just whine when you talk about a fair taxation system’ or ‘corporate Bermuda is going to help us pay for it’ when referring to our financial assistance challenges?
“What impressions do we create for people considering our island as a place of investment if this is how we frame the relationship with our existing partners?
“We need to address our many challenges and deliver a better future for all Bermudians, although at the same time we also need to create an environment where our partners and potential partners can thrive so they want to invest in our future.
“While there has been some progress, it doesn’t feel like the PLP have yet organised to all work from the same page of the same plan.
“We need to strike a balance to ensure that Bermudian interests are put first in the long term and not get caught up with short-term populist notions that damage us in the long term.
“It is still early and the new government is still finding its footing so it is more of a wait and see whether or not they can deliver.”
Mr Pitcher said the PLP plan to create a tech hub was a potential winner.
He added: “The enthusiasm and support towards improving Bermuda’s tech position is welcome and encouraged because technology is the future.
“As a Bermudian tech entrepreneur I am very concerned that we are very far behind and unprepared for that future.”
Mr Pitcher said the Bermuda First pledge could also provide a boost for the island.
He added: “We will not strike a reasonable path forwards if we cannot bring together our local, international business and community leaders to develop a long-term economic and social vision for Bermuda.”
Mr Pitcher said the OBA needed to rethink its game plan and work harder to connect with voters.
He added: “I would rate the OBA’s performance as Opposition poorly.
“The OBA seem far too focused on what they think led to the PLP’s election win and not nearly focused enough on what led to their own loss.
“The party they campaigned to be before the 2012 election and the party they became were incredibly different.
“At their founding, they were to be a party of the people, collaborative and inclusive. Instead they became the opposite.
“Far too much emphasis is being placed on trying to emulate the PLP’s political style and not nearly enough is being placed on emulating the PLP’s ability to connect and be a voice for the people. “It is highly unlikely that leading from an ivory tower will ever result in the kind of outcomes they wish to achieve.”
• Re-establish the Bermuda First advisory group
• Appoint a gang violence reduction co-ordinator
• Provide financial support for Bermuda College students
• Double the guarantee of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation
• Establish a bipartisan committee on immigration reform
• Issue a Request For Information for a tech hub
• Start the installation of wi-fi in public schools
• Establish a tax reform commission
WORK IN PROGRESS
• Review health and safety in schools
• Provide access to funding for community clubs through loan guarantees
• Appoint a director of co-operative economics at the BEDC
• Conclude negotiations with public sector unions
• Reverse OBA policy on overseas entertainers appearing without Bermudians on the bill.
• Review the airport contract between Aecon and Government
• Establish three parliamentary Oversight Committees
• Update the Ministerial Code of Conduct
• Implement a Code of Practice for Project Management and Procurement
• Increase job training for Bermudians to fill jobs held by guest workers
• Increase the power of the Price Control Commission
• Install fitness equipment in public parks
• Implement a Code of Conduct for MPs