Packwood demands more from Bermuda First
Original Bermuda First member Cheryl Packwood criticised the formation of another committee to discuss the economy and insisted action — not more research — is long overdue.
Ms Packwood said the Bermuda First group set up in 2009 had already discussed many of the issues likely to be mulled over by the reincarnated version set up by the Progressive Labour Party government last week.
She told The Royal Gazette: “All this research was done and it is still relevant. This idea that we have something new — the work has been done.
“We need to sit down and start applying it. The question is: when is the government going to figure out how to do it? You want to diversify? You want to do farming or aquaculture or create a tech sector? Then you have to start putting regulations in place — a committee isn't going to do that.”
Ms Packwood said one idea to boost the economy, the formation of a tech hub, had been discussed for a decade but never materialised until becoming one of the PLP's election pledges this summer.
She said: “I gave the idea of a tech hub to the economic development group a few years ago — it has been talked about for years.
“Bill Francis [the former Ministry of Telecommunications' permanent secretary] has been talking about it for ten years — about how this could be a technology hub because we have an enormous amount of spectrum available.
“So nothing came of it … nothing.”
Ms Packwood, the former CEO of Business Bermuda, was one of more than 80 members of the original Bermuda First group created in response to the global economic crisis in 2009.
Reflecting yesterday, she said that group was almost entirely male, “reeked of privilege” and that only ten to 15 members turned up to any meeting.
She said: “In 2009, it was a group of businessmen, and I mean men, who got together and decided to do a study on what was needed to make Bermuda better.
“They spent in the region of $1 million and it was not money well spent at all.”
She said of her own involvement: “They added me to the committee but forgot to tell me — I found out in The Royal Gazette.”
Its 59-page report, “Continuing Bermuda's Economic Miracle”, contained numerous suggestions, including expanding into new lines of reinsurance and considering the potential impact of gaming.
Ms Packwood argued that, instead of another committee, cash would be better spent going directly into the agencies and ministries that form legislation and regulation.
She said: “I think it could go straight into the government agencies or ministries to actually applying it. They need to write the white papers. The government knows what it is meant to do and the government should apply it and execute it.”
The new committee is chaired by former HSBC Bermuda CEO Philip Butterfield, with non-political members representing various sectors of society.
David Burt, the Premier, said last week: “The creation of a new Bermuda First Think Tank is a promise that has been kept by this Government. No politicians will serve on the committee. The objective for creating this non-political entity is so they can develop an economic and social blueprint that will shape Bermuda for the next ten to 15 years. For our island to be successful we must have a single vision and we must all move in the same direction.”