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Opposition warning over politics in BTA

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Members of the Opposition drew comparisons with Bermuda's struggling gaming industry in warning that political interference could hamper Bermuda's tourism prospects.

They were speaking during the Reply to the Throne Speech on Friday evening and referring to a Bill that would bolster the tourism minister's powers within the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

They joined One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader Leah Scott in her assertion last week that such a Bill was similar to the Government tightening its control over the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission.

Shadow home affairs minister Sylvan Richards said: “Gaming had the potential to create another industry but the chalice has been poisoned.

He questioned why no one had applied for the executive director role at the BCGC despite it being advertised internationally for the past year.

“Why? Political interference by the Progressive Labour Party. The BTA is the one bright spot that we have got going. Let's see how long it takes the Progressive Labour Party to mess that up.”

Speaking more broadly, Mr Richards referenced America's “booming economy” despite its “knucklehead” president, Donald Trump.

“When they sneeze, Bermuda catches a cold,” Mr Richards said.

“If we slip into a recession, the PLP will own it hook, line and sinker.”

Shadow Minister for Legal Affairs Scott Pearman said it was his opinion that the BTA was “probably ... the single best thing the OBA actually did”.

He said his party “took the tourism authority out from under the politicisation of government and they put it in the hands of professionals, and well done them for doing so”.

He added: “This was a good idea. It took away the political grubby fingers from any side of this island. The problem with politicians getting involved in independent bodies is that they tend to mess things up.

“Exhibit ‘A', gaming. If it's not stone dead, it seems to be at very best, on life support. Why? Because of government interference, because of a minister who decided that he knew best, who changed the control levers over this independent authority and scared off the banks.

“Please, the PLP government, do not make the same mistake with the BTA. Recognise what works and support what works. Don't be political, we've got a good thing, keep it.”

The Bill would give tourism minister Zane DeSilva power to appoint future members of the BTA board and deputy chairmen while allowing him to remove future board members and provide general direction to the BTA board.

Mr DeSilva released a statement last week defending the Bill saying that the BTA was set up like no other taxpayer-funded organisation “with the board given the power to continue to reappoint themselves into perpetuity with no input from the government who funds them”.

Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs Scott Pearman
Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Sylvan Richards

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Published November 19, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated November 19, 2018 at 8:10 am)

Opposition warning over politics in BTA

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