‘Once again the OBA is the star of the PLP Budget’ – Dunkley
The Progressive Labour Party may have been in office for almost 19 out of the past 24 years, but any hurdles that it has failed to surmount are the fault of the opposition One Bermuda Alliance, according to the Premier.
During the Budget Statement, David Burt talked of a brighter future — the promise of a new dawn, the promise of renewal, the promise of hope.
But he could not resist a backward glance to the one five-year period in the last quarter of a century when the OBA held the reins of government — and he was unforgiving in his critique of that period and the legacy that it left.
Mr Burt claimed that, while his administration had made great strides in the past five years, it had been hampered by the “bad hand” it had inherited from the outgoing OBA Government after the 2017 General Election.
On the attack from his opening remarks, Mr Burt said: “In July 2017, the people of Bermuda voted to change the direction of this country and entrusted the Progressive Labour Party to bring about that change.
“The people chose to put an end to one of the most divisive periods of recent memory and elected this Government to build a better and fairer Bermuda.”
The Progressive Labour Party first came to power in November 1998 under the leadership of Dame Jennifer Smith.
The party won two further elections, but was ejected by the electorate in December 2012, when the fledgeling One Bermuda Alliance squeaked home by the narrowest of margins. The PLP was voted back into office in July 2017 under Mr Burt, and strengthened its grip on Government with a 30-6 election win in October 2020.
Mr Burt took a swipe at controversial projects initiated under the OBA administration, including the “failed” Morgan’s Point project and an “unwise” airport development “that jointly have cost taxpayers over $250 million”.
He also slammed the OBA’s track record on seniors, claiming that, when activists requested a pension increase, the former government told them that “money doesn’t grow on trees”.
“Our seniors can vividly remember being cast aside by the OBA during their 55 months of governing,” he said.
Mr Burt said that payroll tax had been at its highest level under the OBA, and that students were discouraged from continuing their education because of the “lack of opportunities the former Government provided”.
He said: “Let us not forget that the former Government reintroduced fees at the Bermuda College while cutting scholarships and short-changing our public education system.
“This Government has been committed to undoing the damage done by the Opposition and restoring faith in our public education system.”
According to Mr Burt, the OBA was also responsible for plunging the island into massive debt and damaging its reputation as a sophisticated centre for international business.
He said: “The people of Bermuda still vividly remember the One Bermuda Alliance doubling our national debt, having the largest deficits in Bermuda’s history and being downgraded by independent rating agencies.
“Bermudians are still feeling the effects of their failed Morgan’s Point project, bad airport deal and furlough days.
“In 2017, Bermudians looked to the Progressive Labour Party to reduce our deficit, maintain our reputation as a global financial centre, diversify our economy and encourage more economic parity.”
Mr Burt also launched a broadside against critics of his Government, accusing opponents of peddling “fiction”.
He said: “The uniqueness of politics in Bermuda means that as the Opposition, or anyone who opposes this Government, you can often choose your fiction, repeat that fiction, and engage others to do the same in various avenues, and some people will even believe it.
“Such efforts are enhanced by a willing media whose sensational and often wrong headlines fuel innuendo and falsehoods that distort this Government’s record of success and progress for the people.”
Michael Dunkley, who served as Premier under the last OBA administration, accused Mr Burt of being weak.
Mr Dunkley said: “I read a post on social media this afternoon, and I agree — once again the OBA is the star of the PLP Budget.
“This reminds me of a comment that former US president Barack Obama said — if you do not have a record to run on, you try to convince people your opposition should be run from.
“It is also weak that Premier Burt once again attacks the media. While I do not always agree with the media, politicians should be very wary of trying to blame the media.”
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