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Consultant will seek Middle East opportunities, Premier says

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Key role: Alexi Hefti has been appointed as an adviser to the Government on Middle East affairs (Photograph supplied)

The Premier has justified the appointment of a government consultant to the Middle East, who will cost the taxpayer $240,000 over the next year.

In a statement last night, David Burt said that Alexia Hefti, a lawyer, has been hired by the Government on a 12-month contract “to realise the full scope of opportunities presented by this exciting region”.

He pointed out that the Governor and the British Government were consulted before Ms Hefti’s appointment last month, and said that the post still needed approval from Whitehall.

He added that previous administrations over the past ten years had made efforts to forge links in the area.

Ms Hefti’s appointment was made public by Mr Burt in the House of Assembly on Friday.

In response to questions from the Opposition calling for details on the number of advisers appointed since last year, Mr Burt revealed that Ms Hefti was one of 70 consultants on the government payroll.

He explained that Ms Hefti was on a one-year contract, which began at the beginning of April, on a salary of $20,000 per month.

She has been assigned to the Cabinet Office to provide “strategic advice” on Middle Eastern affairs.

Last night, Mr Burt said Bermuda needed to develop awareness in the Gulf region, “which has a proven track record of development success”.

He said: “To realise the full scope of opportunities presented by this exciting region, Bermuda must advance in a strategic and targeted way, building relationships with a region that values the very business environment that has made us a successful and trusted jurisdiction for investment and trade globally.

“In order to establish a Bermuda Government representative presence in the region, the UK Government has been requested through Government House to approve the appointment of a representative under the terms of the existing entrustment, which regulates the Government of Bermuda’s conduct of activities in foreign countries.

“We are working with Government House on this and I took the opportunity in my recent meetings in London to confirm Bermuda’s interest in establishing such a representative presence, recognising there are precedents with other Overseas Territories pursuing similar interests abroad.”

Mr Burt said that the island had a recent history of establishing links with oil-rich states in the region and had signed a number of agreements and memorandums of understanding with Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

He said that Paula Cox, a former premier and finance minister, had led a Bermuda delegation of business leaders to the region when she was in office between 2010 and 2012.

“Following that visit, Qatar Re relocated to Bermuda,” Mr Burt said.

Mr Burt said that ties were strengthened under the One Bermuda Alliance government in 2013, when Craig Cannonier, then the Premier, gave a speech at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London announcing Bermuda’s first Islamic bond.

Emphasising the importance of the growing relationship between Bermuda and the Middle East, a government spokesman said: “In 2019, Premier David Burt re-engaged representatives of countries in the Gulf region during an official visit to Brussels as the Government looked to expand relations outside of North America and Europe.

“The Premier held a meeting with the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to discuss investment opportunities in Bermuda and the strengthening of economic relations between the UAE and Bermuda.

“Additionally, Premier Burt met the Head of Mission for the Gulf Co-operation Council to the EU, where he also discussed potential investment opportunities in Bermuda and the strengthening of relations with countries in the GCC.”

The spokeswoman added that Ms Hefti, a member of the New York Bar, has been based in the Middle East for several years and has engaged with governments, the Gulf Co-operation Council and multilateral financial institutions in the region.

The spokeswoman added: “She is a sought-after panellist and contributor on government innovation and the use of technology for the empowerment of citizens, particularly in emerging markets.

“She is the founder of eGovern, chairman of the Abed Group and a board member of Hut 8, a Nasdaq and Toronto Stock Exchange-listed company.”

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Published May 24, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 24, 2023 at 7:59 am)

Consultant will seek Middle East opportunities, Premier says

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