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Bermuda seeks official representation in Gulf

David Burt, the Premier, with Alexia Hefti (File photograph)

Appointing an adviser focused on economies in the Middle East was a “prudent” step to take while Bermuda awaits confirmation from Britain about appointing formal representation in the region, the Premier said.

David Burt added that the island was catching up in Gulf Co-operation Council countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — because competitors were ahead in developing ties with them.

His comments came after Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, asked last week about the appointment of Alexia Hefti, who was hired to provide strategic advice on Middle East affairs.

After the “successful” visit to Bermuda of Abdulaziz Alnuaimi, an assistant undersecretary to the UAE Minister of Economy, Mr Burt said: “In this government’s 2020 General Election platform, we promised to diversify our business outreach and that is exactly what we are doing.

“The appointment of an adviser related to the GCC region is a prudent first step pending the approval from the UK Government for a representative of the Government of Bermuda.”

Details about Ms Hefti’s yearlong, $20,000-a-month contract were included in a series of consultancy arrangements listed in May by the Premier in response to a parliamentary question in the House of Assembly.

Mr Burt said later that the British Government was asked, through Government House, to approve the appointment of a government representative in the Gulf region “under the terms of the existing entrustment” that regulates official activities in foreign countries.

The Royal Gazette asked Government House about the Bermuda Government’s request to approve a representative presence in the Middle East.

A spokeswoman replied: “This matter was raised and discussed in the margins of the Joint Ministerial Council meetings in London in May.

“Discussions on the detail are ongoing and a decision will be communicated in due course, in the usual manner.”

Mr Burt said in a statement on May 22: “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.”

A government spokeswoman added then that Ms Hefti, a member of the New York Bar, was hired as the adviser pending approval from Whitehall to establish Bermudian representation in the region.

She explained: “Ms Hefti 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, as well as globally.

“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, chair of the Abed Group and a board member of Hut 8, a Nasdaq and Toronto Stock Exchange-listed company.”

Mr Simons said last week: “We have gathered that Ms Hefti will be Bermuda’s registered representative in the UAE and her role will be similar to the responsibility held by Kimberley Durrant, our well-qualified and experienced Bermudian-registered representative to the UK, and Aliyyah Ahad in Brussels, Belgium, for the EU.

“Additionally, we have learnt that the Premier consulted with the Governor and the British Government before Ms Hefti’s appointment last month and that the post still needs approval from Whitehall.

“What is going on here?

“How can the Premier agree to this appointment, before the appropriate and final approvals were granted by the Governor and the United Kingdom?”

A Bermuda government spokeswoman said later that approval was not needed from Britain for advisers, such as Ms Hefti; rather, it was required for representatives.

She confirmed that Government House and the British Government were clear on the process to formalise a representative appointment at the Government of Bermuda’s request.

Mr Burt added: “We respect that process and look forward to learning the UK’s position on this matter.”

The Premier said: “One thing is certain — our competitors have a presence in this region and are ahead of us in establishing the relationships needed to develop critical business ties.

“Bermuda is catching up in this area, and the Opposition’s petty politics will not stand in the way of delivering on our promise to the people of Bermuda.”

The London and Brussels offices of the Bermuda Government provide consular support for Bermudians and liaise with government entities.

It is understood Ms Hefti’s work is to focus on diversifying the island’s business involvement in the GCC region.

Securing overseas representation

The Governor has constitutional responsibility for Bermuda’s external relations on behalf of the Crown.

To establish representation in other countries, a letter of entrustment is usually required.

Such a document is typically issued from the British Government to the Governor, so that the office-holder can delegate certain responsibilities to the Government of Bermuda.

Entrustments usually set out specific conditions or restrictions.

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Published July 06, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated July 06, 2023 at 10:52 am)

Bermuda seeks official representation in Gulf

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