Richardson: OBA would take government ‘back to basics’
The Government would get back to tackling the basics if the One Bermuda Alliance was elected to power, according to its interim leader Jarion Richardson.
In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Richardson, who said the OBA leadership contest would take place next month, denied PLP claims that his Throne Speech reply was “doom and gloom” and said the party would field a full slate of candidates at the next General Election.
On the party’s political position, he said the OBA was “right down the middle” and that the OBA was “entirely practical”, adding that the party was prepared to deal with the “hard parts” of governing.
“We're so adamant in the OBA about getting back to basics, because that's what's broken,” said Mr Richardson.
“Medical tourism, fine, but you can't have medical tourism unless the trash gets picked up. Vertical farming, but the roads are chewed up.
“You have to be able to make sure there is a basic functioning civil community first, then you do those other things.
“That's what we're talking about in the Reply to the Throne Speech, get back to making it work properly.
“Some of this is unpleasant, t and it's difficult to work through. But I think that's the point, if it's going to be worth doing, it’s going to be hard.”
Asked if that was a message that would resonate with voters, he said: “We think so.”
Pressed on why, he added: “Because we speak to them. When we canvas, when we walk around, when we do our pop-ups, when we do our blitzes, there's this conversation about, why is everything hard? We couldn't agree more. Why is everything hard?”
Getting back to basics, he said, includes updating things such as the Household Expenditure Survey, which helps calculate inflation and which was last done in 2013, making it difficult to set policy.
“Now, yes, that's boring. Yes, it doesn't win a lot of high-fives going down the road when you get it done, but what I'm telling you is that it is exceptionally hard to make national policy based on inflation that is, in fact, accurate as of 2013. So, that's what I mean by going back to basics.”
He said payroll tax filings, registering for social insurance, creating a health plan and opening a bank account could all be simplified. “All of these things are laborious”, he said.
“One small business owner we were speaking with remarked that it had taken them six months to get up and running from the day that they said, ‘OK. Now we want to be in this business’.
“It is just incredibly difficult right now to do business in Bermuda. I think there’s this perception that's been portrayed quite well by the Government that all business is this huge, well-resourced structure, or maybe even class of person, and that’s just wrong.”
He said a priority for the OBA would be making it easier to do business in Bermuda. “Because by making it easier, that means that the cost goes down for doing everything. The cost goes down, means the cost of the good or the service goes down as well.
“The point when we say we're going to make doing business easier in Bermuda, it’s removing the constraints that are slowing down the economy, the things that we can actually control.
“When we talk about reducing red tape, we're talking about reducing it across the board, so that again it's easier not just to do business in Bermuda, but be in Bermuda.”
Asked if overall the OBA’s mantra would be to fix the basics first, Mr Richardson replied: “Yes, fix the basics first.”
Challenged on whether that would be something that would capture the voter’s backing, he added: “The thing we are trying to communicate to the voter, first of all is that we're listening.
“That's not boring, because the voter has been ignored for quite some time politically in Bermuda.
“The voter has made it quite clear that they expect for certain things to be taken care of, and they're not getting taken care of, so they're getting ignored.”
Asked if he would say it was ‘back to basics’ if pressed on OBA positions on areas such as health or tourism, Mr Richardson replied: “Well, it’s not just that.
“I mean, equally, someone asked the question 'what's the very first thing you're going to do in government?’ I said, admittedly, somewhat glib, that we're going to collect all the cans that have been kicked down the road and see which one's got the time bomb in it.”
He said he was referring to when the OBA came to Government and found they could not make payroll.
“It shocked me to my core when I heard that. Government has over 4,000 workers. They're the largest employer in Bermuda, and a working population of something in the range of 35,000 people.
“Those workers have families, dependents. Also we're in the sandwich generation, so that means that they're taking care of elderly, they're taking care of kids.
“You can't possibly conceive of the most sophisticated national policy positions until you make sure there’s enough money to make payroll. These are basics in business. They're basics in government.”
He added: “The point is to make things work well, and that does not mean that it comes with fireworks and glitter. When we talk about going back to basics, for example, we literally mean going back to the basics.
“The only decisions that are left in Bermuda's future are hard decisions. That's where we've got to. I'm not happy about that, and that's why I'm involved in politics.
“But that doesn't mean I'm going to keep trying to kick the can down the road or cover up the hard parts.
“We're going to have to deal with the hard parts, because again, the hard parts are what has constrained us, is what has got us here, is what's holding us here.
“Until those items are dealt with, we're going to stay right here in this place, in this spot.”
Jarion Richardson was asked where the OBA stood politically, whether it right of centre, left or held the centre ground.
“What I would say is that the OBA is entirely practical, but if I had to oversimplify it, I would oversimplify it right down the middle.
“We are a diverse party. We have a lot of different views, and that's one of the things that's our strength. So, for example, our first value is inclusivity, so that means that we're a big tent party and we have a lot of different people.
“The reason that's important is because that's more reflective of Bermuda than anything else, is that we have a lot of different people in our party. There's a lot of different people come from a lot of different backgrounds.
“They think about things very differently, and some of them, to the chagrin of public commentators, for example, are very conservative and support US conservative policies.
“Some of our members are very liberal and don't support any US conservative policies. That's why I would say the governing philosophy of the One Bermuda Alliance is in our name.
“We believe that there is in fact, one Bermuda, that Bermuda is the centre of all things we need to be thinking of, and that we can only do it together.”
Asked if that made it difficult for the voter to identify with the party, Mr Richardson added: “No. I don't subscribe to the idea we don't have a clear political identity.
“What I would subscribe to is that we don't fit into the little boxes very neatly, because again, we're such an inclusive and big tent party.”
Pressed on whether could difficult to grasp, he added: “I don't think it is actually. I think that when it comes down to it, it's a question of things like trust.
“I know that it can sound almost childish when we talk about these kinds of values as a matter of primacy in principle. But the simple fact of the matter is that Bermuda has not been well-served by putting ourselves into a bunch of different boxes.”