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OBA: government has dropped the ball on economic recovery

Critical: Jarion Richardson, the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance (File photograph)

The Opposition has accused the Government of paying lip-service to promised initiatives that could boost the island’s economy, claiming that key goals set out almost a year ago remained unaddressed.

Jarion Richardson, the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, made the claim after he tabled questions in the House of Assembly this month about the Government’s planned Economic Development Strategy.

In a statement later, the Government insisted there was evidence that “a significant body of work” was started and added that several action items were completed.

The strategy, launched in June 2023, promised five key ways in which the Government was to grow the economy: the retention and expansion of international business; attracting business and promoting investment; development of entrepreneurship and small businesses; the continuation and execution of the Economic Recovery Plan; and investment in people.

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, gave written answers to Mr Richardson’s questions in the House on May 17.

He provided a list of ten top civil servants and quango leaders who were developing the strategy, adding that additional support staff were called in “to work on the initiatives”.

In response to Mr Richardson’s request for information about key performance indicators, costs and an estimated completion date for the strategy, Mr Hayward said: “Under the five strategic priorities, a further 26 action areas and more than 112 action items have been identified.

“The action items will be prioritised for the 2024-25 year, and the relevant key performance indicators developed will be made known to the House at that time.”

In a statement last week, Mr Richardson said that the OBA was “shocked” by the minister’s response, and accused the Government of failing to take the island’s economic recovery seriously.

He said: “It’s hard to say the Economic Development Strategy is falling apart when it was never put together.

“During the House of Assembly on Friday, May 17, the Opposition asked parliamentary questions about the Economic Development Strategy.

“We were shocked to learn that key parts of the plan, promised nearly a year ago, still have not been completed.

“The Government assured Parliament and the public that it would take economic recovery seriously, and published the Economic Development Strategy in June 2023.

“Nearly a year into the strategy, the Government hasn’t even pretended to do any more than what departments do on a day-to-day basis.”

The Economic Development Strategy was backed by MPs during a lengthy debate in the House of Assembly after it was launched last June.

On Tuesday, Mr Richardson accused the Government of pushing it to the sidelines in the past 12 months.

He said: “The Government promised to manage the strategy, setting up measurable goals such as key performance Indicators. Not a single one has been developed.

“The Government promised a panel to guide the strategy. It’s the same people already involved long before the strategy was published.

“It begs further questions. Has the panel even met? Where are the minutes? Who is tracking this work? What is being reported to the minister? How can the Government state it’s working, if it doesn’t know what it’s doing?

“The action items as outlined in the strategy fall apart once scrutinised; how will you do them, by when, how much will it cost, who will do them and what will be the benefit?”

Mr Richardson said that the Government had taken false credit for any growth in the economy, and had failed to show how its policies were responsible for any “green shoots”.

He said: “This government has made multiple statements about how its policies are positively effecting the economy and yet it never takes the time to specify how or why.

“It sees any green shoots or positive developments as consequences of its polices, which are little more than flowery intentions without meaningful accountability.

“There’s nothing that says our economic green shoots had anything to do with them or their work. Correlation is not the same as causation.

“This government yet again demonstrates it cannot manage technical, complex and lengthy public projects, making it long on promises and short on performances.”

The Government dismissed the Opposition’s claims and pointed out that the strategy’s board had met four times since its inception, with another meeting planned for August.

Mr Hayward said: “Outside of the board meetings, the ministry has had ongoing and additional meetings with government departments and partnering agencies to discuss the Economic Development Strategy initiatives.

“During the budget process, engagement occurred to ensure the budget allocations prioritised Economic Development Strategy initiatives.

“Ownership of the 112 action items was assigned to the relevant government department or partner agency, and a spreadsheet was developed to monitor and catalogue all 112 actions, including time frames and key performance indicators.”

Mr Hayward pointed out that a number of “action items” were developed in the past year, including the support of residential dwellings in Economic Empowerment Zones, expanding approved residential schemes to the entire City of Hamilton, increasing the inventory of affordable housing, and supporting and facilitating schemes that promote new homeownership.

Mr Hayward said that the Government had also worked on revising Bermuda’s family office framework in order to attract high-net-worth Individuals.

Mr Hayward said: “The EDS is a comprehensive plan for Bermuda's economic growth and development, with clear strategic priorities, action areas and action items.

“It is evident that a significant body of work has commenced — and several action items are completed – to ensure the successful execution of EDS strategic priorities.

To see the government statement in full, see Related Media

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Published May 27, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated May 27, 2024 at 7:55 am)

OBA: government has dropped the ball on economic recovery

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