July 2022: Dame Flora Duffy strikes Commonwealth gold
Dame Flora Duffy took gold at the Commonwealth Games as Bermuda’s super-athlete again proved her world class status.
Meanwhile, at home, July saw the Government try to respond to the growing cost of living crisis on the island after increasing pressure for it to act.
Dame Flora triumphed in the triathlon at the sports gala in Birmingham, England, as she left competitors in her wake and in the slow lane.
Dame Flora, who would receive her Damehood at Buckingham Palace later in the year, said: “I found my form again.
“This year has been really tough with having Covid twice and just managing the fatigue of the last year, I’ve had to be really patient with myself.
“It’s not the best when you have to race when you know you’re not quite ready, but I’ve had to trust that as the year went on I would get stronger and stronger and could turn up here and be in contention to win.”
Dame Flora, who would add to her world championship collection before the end of the year, added: “It’s always special to come and win at a major games and it’s always means a lot to me to win a medal for Bermuda.
“It’s really special that there were lots of people cheering me on and my family and friends were here to see me win. It’s special and I’ll try to just soak it all in.”
The Olympic champion said: “One year ago family weren’t in Tokyo and so it’s nice that I was able to put on a performance for them here.”
While the victory cheered up Bermuda, the island was grappling with rising price hikes and inflation.
David Burt unveiled a $15 million help package, but delivery of the relief was slow and cumbersome and was still not complete by Christmas.
The Premier announced a $150 “back to class” payment to parents of pupils at public schools, but in the end it was delivered well after children resumed studies in the autumn.
The Government also outlined plans to cut the price of some basic foodstuffs and to give away economically friendly LED lights to reduce energy bills.
The Premier also unveiled a payroll tax rebate of $250 for people earning less than $60,000 a year; and a $100 rebate for people earning between $60,000 and $96,000, but this also proved slow in being rolled-out.
Announcing the measures, Mr Burt told the House of Assembly: “With this payroll tax rebate and school supply support, a family of four with two school-aged children can receive up to $800.
“We are determined to put more money back into the pockets of working families.“
The Premier added: “As part of this relief package, the Government will purchase and distribute LED light bulbs to families to assist in reducing their energy bills.
“It is widely known that the cost of energy in Bermuda is amongst the highest in the world and is a contributory factor to the country’s high cost of living.
“In response, the LED lights distributed under this proposal will use up to 85 per cent less energy which will help reduce the household energy costs for Bermuda’s families.”
The Premier later said that the slow implementation was because the Government had to get the payments out in accordance with standards set by the Auditor General, and Diallo Rabain, the Education Minister, apologised to parents for the backlog in school relief.
However, fuel companies warned that a freeze on gas prices imposed since March was not sustainable.
And Age Concern Bermuda called for a wealth tax to help the elderly.
The organisation’s executive director Claudette Fleming said that increasing numbers of elderly people were seeking help with medical and housing costs, as well getting enough to eat.
She said: “We need some sort of tax to protect our safety-net programmes. It would have to be some kind of wealth tax.
“We need a tax rise without it hitting the very people we are trying to help.”
The Leader of the Opposition challenged the Premier’s assertion that pension increases being introduced by the Government for seniors fully covered inflation.
Cole Simons of One Bermuda Alliance said he believed that inflation was 8 to 10 per cent and that the 2.75 per cent boost in pensions, with a backdate of close to a year, was inadequate.
Mr Simons said: “We are facing challenges that are unprecedented around the world. Most countries face the same challenges, including an ageing population.
“The 2.75 per cent will do very little to help the pensioner in 2022. If you compare current inflation in Bermuda between 8 and 10 per cent to the 2.75 per cent that Government is giving in contributions, you know it is not going to go very far, especially if we have seniors depending on these payments as their sole source of income.”
UK premier Boris Johnson announced he was standing down after becoming engulfed with a number of accusations about his personal conduct in Downing Street.
Liz Truss, who was then the UK foreign secretary before her brief 50 day tenure as prime minister - which saw her forced to resign due to an economic and stock market firestorm when she announced tax cuts that would be paid for by borrowing - was considering the British response to the Bermuda government passing a Bill allowing for legalisation of the use and production of cannabis on the island, according to the spokeswoman for Rena Lalgie, the Governor.
London then refused to allow the Bill to become law on Ms Truss’s final day as foreign secretary in September.
Questions were also asked as to whether whether the Bermuda Tourism Authority was fit for purpose after the departure of its fourth head in eight years.
And, it was also announced that overseas firefighters were to be hired to meet staffing requirements at the airport.