OBA Chairman Thad Hollis. *File photo by Kageaki Smith
OBA Chairman Thad Hollis. *File photo by Kageaki Smith

The Progressive Labour Party seems, to judge by the statements yesterday of Mr. Bean and Mr. Roban, to have returned to the tactics of misdirection, distortion and exaggeration that became so familiar to Bermudians during their term of Government and more particular during the election campaign.

It was, as we all remember, a losing election campaign.  People saw through what they said then, and I think they will see through what they are saying now.

The truth of the matter is that the One Bermuda Alliance, in its first 100 days in office, has realized that the problems it has inherited are worse than ever the PLP was willing to admit.  We now know that the country’s economy is in worse shape than even the most pessimistic of us predicted. 

The OBA Government inherited a bloated and unsustainable budget, thousands of Bermudians out of work, an education system that had been tinkered with, but core issues never resolved, and neighbourhoods where we didn’t feel safe.   The One Bermuda Alliance did make promises during our Campaign; in only 100 days here are some of the deliverables we have met:

  • A member of the Opposition was invited to sit in Cabinet.
  • Employers were given a two-year payroll tax exemption for new hiring.
  • A Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission has been set up to streamline government processes, improve delivery of services, and make government more efficient, more cost-effective, more transparent and more user-friendly.
  • Consultancies and frequent travel have been reduced.
  • An Economic Development Committee has been set up to remove red tape and speed up approvals necessary to encourage inward investment in Bermuda from abroad.
  • Ministers' pay has been cut.
  • A concerted effort has begun to improve public safety with an Operation Ceasefire-type approach. 
  • The Police are being equipped with the resources and support they need to get the job done.
  • A fully-integrated technical curriculum is being set up.
  • The preschool programme is being expanded.
  • A serious commitment has been made to professional development for teachers and principals.
  • An independent standards board has been implemented, to restore trust in educational testing results.
  • A longer school day has been expanded, to provide more time for sports, music, arts and remedial support.
  • Positive initiatives, such as the Cambridge curriculum, are being continued.
  • Re-training of Bermudians has begun, and programmes are being enhanced that will open new doors for them.
  • Support is being given to career and job training for young Bermudians.
  • A Tourism Authority is being set up, with the goal of turning our moribund tourism industry into a going and growing concern.
  • We have begun partnering with the private sector to aggressively market Bermuda to the international business world, inviting and welcoming job creators to the island.

Everything this Government is doing is directed towards Social and Economic Equity for all Bermudians, great schools for great kids, safe neighbourhoods and getting Bermuda working again.  Everything this Government is doing is directed towards helping the thousands who are unemployed, the thousands earning less than before and the thousands looking to grab onto anything that can help them pay their bills.

To make these things happen, there is only one thing to do – the economy must be made to grow.  This is the number one challenge facing Bermuda today. If we fail to succeed in that, the unemployed and the underemployed will continue to suffer and more will join their ranks. If we fail, there will not be enough working opportunities to absorb the hundreds of young Bermudians who enter the workforce each year. If we fail, we face a stark future as a country.

The PLP created some policies that have deeply embedded themselves in the way Bermuda does business.  Just one example is those immigration policies that in truth did nothing to protect Bermudians. They didn’t reform the law; they confused us with the concept of term limits but did nothing to address their issuance of more and more work permits. They were PR gimmicks in an attempt to show that the PLP was a party that put Bermudians first.  But as we all know, they had the effect of alienating people whose business and support the Bermuda economy needed and, in the end, hurting Bermudians. 

The PLP knew from the beginning that they were mistakes, and should have had the courage to correct them.  They did not.  Now, like weeds in the field, their mistakes have to be pulled out by the roots to make space for productive crops to grow.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me say that the OBA is deeply committed to the wellbeing of all Bermudians.  Our overarching aim in political life is to improve the lot and the lives of Bermuda and all its people.  We have no interest in putting foreigners first and Bermudians last.  We have no interest in hurting anyone, least of all our seniors and other vulnerable people in the community.

If the OBA took the easy way out and simply continued with all the feel-good/do nothing policies the PLP put in place, we might be a popular Government for a while.  But things wouldn’t get better – they’d get worse. 

We cannot go on in the way we have been going.  That would be like committing a kind of slow economic suicide.