Running again: Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards, centre, announced that he will defend his seat in Devonshire East. *Photo by Raymond Hainey
Running again: Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards, centre, announced that he will defend his seat in Devonshire East. *Photo by Raymond Hainey

FRIDAY, JAN. 27: A shadow Minister yesterday threw down the gauntlet with the challenge of a TV debate on the economy with Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox.

Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards said: “I’d like to make an invitation to the Minister of Finance…a televised debate on the economic issues of this county.

“Hopefully, that debate could take place before the next General Election.”

Mr Richards declined to comment on whether he thought that Ms Cox would take up the challenge.

He said: “If I was in her shoes, I’d welcome such a debate. But I’m not in her shoes. Bermudians are looking for leadership and a way out of this mess.

“That’s more important than anything else, to find solutions for our problems and that is dependent on how we view the current situation and how we got here.

“A televised debate, or series of televised debates, must be useful to Bermudians to come to grips with where we are and where we need to go.”

Mr Richards was speaking as OBA leader Craig Cannonier confirmed Mr Richards would once again stand in the Devonshire East constituency he won under the UBP banner in 1997.

Unemployment

Mr Cannonier said that Bermuda faced “unemployment we have never seen before” and serious economic challenges.

He added: “We have the likes of Bob Richards who I’ve got to know very well over the last year. This is an honest man, who takes seriously the task put before him.”

Mr Richards said he had worked on constituency issues like the campaign to reopen the southern end of Devon Springs Road and to improve security at Elliot Primary School.

But he added that Bermuda as a whole faced “job losses, shrinking pay cheques, shootings, cutbacks in public services and tax increases.”

Mr Richards said: “These are the consequences of a government which has taken its eyes off the ball and which has failed to put Bermudians first.

“Bermudians are just not buying a line that all this is the fault of the global recession.”

Mr Richards said that US President Barack Obama said this week that 3,000,000 jobs had been created in America in the last 12 months. “We must face up to the reality that parts of the Bermuda economy are broken and we must fix these parts. The rest of the world won’t.

“The PLP say I’m a prophet of doom and gloom — not so. Like many people, I’m an entrepreneur and you have to be optimistic to be an entrepreneur. But I strongly believe in telling the truth.”

Mr Richards said that there were “two fundamental truths” that the island needed to face up to.

He added: “The Government has outgrown the economy, expenses are out of control and we need to rein it in. We must recognise that the ultimate source of all of our money is from foreign customers.

“We must identify these foreign customers, welcome them and provide them with the services they require.”

A PLP  spokesman said that “unless the the OBA is planning another leadership change between now and the General Election” he would expect Opposition leader Craig Cannonier to represent his party in any debate.

PLP Devonshire East candidate Neville Tyrell said: “Bob Richards will have a chance to debate with the Premier in the House...during the Budget debate, but I think it’s more important to the voters to have a debate with his opponent in the next General Election.”