One year later …

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the One Bermuda Alliance’s election victory.

The Royal Gazette has a good panel discussion here  which gives a broad based look at the successes and failures of the last year from a fairly representative panel. The Premier also promised more hard decisions in his broadcast last night and in the paper today.

On the whole, the panel gave quite a positive assessment and despite the mistakes of the last month or so, that is probably justified.  Because of things like the Lamb Foggo U-turn and the gaming referendum fiasco, it would be easy to knock the OBA right now. But they have done a lot of things right.

What’s disappointing is that the economy, which is all that really matters right now, has not recovered more quickly. But it’s moving in the right direction.

Here’s a brief report card:

Finance See economy above. Bob Richards is starting to get the financial house in order, but you can’t instantly balance the budget without causing economic dislocation, as the PLP would suddenly have people believe.  Public spending will slow down, but we need growth in order to raise tax revenues. Raising taxes now would be disastrous. The thinking here is that targeted tax cuts would spur growth and tax revenue, but there aren’t many takers for this right now. The SAGE Commission has a lot of good ideas. Now Richards and the rest of the Cabinet have to decide what to implement and what to hold off on.

Economic Development Incorporations are up and some international companies are setting up here. The bleed of redundancies is slowing. But net increases in jobs will be slow, and construction is still deep in the doldrums.

Home Affairs and Immigration Mike Fahy has done a good job here. Overdue immigration reforms have sent out the message Bermuda wants foreign investment. The Immigration Department is much more customer friendly.  Fahy has also been proven right in taking on the Corporation of Hamilton, who are an advertisement for their own abolition, which is a shame.

Public Safety and Justice Who knew that Michael Dunkley was a closet liberal? He’s going to abolish conscription and is looking at decriminalization of cannabis. Dunkley made his reputation on law and order, and he has begun launching the Ceasefire programme in Bermuda.  Crime generally has fallen since the OBA came to power, but Dunkley had wisely not tried to take all the credit for this.

Tourism Much of the year has been taken up with launching the Tourism Authority. There has been little increase in air arrivals. Minister Shawn Crockwell has kept the Bermuda So Much More ad campaign and has also adopted parts of the national tourism strategy from the PLP. The former is lacklustre and the latter unrealistic. Crockwell is also one of the prime movers behind the foolish abandonment of the gambling referendum.

Health Pat Gordon Pamplin seemed to be getting to grips with the Ministry before she was moved in the recent Cabinet shuffle. Now it’s Trevor Moniz’s turn. Much good work has been overshadowed by the Lamb-Foggo U-turn, which was a PR disaster. This is the big issue for the second year. The hospital’s finances are a shambles, the new hospital is coming on-line without the finances or customer base to support it. Similarly, the cost of health insurance is unsustainable.

Public Works A long running dispute over garbage collection can be seen both ways. Garbage was allowed to pile up (bad), but the Government showed it was serious about cutting costs (good).

Environment Nothing to see here. Move on. OK, the Blue Halo debate is finally warming up, but a recession tends to reduce pressure on the environment because no one can afford to build and what development there is is more acceptable than in an overheated economy (we wish) because it creates jobs.

Education Nothing to see here. Move on. OK, a controversial new schools commissioner has been appointed. Now there’s a new Minister.

Premier and overall leadership The OBA has achieved a lot in 12 months. The word is out that Bermuda is open for business again. In time this will pay off. The U-turns on Lamb-Foggo and the gambling referendum are worrying. If the Government believes in something and supports it, they should stick to their guns. Instead, they are showing an alarming tendency to blink. If they do it on relatively small decisions like Lamb-Foggo and the gambling referendum, what happens with some of the really hard decisions, including many of the SAGE proposals? No one is looking for a dictatorship here, but a process of  1. Measured but relatively rapid research and debate on an issue 2. Decision, presented well 3. Execution would be nice.

This does not seem to be happening in some areas. It does seem that the Cabinet itself is delaying some decisions because Ministers are just too busy. There’s reason to think the senior Civil Service is delaying some things or being unhelpful because they aren’t really on the team.

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