Dancing at the seniors’ tea party: The elderly might turn out to be the key beneficiaries of Dr. Brown’s tenure as they utilize FutureCare — but what will the full cost turn out to be for Bermuda? *File photo
Dancing at the seniors’ tea party: The elderly might turn out to be the key beneficiaries of Dr. Brown’s tenure as they utilize FutureCare — but what will the full cost turn out to be for Bermuda? *File photo
With the help of various stakeholders, we take a look at seven major changes or decisions of Dr. Brown’s four years and assess the pros and cons of each.

The Big Conversation and black empowerment

Pros: The On The Walls Or On The Margins report prepared by Professor Ronald Mincey and his team is perhaps the greatest legacy of the Big Conversation.

The report provided a substantive inventory of the problems facing young black men in Bermuda and offered a future policy blueprint for the most vulnerable sector of Bermuda’s population.

The Big Conversation also stimulated discussion on the legacy of racism and segregation — a necessary prelude, say advocates, to policies that might address social and economic imbalances between the races.

Cons: Critics say the issue of race has been used to win votes — but hasn’t actually resulted in any meaningful policies or initiatives.

None of the recommendations of the Mincey Report have been implemented as yet and many, even within the PLP, feel the rhetoric of the Premier has alienated white people — widening the racial divide — rather than seeking to involve both races in genuine discussion.

One PLP parliamentarian told us in a recent interview: “All we have done is fan the flames of discontent. There hasn’t been any policy come out of it and it hasn’t led to any progress.”

Hotel development

Pros: The decision of Park Hyatt group to become an investor as well as the operator of the new hotel in St George’s was a significant high point to end on for Dr. Brown.

He spent a lot of time and energy trying to initiate new hotel development in Bermuda.

Hotelier and former UBP tourism minister David Dodwell said he deserved credit for not giving up in a supremely tough environment.

“I don’t think we would be in as strong a position as we are without the energy and enthusiasm he has put into this,” added former press secretary Glenn Jones.

“In the next five years we are going to see significant progress in that regard — not just at Park Hyatt, but the St. Regis in Hamilton, perhaps the Four Seasons at Coral Beach and the new 9 Beaches.”

Cons: The plain facts tell us that no new hotel development has begun on the Premier’s watch.

There is still a degree of scepticism surrounding Park Hyatt from those who have seen and heard the ‘work to begin soon’ press conferences many times during Dr. Brown’s regime.

Mr. Jones believes the Premier himself will be frustrated at his inability to fully deliver on his campaign promise to “break ground on a new hotel”.

He added: “That became a chain around his ankle. Hotels were not going up in a big way anywhere and on top of that Bermuda has numerous additional challenges.

“You can’t necessarily blame him for the delays but he did create the expectation and, politically, that might have been a mistake.”

Mirrors

Pros: One of the first orders of business for Dr. Brown as Premier was to bring in Mirrors — the flagship social rehabilitation programme he says he had been campaigning for 11 years to put in operation.

Glenn Jones acted as a mentor in the scheme as well as advocating for it politically as the Premier’s press secretary.

He said: “It is a great programme. It is satisfying a community need that Dr. Brown is uniquely aware of, particularly in relation to our young black males.

“It helps young people recognize and achieve their personal potential. It is something we will see the benefit of in years to come. It is Dr. Brown’s programme. We wouldn’t have it without him.”

So far more than 100 young people have ‘graduated’ from Mirrors.

Cons: Critics are reluctant to speak on the record about Mirrors because it is considered the ‘Premier’s baby’.

But while most agree the concept of a rehabilitation programme for troubled youth is a good one, some have questioned the results.

The ‘follow-through’ element of Mirrors is seen as a flaw, with some citing examples of graduates who have returned to the same anti-social behaviour quickly after coming out of the programme.

Others point to the relatively high cost as a downside and an over reliance on Mirrors as the solution to gangs.

They suggest Government could get better results for less with different methods.

Uyghurs

Pros: There was no direct ‘pay-off’ for Bermuda in inviting four refugees from Guantanamo Bay to live and work on the island.

But the “goodwill gesture”, as Dr. Brown refers to it, did free four innocent men from prison — a definite plus for them, if not for Bermuda.

Dr. Brown also argues that it enhanced Bermuda’s relationship with the U.S. and may have had an impact on “the tax issue”.

He points to the visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder as evidence that Bermuda now enjoys close ties with people of significant power in the U.S. administration.

Cons: The political fall-out from the Uyghur controversy has been bigger probably than Dr. Brown anticipated.

The way he handled the deal — acting in secret without consulting Cabinet or the Governor — gave further fuel to critics of his so-called dictatorial style, soured relationships with Britain and was directly responsible for the resignation of Dale Butler from Cabinet.

It also sparked public protests and a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

The fall-out continues today with critics questioning how Government can find jobs for the Uyghurs and not the 1,600 unemployed Bermudians.

CITV

Pros: Critics feared it would be a Government propaganda channel but most viewers have been pleasantly surprised that some of the programming is quite good.

Glenn Jones, the Premier’s former press secretary, said: “The biggest success of CITV is what it is not. All the things people were worried about — that this was about brainwashing the public — turned out to be false.

“There has been some good educational, informative, sometimes inspiring local programming.”

Cons: Setting up a television station is an expensive way to get your message across.

Critics argue it is simply a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. No matter how well made it is hard to see to many people sitting flicking from Jersey Shore or American Idol to watch a documentary on health insurance.

National Debt

Pros: It’s hard to think of too many pros for racking up nearly a billion dollars in debt. But Finance Minister Paula Cox has argued that the situation is not as bad as it seems.

Writing in the Bermuda Sun in January, she said the island’s debt level as a percentage of GDP still compared favourably to other countries and pointed to investment in infrastructure, supported by debt, as a commonly accepted international method of stimulating economies in recession.

Dr. Brown argued: “There is no question that my Government has spent a lot of money and has incurred debt but I can think of no more honourable pursuit than to do those things for the people.”

Cons: The debt incurred over the past few years will have to be paid off by future generations — at interest.

Commentators such as Larry Burchall believe Bermuda has very little to show for the estimated $700 million in additional debt incurred during Dr Brown’s time.

Economists say Bermudians will be funding the “spend now, pay later” policy for years to come.

Bob Stewart, author of The Economy Of Bermuda, argues that the money has been not been spent in a way that will boost the economy.

He said: “When you borrow money you have to pay it back and you have to pay interest. When you borrow to spend on riotous living it really doesn’t make any sense. What Dr Brown has been doing is mortgaging the future of our children.”

FutureCare

Pros: Fans say it gives comprehensive health insurance coverage to seniors at affordable rates for the first time.

Rising healthcare costs, an ageing population and the spiralling cost of private insurance policies meant there was a “coverage gap”.

FutureCare filled that gap, allowing struggling seniors to have better access to healthcare.

Marian Sherratt, executive director of the Bermuda Council on Ageing said: “There was a real need for the subject of health care for an ageing population to be addressed.”

She added that seniors were getting a “good deal” on FutureCare — paying significantly less than they would in the private sector for a comparable policy.

Cons: Critics have questioned the long-term sustainability of FutureCare.

The actual cost of policies — sold to seniors at $300 or $600 depending on when they ‘got in’ — is estimated to be closer to $1,100, with taxpayers picking up the slack.

That burden will increase as more take up the policy and the current rates are likely to rise or add to the debt burden further.

Mrs. Sherratt questioned why the policy was not “means tested” and suggested the real cost of FutureCare, for the country, could be much higher than many imagined.