Ceremony: Governor Sir Richard Gozney, left, oversees David Burt, 31, right, being sworn in as Junior Minister for Finance, Environment and Planning, Infrastructure Strategy at Government House on Monday. He is also a Senator and chief of staff. <em>*Photo by Simon Jones</em>
Ceremony: Governor Sir Richard Gozney, left, oversees David Burt, 31, right, being sworn in as Junior Minister for Finance, Environment and Planning, Infrastructure Strategy at Government House on Monday. He is also a Senator and chief of staff. *Photo by Simon Jones
He has renounced his U.S. citizenship, resigned as president of his own company and immediately thrown himself back into the frontline of Bermudian politics.

David Burt does not do things by halves.

His appointment as Bermuda’s newest Senator, Junior Minister for Finance, Environment and Planning, Infrastructure Strategy and Chief of Staff to Premier Paula Cox was swift elevation for the 31-year-old self-confessed “policy geek”.

His BlackBerry buzzed with congratulations on Monday evening. But few of the well-wishers were surprised to see the former party chairman, long touted as a rising talent, filling such a prominent role.

Mr. Burt is “gratified and humbled” by the appointment. He said he is committed to Bermuda and to public service.

Relinquishing his hands-on roles with his family’s company Burt Construction and his own firm GMD Consulting is his way of proving where his focus lies.

Motivation

Holding up his hand and swearing an oath to renounce his right to live and work in the U.S. shows a personal commitment to Bermuda.

“I’ve fallen in love with the country of my birth,” he said of his irrevocable decision.

“Bermuda is the only country I have. I want to raise a family here. All of us who are Bermudians have to do our part to make Bermuda a better place. That’s my motivation.”

Mr. Burt has been deeply involved with politics in Bermuda and the U.S., where he was in school and college from age 11 to 24.

He did “grunt work” on Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996 and on Al Gore’s 2000 effort.

He put his organizing skills to use for the PLP after returning to the island and progressed quickly through the ranks to his current position. His new role of chief of staff is somewhat ambiguous.

Unlike in the West Wing of the White House, there are not too many staff to be chief of.

But it is likely that Mr. Burt will serve as a key political and administrative aide to the Premier as well as his Senate role, which covers finance, trade and the environment.

He highlights reform of the Civil Service and reviving the economy as key goals of the new administration.

But he does not have much time for critics, who he believes have sought to gain political capital from Bermuda’s struggles without acknowledging the context of the worldwide  financial crisis.

He said: “The global financial system is failing. We took decisive action when it was needed. Bermuda is on a very strong financial footing and is still regarded as among the strongest economies in the world.

“It is counter-productive to go on about debt, debt, debt when there is not a country in the world that isn’t running significantly higher deficits than they were.”

Mr. Burt believes Bermuda has come through the worst of a crisis that saw major employers such as AIG and XL in serious trouble and the Bank of Butterfield in need of Government support.

He said the challenge for the new Government would be to create an atmosphere where business can prosper once more.

He challenged the opposition to support that goal.

Mr. Burt said: “The people in opposition do the country a disservice when they continue to blow the horn of doom and demise. There are some who wish the demise of international business because they hate the PLP that much.”

He claims the party’s opponents have pursued a policy of indiscriminate criticism that lacks credibility.

He said: “I’m not one to give political advice to the opposition but if they find it is a sound electoral strategy let them continue with it.

“Look at Kim Swan’s statement after Paula Cox was elected as Premier.

“People don’t forget that before you said one word of congratulations to the new Premier, before you said one word about working together, you were on the attack.” Mr. Burt believes the new Premier has already taken a bold step by promising a “merit based” civil service.

To the layman, it sounds like a remarkably dry commitment.

But the civil service runs the country on a day-to-day basis and Mr. Burt believes making it more efficient and ensuring the best people rise to the most prominent positions is key to making Bermuda run better.

He said: “Streamlining the civil service is essential. It needs to run more like a business.”

Cutting the cost of doing business in Bermuda is another target.

Mr. Burt believes the biggest challenge will be to come up with a solution to spiralling healthcare costs.

Cost

Bermuda’s employer-based insurance system means the rising cost of healthcare has hit companies hard in the past decade.

Mr. Burt said: “The cost of insuring employees has doubled over the past eight years. It’s a huge issue and one we have to confront.

“We need to examine our insurance system. If we can reduce the cost of healthcare for employers and employees, people will have more money to spend and employers will have more money to spend on hiring.”

The ministerial shuffle, says Mr. Burt, shows the new Premier is focusing on business growth and civil service reform.

Clearer policy priorities will emerge after Friday’s Throne Speech.

What seems certain is that Mr. Burt will be at the forefront of chiselling Government’s goals.

He said: “Bermuda has important decisions to make over the next few years and I am happy to play a part.

“I am gratified by the Premier’s confidence in me.

“When someone like Paula Cox asks you to step up and assist it is hard to say no. I am going to assist to the best of my ability.”