The Premier’s “state of the onion” speech to mark six months of OBA Government yesterday drew a mixed response.

Business consultant Peter Everson backed Craig Cannonier’s commitment to a debt management strategy and said it showed a marked difference in approach to dealing with major issues like cutting the cost of Government.

But Opposition leader Marc Bean said the speech showed there was no plan in place to get Bermudians back to work — and promised a PLP reply outlining concrete proposals.

And white collar union leader Kevin Grant, president of the BPSU, said the speech failed to outline a long term — although he stressed he accepted getting the country back on its feet would be a major job.

Mr Everson said: “I did discern a different approach between this administration and the previous one – the previous one, once they decided to do something, they held a press conference and appointed a committee and they thought that was the action completed.

“This Government is more attuned to what we might expect in other countries – you identify the issues, you prioritise it, allocate resources, get the work done, report back on the work done and on whether things need to be changed. It’s a more structured approach to getting things done.”

Mr Everson, who also heads the Chamber of Commerce economics committee, added: “One of the things he talked about was having a public debt management strategy, which is something the Chamber has been calling for for years.

“They have implemented that, although it’s not sexy and doesn’t get large headlines. But it’s one of the things which will save Bermuda taxpayers quite a lot of money.”

Mr Cannonier unveiled a new scheme which will see recruiters from Norwegian Cruise Lines visiting the island to hire Bermudians for work on board its ships.

And he outlined improvements in education, teaching standards, work permit policy, including the axing of controversial term limits, and payroll tax exemptions for firms that take on new Bermudian staff. He also warned that it would take time and effort to put the island’s economy back on an even keel and that some changes would be things that “people are not yet comfortable with.”

But Mr Grant, whose members are facing salary cuts of more than five per cent as well as a day a month without pay, said: “It didn’t really address specifically what the long term plan is going to be. He did mention a  number of initiatives they have mentioned before. I can appreciate the state the country is in, but they are the Government of the day and they have a responsibility to get this country back on its feet.”

Mr Grant added he accepted the $330 milllion of debt – which is likely to rise further – was a major problem: “This isn’t easy, but there needs to this shared sacrifice where the private sector and the public sector comes together to get this country back on track.

“The other aspect is there needs to be a long-term plan that people see where this Government intends to take us. But Mr Cannonier’s comments were very broad and generalized – we have to have a plan to see how they intend to make it happen.”

But he added that he felt Government would wait until the SAGE Commission on the public sector had reported until it drew up firm plans. Mr Grant said: “I appreciate that, while the need for Government efficiency is real, the notion that there is a significant body of private sector skills and practices that can be transferred to the public sector is not necessarily true.”

Mr Bean said: “Premier Cannonier’s address to the people of Bermuda highlighted the critical need for a plan to get our people back to work that is factual, visionary, pragmatic and practical. 

“With no plan in place, it is the duty of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party to present a plan that meets that criteria and that can be implemented as soon as possible. 

“In our official response to the Premier, we will present our vision for creating jobs, supporting business, expanding opportunity and diversifying our economy. It is our hope, that for the good of all Bermudians, that the OBA embrace our vision and work with us to get our people working again.”