TUESDAY, DEC. 18: The election’s over. So what’s next?
The OBA has almost a clean slate in that they have never been the government. Attempts to muddy that water don’t hold true for me.
Both the PLP and the OBA have dropouts from the UBP; both are as likely to echo old UBP thinking as not. There is less known, but far more promise about the OBA as government.
The first job for the new government is mending fences. Because the biggest threat to our economic stability is the massive debt and a dearth of ways to repay it, I believe the OBA government must make peace with our income generators and take clear steps to woo them back. This will not be an easy task because of the race-baiting that has been a dominant theme in how previous administrations beat up on their political opponents.
The overt Black Power message affected not only International Business, tourists, and our guest workers in both sectors, but also and more importantly, reinforced a racialist and xenophobic attitude among a segment of the local black population. Even if it was possible for local blacks, disgruntled with their status in life, in their hateful expressions about and toward whites to differentiate between the local whites they “should” begrudge and the tourist and IB whites who funnel real foreign currency into our economy, the previous administration lacked the skill (if ever they had the intent) to convey that difference.
The reality is that IB wants stability and at least cordiality, if not welcoming arms. They have choices about where they should set up; the competition for their revenue grows fiercer. We had a head start and must be deliberate about regaining our advantage.
Similarly, tourists can get beaches and T-shirts just about anywhere. In the past they valued Bermuda for its tranquility, safety and friendly people — all almost gone. The new administration must deliberately work to restore and reinforce cordiality toward our visitors, no matter what their racial or ethnic background, and safety on our streets from violence and traffic chaos.
The second job is to restore balance between our income and our expenditure — maximising the one and minimising the other. Building on racial harmony as in job-one above will help with income, as will more focused efforts to attract tourists and IB.
But it is in curbing expenditure where there is most room for gain. Hold money-handlers accountable, give money overseers all the tools they need to fulfill their roles (whether they ask for them or not), close down loopholes (legal and ethical), and bring the hammer down on waste and on debt.
Older Bermudians pride themselves on staying mostly out of debt. Of course there is debt to be incurred for capital projects but always there should be a plan for how the debt is to be paid off. In fact, most lending institutions dealing with individuals or businesses won’t make a loan before assuring themselves that there’s a practicable plan in place to cover the repayment. The new OBA administration will have to make debt reduction an untouchable budget item.
Raise the bar
A third priority is to raise the bar for integrity, for ethical and moral conduct. Too much of clever language has been used to obfuscate serious ethical lapses, from mis-use of funds and power to stretching and torquing the truth. This touches on priority number four: education. It is unconscionable that more of the intellect of recent administrations has gone into massaging the figures than improving the product. We’ve had the consultants and the studies. Stop fudging education. Fix it.
Finally, and foremost, there needs to be a government-led and honest move toward racial reconciliation. We have had enough of race being exploited to divide and conquer, by both sides.
Every littlest thing in Bermuda has some racial history and overtones. We should neither be hiding from it nor taking advantage of it. Harbouring animosity toward a group of people because of their pigmentation is wrongheaded; fomenting or encouraging such animosity is worse, it’s bone-headed.
It’s time to set standards higher; it’s time to raise the bar.