On November 1, 2010, Premier Dr Ewart Brown won’t be Premier. He will have saddled up and ridden off into the sunset of his 17-year political career. He will have to ride for many miles before he gets beyond the long and still lengthening shadow cast of the still growing mountain of the legacy he created during his four years as Bermuda’s ninth Premier.
Premier Dr Ewart Brown will leave behind him a $970,499,438 mountain of additional National Debt - and four Uyghurs without passports.
There is only a white gash in the ground at the old Holiday Inn. Par-La-ville is still just a car park, not a Ritz or a Four Seasons. Elbow Beach Hotel has downsized. Pink Beach Cottage Colony is in receivership. A cruise ship sometimes moors offshore at St. George’s. Maxi-cruisers tie up at the new, high-cost Dockyard. Low cost carriers WestJet and JetBlue now fly here; but tourists arriving by air declined 23 per cent (70,000 fewer) during his seven-year tenure as Tourism Minister. The taxi industry is relatively unchanged from 2005. Bullets are flying and bodies are dropping faster than has ever happened before. Getting a car through TCD is faster than it used to be.
A legacy is like the cave etchings scratched out and coloured by those unknown cave dwellers who lived 10,000 years ago. Or like un-erasable historical events. A legacy is not always what a man wants. A legacy is what it is.
Finance Minister Eugene Cox’s legacy is that by March 31, 2004, Bermuda’s National Debt had been lowered to $119,500,562. National Debt Interest and Sinking Fund costs were less than $25,000 a day.
Today, after taking up that $500 million in Sovereign Bonds, Bermuda’s ‘cash debt’ now stands at $1,090,000,000. Of the total debt added, $916,573,744 came during Dr. Brown’s four years in office. Of course, Premier Dr. Ewart Brown did not create that massive mountain of foreign dollars all by himself. He had help.
His mountain-building sidekick was Finance Minister Paula Cox. Faithfully, she stood and worked by his side, shoveling as hard and as furiously as Premier Dr. Ewart Brown ordered. Together, the duo poured out public funds far faster than those public funds came in. Together, making full use of the tools of smooth or convoluted rhetoric and political or racial distraction, they concealed their fast growing mountain of debt.
The debt-building pair did not work alone. They were aided by an easily convinced and extraordinarily gullible band of supporters who — as they both seemed to know — were willing to believe anything that they were told, as long as the right person, using the right tone of voice, standing in the right place, and uttering the right words about race and the past, presented a set of easily digestible and acceptable facts.
Now that mountain of proof of bad decisions, bad policy, bad control, and bad management sits before our eyes. A mountain of unnecessary debt. It sits brooding and silent. It sits there sucking back its daily portion of interest costs; $225,000 a day in total national debt service charges. This is nine times higher than it was when Finance Minister Eugene Cox handed over, and every cent of this debt service has to be paid in U.S. dollars that Bermudians must first earn.
That $916,573,744 mountain of unnecessarily and unwisely added Brown-Cox debt now saddles Bermuda’s shrinking economy. This Brown-Cox debt is a mountainous monument to mismanagement.
A Finance Minister’s folly. A Premier’s legacy.