WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21: A not so simple $160,000 question: When it comes to ‘Standing Strong for Bermudians’ exactly what is it that we should expect from our leader?

Well, for starters I expect our leader to know how to attract foreign investment. Bermuda doesn’t export enough rum cake, pink sand or ginger beer, to pay the fuel cost in our MP’s oversized cars.

Our economic survival is based on international business and tourism. Our ability to attract and retain foreign investment is therefore absolutely critical, and presenting ourselves as a credible country to do business with is our Leader’s first economic priority.

This is what makes Premier Cox’s opening remarks at the 2012 Delegates’ Conference appear so remarkable (to put it kindly).

“To our young, bright, articulate, elegant, eloquent, charming, emcee... he’s lucky that I am not interested in a toy boy, because he just shot up to the list, after John Gibbons!”

As I watched the video, one side of me was not prepared to deny the Premier an opportunity to make a little joke, even a mildly offensive one. But our economy is no laughing matter, and this video will most likely be watched by the very people we want to invest in Bermuda.

For example, the Premier recently took a delegation to the Middle East to drum up business for Bermuda.

Let’s be honest, the ‘toy boy’ comment is not the kind of comment that should be made (at least publicly) if you want to be taken seriously by billionaire investors, especially from the Middle East!

Moving along, I expect our Leader to not condone the behaviour of Bermudians who blame expats for problems of our own making. This is exactly what Wayne Perinchief did last December when addressing gun violence during a Royal Gazette interview:

The PLP MP said of the IB community: “Of course they should be better citizens. It’s Christmas. They are gaining from the society. They are gaining from being here. People don’t want to tell them that. We have got to tell them.”

He said IB should give money to ensure programmes aimed at reducing gun and gang crime could continue in 2012.

“I was hoping that some philanthropic group would pick up Mirrors,” he said of the Government programme for young people, which suffered sweeping Budget cuts in February.

“I know the Government knew it was going to be an expensive proposition. But what I expect and I’m sure the Government should expect and what the country should expect is a financial contribution, which is an obligation, from the corporate community.

“That’s what lacking. That to me is a social dilemma. They operate here, they make billions of dollars in this environment and they are obligated to ensure that the society where they operate, the social institutions that support the country and the infrastructure, they should be helping the Government to support it.

“They make billions in this country and I’m very incensed about that. I’m very exercised about it. They have an obligation, not just a civic responsibility.”

Asked whether such an “obligation” might persuade international companies to leave for more attractive jurisdictions, the Minister replied: “They can leave some of their money here before they go.”

I recall waking up the next morning looking for a headline that Perinchief had stepped down or had been removed for biting the hand that feeds us. Surely this would have been the appropriate action for a country that is overly dependent on international business?

Not so. Not only was he not fired — he is running as a 2012 candidate. Cox is still standing strong with Perinchief.

Similarly, I would have expected Cox to fire John Gibbons for posting racially-toxic comments such as: “[name removed] is that all I am someone who hates whites and that is all ??? that is why you will never obtain political power to assist the economic power your party has for lack of a better word I fear you and you have quite convinced me that you will be unmerciful to me and my family simply because we had the termerity dream that white and black could be equal.”

Instead, even after his resignation on Friday, Cox continues to stand strong for someone who was clearly unfit for public office. Finally, I would have expected that Cox would be transparent with us about issues such as BLDC and the White’s Island lease, but the opposite is the case. I would not have expected her to be standing strong with Leroy Bean and Derrick Burgess after she, “supported the Auditor General’s recommendation that the consultancy fees be repaid to the Company.”

I would not have expected her to give a glowing endorsement of Bean’s candidacy when just last year she, “recommended that the Chairman and Deputy Chairman vacate their positions with immediate effect.” I would have expected that given “The Chairman and the Deputy Chairman refused to vacate their positions and the Minister of Public Works took no action in that regard,” that standing strong with them would be the last thing we’d be seeing Cox do.

Perhaps the problem is setting expectations... Exactly who is Cox standing strong for? Us or them? 

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