Victim: The Hustle Truck, which employed the jobless, saw its funding withdrawn this year. *File photo
Victim: The Hustle Truck, which employed the jobless, saw its funding withdrawn this year. *File photo
WEDNESDAY, APR. 27: When elections roll round, the politicians stand up front and centre and take credit for, well, just about everything that is good.

They are fine human beings with the power and energy to make good things happen. They will buy you this and build you that, expand this programme and push that project through to completion.

But what happens in between, in times like these, when there is no election and plenty of bad news to be shared?

Everybody suddenly becomes anonymous. The cheery fellow with the big smile and the hearty handshake changes roles in a hurry. Instead of being the mover and shaker, he is the helpless pawn in a global economic downturn.

It is as if he had no part to play in spending and sometimes wasting Government’s money, that he had no part in voting to cut budgets and no responsibility at all for the outcome.

The number of politicians who reveled in the famous “Hustle Truck” when it was introduced was quite remarkable.

One of the first signs that Government was facing financial distress earlier this year was when it cut the truck’s funding.

It was extraordinary — it is a low-cost, self-help project ideal for these times.

Even more extraordinary was how the politicians could eliminate the truck’s funding while pretending they were not doing anything — that there were mysterious budgetary forces at work and they were helplessly going on with the inevitable.

“MPs in the House of Assembly said the programme could be cancelled after its funding was cut to zero in this year’s Budget,” the Royal Gazette reported in March.

“Health Minister Zane DeSilva yesterday called for private companies to step forward and ensure the project designed to help unemployed people into work can keep going.”

Of course, it was Mr DeSilva and his colleagues who developed the budget and voted to support it.

They decided to cut the budget. If the Hustle Truck business collapsed, they were trying to shift the blame to the private sector who could or should have taken it over.

Here is another example. On March 28, MPs passed a “supplementary spending bill” to cover money Government had spent without previous parliamentary approval.

“Clearly, the supplementaries should have been brought before now,” Premier Paula Cox told MPs. “It certainly is not the way forward and it certainly is an error.”

Again, our politician slips into the passive tense, removing any signs of human responsibility.

It would have been far more honest and responsible to say: “Clearly I, as Minister of Finance, should have brought the supplementaries before now. That would have been the right way to do things.”

We see the same kind of passive helplessness being projected in ferry and bus schedule cutbacks.

Government is warning would-be passengers that “buses may be cancelled with little or no notice”.

The plain truth sounds much more ugly: “WE may cancel your bus with little or no notice.”

Budget

Conspicuously absent from their statement is a person actually doing the cancelling and taking responsibility for it.

Transport Minister Terry Lister seems to express himself with less passivity than most ministers. But even he tries to make bad news inevitable and shuffle himself out of the picture.

He did not say: “I made the cuts.” He said: “The cuts had to be made.”

Of course, the Budget is blamed. But the Budget has no personality. You cannot vote the Budget out.

The Bermuda Sun slipped into the passive this week when it reported that “Government’s own financial assistance programme was slashed by $1 million.”

No. Somebody slashed it.

The Lady Cubitt Compassionate Association, which pays for the seriously ill to go overseas for treatment, “saw its grant reduced from $2 million to $1 million”.

No. Somebody reduced it.

The Budget is blamed. But the Budget is not an emotionless mathematical tabulation. Real people make the decisions.

The Budget is a piece of legislation voted on by 36 elected live human beings.

These people are not passive, not matter what tense they speak in. They are active. They are in charge of raising money and spending it, using it wisely or throwing it away.

So when the ferries run or do not run and buses appear or fail to show, when programmes are created and disappear, it is not the result of some passive budget. It is them.