By Christopher Famous
During a pre-election interview on “Let’s Talk” with Gary Moreno, the then Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards was asked what was the OBA economic plan. His reply:
“Just suspend term limits and figure something out afterward.”
“And if I have to make it easier for rich white people to own land in Bermuda, that is fine.”
-- MP Bob Richards March 1, 2013
Christopher Famous is a Caribbean real estate developer and business owner. Raised in various Caribbean islands such as; Bermuda, Jamaica, St Eustatius and St Kitts and Tortola. He has a weekly social and political column in The Bermuda Sun. Feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In April, the 2014 Bermuda Employment Survey revealed that Bermuda had lost more than 1,100 jobs year-over-year. On April 22, 2014, the then-Premier Cannonier and MP Bob Richards held a press conference and proceeded to distort, mislead, exaggerate, and insinuate.
At this press conference, Premier Cannonier stated: “We’ve seen the first year-over year increase in retail sales volume in six years, which is a very promising indicator that consumer spending is on the rise...”
Ironically, following this statement, the March retails sales index was released, showing a dramatic decline of -4.1% in March. With the expectation of motor vehicle stores, all sectors of the index reported declines.
Premier Cannonier stated that the one-month increase in RSI was “...fueled in part by a moderate rise in income amongst job holders.”
They failed to tell Bermudians that the rise in income was enjoyed by non-Bermudians alone. Once the cost of living is factored in, Bermudians income actually fell 0.8% last year. The cost of living is actually rising faster than wages, leaving Bermudians worse off, not better.
Minister Richards then stated, "What we have, in short, is an economy that is in transition and turning the corner.”
This contrasts the views of Chamber of Commerce president Kristi Grayston, who said, “The continuing loss of jobs from the Bermuda economy is a definite concern to the local business community.”
On May 19, Moody’s downgraded Bermuda’s rating to A1 from Aa3 and changed the outlook to stable from negative. Moody concerns included “the issuance of a $750 million global bond in 2013, government debt stands at an estimated 42% in relation to the country’s GDP, up from 28.8% at the end of 2012.”
Again, MP Bob Richards attempted to downplay this. saying, “We are pleased, however, that Moody’s has attached a stable outlook to the rating."
On May 30, Fitch Ratings downgraded Bermuda's debt at A-plus down from double-A-minus. Fitch highlighted that “Bermuda’s gross public debt is expect to continue rising and reach 43.3 percent of GDP by 2016.”
This is the fourth downgrade since the OBA took office.
Real vs Non-Real
MP Bob Richards continuously attempts to “distort, mislead, exaggerate and insinuate” that the Bermudian economy is “turning the corner.” However, since the 2012 election, Bermudians have been facing unprecedented economic challenges including:
• Non-performing loans at 12%
• Lost of 1,166 jobs
• Closure of 261 companies
• Rising underemployment
• Falling retail sales
The OBA continues to mislead the people, trying to save political face, and is clearly disconnected from the everyday realities of working and middle class Bermudians.
Co-operation or Catastrophe
The numbers don’t lie. “Removing term limits and figuring something out afterwards” is clearly not working. It is time for the OBA to admit they do not have all the answers, and adopt some of the PLP ideas for diversification of the economy such as:
• Seabed mining
• STEM initiatives
• Online gaming
Despite the OBA’s pro-foreigner intentions, selling-out Bermuda is not a viable option for Bermudians.