"I will be correspondent to command,And do my spiriting gently." Anyone who attended the Bermuda Insurance Institute's Christmas lunch last month would have acquired, in addition to indigestion, a distinct competitive advantage in the event they found themselves playing the
"Where the bee sucks, there suck I - in a cowslip's bell I lie" First, the good news. Since my last letter we have had only two more shootings in the ongoing turf war between Bermuda's drug gangs (if this
"What cares these roarers for the name of king?"There are no hurricanes at this time of the year. Instead, we have winter storms. Recently, the Island has been receiving a ferocious battering from wind and waves. So many flights to
The Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association (Bermuda) Limited, which operates a Protection & Indemnity Club, is suing one of its members for allegedly failing to pay premiums totaling $275,990.Steamship Mutual filed a civil complaint against PT Pupuk Sriwijaya, of Indonesia, at
"How many goodly creatures are there here How beauteous mankind is O brave new world,That has such people in't." While the recession may have been declared officially over in the United States, Bermuda's economy remains in the doldrums. Bermudian taxi
"Be not afeard the isle is full of noises,Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not."The talk in the bars last week was all about Bill. Would he come? What damage would we suffer in his wake? Was
Greetings gentles, from "the still vexed Bermoothes" The last writer of this column having consumed one dark and stormy too many, I have been summoned by the spirits that haunt these islands to share my thoughts with you. As the
In a press release by Bermuda International Business Association on June 4, 2009 to announce the publication of a report entitled "US - Bermuda Economic Relations Economic Impact Study - 2009" that BIBA commissioned Washington, DC based "global business strategy
I delayed writing this letter in the hope that a move to oust Premier Ewart Brown as the leader of the ruling Progressive Labour Party would succeed. Unfortunately, he has survived the challenge to his authority and that is bad
Minister of Finance Paula Cox announced that "Bermuda is engaged in negotiating a further 10 Tax Information Exchange Agreements with OECD states and two with EU states". She also pointed out that Bermuda's TIEA with the United States was signed
With the inauguration of the new President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, the world anticipates a major change in the US's economic and foreign policies. The average person in the street in Bermuda wonders how these changes
This will be the final appearance of this Letter from Bermuda by this author, although similar independently minded columns written by others may follow. That makes now a good time to assess how Bermuda has changed in the six years
Like people all over the world, we are wondering how the recession is going to affect us. One thing's for sure: it won't be good.
Yard for yard, Bermuda's roads must be the most dangerous in the entire world. We only have about 100 miles of tarmac, most of them in a dreadful state, and what takes place on those roads is nothing short of murderous.
Welcome to Bermuda. In the past few weeks: An informal group of teenagers allegedly stabbed to death one of their own with a screwdriver, to steal his gold necklace. Among those charged was a 15-year-old girl; A drive-by shooting resulted in a young man being shot in the foot; Gunshots were heard mid-morning in an otherwise quiet residential district; and A Senator was "assaulted at knifepoint", apparently because of his political views.
Bermuda is Britain's largest remaining colony, and by far its richest. Embarrassed by its imperial past, the administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have done their best to ignore the colonies, except for using the Bermuda Governorship as a bribe when close parliamentary votes need a push in the Government's favour. Bermuda's governing Progressive Labour Party has enjoyed the neglect Britain has shown. The PLP would not have been able to get away with much of its agenda had a socially-conscious parent been paying attention.
Last month was a watershed for Bermuda. Its almost 400-year-old parliamentary democracy ended on May 23, 2008. Without regard to the islands' Constitution, Premier Dr. Ewart Brown suspended the workings of the House of Assembly and later took over the powers of the Speaker of the House. In most other countries, the abrupt cancellation of parliamentary democracy would be cause for much public concern, or at the very least discussion: here, people simply shrugged their shoulders and went back to counting their cash.
One of the key promises made by the Progressive Labour Party in the 1998 General Election campaign was that, if elected, it would bring transparency to government.Thirty-five years of United Bermuda Party government had been characterised, in the minds of many, by secrecy and a lack of openness. The vow to provide transparent and accountable government struck a chord with the electorate.
Dictators consider the media in their countries as either a tool or a thorn in their sides. Throughout history, repressive leaders have taken control of the media to shut down opposition and the forum they provide for public discussion. The state of a country's media is usually representative of the degree of freedom enjoyed in that country. Bermuda has a daily newspaper, a twice-weekly and a weekly newspaper, all publicly owned. It has three TV channels attached to the US networks, and a number of locally operated channels pump out music videos and travelogues. Four or five radio stations are on the air. More than a dozen magazines are published routinely, year round. A handful of Bermuda-centric books appear every year.
The month of March, 2008 may be viewed by history as the beginning of the demise of the Bermuda insurance market. A 60-year growth pattern, the envy of every other country in the world, is now threatened by short-sightedness and greed on the part of the Bermuda Government. Insurance executives are talking openly about "voting with their feet" as the only way of dealing with the Government's rapaciousness. If they leave, Bermuda will be up against it.Two major events marked the month. First, the World Insurance Forum, a Bermuda event since its inauguration in 1994, an event organised by Bermuda people, voted with its feet and was held in Dubai, in a tent. The Forum is a world-beating franchise that allows very senior insurance people to come together every two years to thrash out major issues. It is the insurance equivalent of the World Economic Forum, held in Davos. Attracting people to Bermuda in the spring is not a difficult task, and the Forum apparently attracted up to 750 attendees.
For much of the time, Bermudians are the envy of the world. The weather is often nice. We are known to be friendly people. We don't work very hard, and yet we have one of the highest disposable incomes in the world.
On December 18, Bermuda held its 10th general election since the introduction of party politics in the 1960s. A seven-week election campaign ended in exactly the same fashion as the previous election in 2003 had ended, with a victory by 22 seats to 14 for the Progressive Labour Party (PLP). The campaign, by Bermuda standards, was deeply unpleasant. Dr. Ewart Brown, the PLP leader, set the tone, his very first speech peppered with accusations that his opponents were "vile and vicious" and "demented deviants".
How confident is our governing Progressive Labour Party that it will win the general election on December 18 of this year? So confident that it has used the campaign weeks to carry out acts of breath-taking arrogance that are unconstitutional and unethical, and maybe unlawful. Our combative leader, Dr. Ewart Brown, has chosen the campaign period to continue his harassment of our Auditor General, the constitutionally appointed arbiter of Government's financial activities. Dr. Brown has been trying to force out the longest-serving Auditor General in the Commonwealth, so that a crony of the Premier's can be appointed to the position.
Affirmative action is usually a government policy that asks employers or educators to offer the best opportunities to minority candidates over white people. Affirmative action is also that rare government attempt to correct past wrongs that is disliked both by
To considerable fanfare, Bermuda's newest venture in the communication stakes opened at the end of September. It is “Communications & Information Television” (CITV), a Government-owned and Government-run television station for the 48,000 Bermudians and 15,000 foreigners who live on the Island.
You can only feel sorry for Derrick Burgess, our Minister of Labour and Immigration. He's as dim as a 15 watt bulb. Limiting foreign workers to six year terms wasn't his idea. He inherited the Ministry a few months ago,
The danger in appointing a “man of action” to run a country is that he'll get things done, whether they need doing or not. Bermuda has a “man of action” in Premier Ewart Brown. He's starting to get things done. We don't like much of what he's doing, and we definitely don't like the way he's doing it. We think he'll do a lot worse. But we don't care, so long as our wallets are full.
In recent weeks, our premier, Dr. Ewart Brown, has set new lows in the standards of local governance. Sleaze and anger have become his hallmarks, the abuse of power his weapon of choice. He arrests his enemies - coincidentally, he says - without charging them. He throws writs around like confetti, especially against the media, trying to delay publication of details of his alleged misconduct until he can be elected to the office he inherited last October. He accuses unknown white people of a “supremacist oligarchy” and has all but shut down the notion of justice in a country that not long ago had a proud record of integrity and stability.
For four decades, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) was in parliamentary opposition to the Government of Bermuda formed by the United Bermuda Party (UBP). During those years, what kept the PLP in opposition was the charge that its politicians would not be able to manage the economy. Not one member of the party has ever managed a successful business, including the party's current leader, Premier Dr. Ewart Brown. As a medical doctor, he could hardly go wrong financially, yet he apparently used his employees' payroll deductions to fund his medical practice until he was found out.
On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.The Declaration lists 30 “inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. UN member states have pledged to achieve the promotion of
A nasty little fight is brewing. In one corner is U. S. celebrity Rosie O'Donnell, and in the other … not Donald Trump, nor right-wing radio host Bill O'Reilly, with both of whom O'Donnell has feuded publicly in the past year. This time her combatant is the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Churches of Bermuda. This spat has the potential to be far uglier than name-calling by an unpleasant woman and a man with bad hair or a radio loudmouth. The punching bag this time is Bermuda's reputation and its tourism industry.The story broke early this year. O'Donnell booked every berth on a cruise ship that will sail from New York on July 7 and call at Bermuda and the Bahamas.
People who visit Bermuda say that the place is 30 years behind the rest of the world. It's a natural consequence of the isolation of a small group of islands 800 miles from the US and 3,500 from Europe. When visitors comment on Bermuda's out-of-date ways, what they haven't said until now is that, in one important respect, Bermuda is like East Germany was 30 years ago.
The departure from the country's top job of the hapless Alex Scott appears to have taken Independence from the UK off the agenda. Mr. Scott's replacement, Dr. Ewart Brown, has said that, while Independence remains one of his long-term goals, it will not feature high on his to-do list. But our new leader, who admitted he lied to the voters at the last general election for their own good, may not be telling the whole truth. In the first few weeks of his Premiership, Dr. Brown has begun a campaign of destabilising our Governor, the local representative of Her Majesty the Queen.
There is a sense among those who make laws that any problem can be solved by passing a law. There is also a sense among Bermudians that, if something is wrong, it's the fault of expatriate workers. The traditional solution is to punish the expatriate community, although they rarely have anything to do with the problem. The traditional outcome is that matters get worse for Bermudians, while expatriates do better than they did before.
Bermuda politics is inscrutable. Ten years ago, there was a political outcry when former long serving Premier Sir John Swan was behind a plan to open a McDonald's fast food restaurant on the Island. Opposition to this move came from
The Bermuda Government has a new agenda. For many years, it had no agenda, then it had a Social Agenda, which was exactly the same thing, except that it had a name. The Social Agenda was a talking shop, in
In the last week of July, users of Bermuda's second-largest Internet services provider (ISP), North Rock, had all their outgoing e-mails delivered to the trash, instead of the intended recipients. The senders were not told this had happened until a local newspaper forced North Rock's hand. They had not been told on the “many” previous occasions that their e-mails had been lost.
In some European countries, gay marriage is legal. In the US, the battle is being fought to allow gay marriage onto the political agenda. Even the most committed foes of gay unions would probably admit that being gay ought not to be a crime.Bermuda is a long way behind the most backward countries in the world in this area of human rights. It only created a Human Rights Commission (HRC) a few years ago, but in our racially-charged environment, it has lately become a black rights commission. The message the HRC has been sending on rights is that if it's black, it's right.
Bermudians have had a taste in the past couple of weeks of the kind of society an independent Bermuda would be. It's not going to be much fun. A controversy has broken out, which in a mature democracy would equal a constitutional crisis, with rioting and soldiers out in force. Here, it's a mix of business as usual and “who cares?”.
At the end of March, Bermuda convicted a man for his part in a $10 million government swindle. That fact, which is hardly earth-shattering, is surprising on several counts.The man convicted was employed by the Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC), a government-funded, yet supposedly independent, body whose job, as best anyone can tell, is to collect rent and carry out repairs on houses owned by government. It might be responsible for housing those who cannot house themselves, but if so, it conspicuously fails to do that. In the past few years, it has evicted more people than it has helped.
A review has concluded that Bermuda's politicians should be rewarded on a par with their commercial counterparts. Under proposals that will become law, parliamentary salaries will rise by as much as 90 percent. Premier Alex Scott's pay should be increased to $200,000 a year, from the present $120,000, the report said. Minister of Finance Paula Cox should be paid $170,000 as a full-timer, or $120,000 as a part-timer. She currently earns $95,286. The pay for being Deputy Premier, currently Dr. Ewart Brown, should increase to $162,000 as a full-time Minister, or $112,000 as a part-timer. Dr. Brown is now paid $88,713.
Signs are appearing of a fragmentation of the Bermudian political scene. We have two main parties, and three new “parties” are making noises off. From time to time, a small number of people will break off from one of the two big parties to form a new one, but these independents never last long.
Even the most socially aware can succumb to compassion fatigue, the exhaustion caused by caring too much about those less fortunate than ourselves. Caring is a part-time occupation for most of us, so if we take a break from it, not a great deal of damage would be done. What happens, however, when a government stops caring about the people it was elected to serve and protect? We have a Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government. The promise in those words — “progressive” and “labour” — suggests to the poor and less comfortable that someone is looking out for them. The PLP promise, however, appears to be worth little.
The “debate” over whether Bermuda should go independent has always been a waste of time, but now it has descended into farce. If the possible financial ruin of a successful country could ever be said to be funny, what's going on here would be hilarious.
Imagine if you had an excuse for everything bad that you ever did. Imagine a society in which half the people had the same excuse. Would you rather be in the group with the excuse that exempted them from the
Last year, the Progressive Labour Party government of Bermuda commissioned an ‘independent' review of the issue of independence from Great Britain.A committee was selected to investigate the matter that was loaded with bias in favour of independence. Two of its members were the loudest, if least coherent, proponents of independence that we have. One of these two, Dame Lois Browne-Evans, is so opposed to Britain and reason that she has repeatedly counselled Bermudians not to take advantage of the British passports on offer to all Bermudians. The Dame's track record on such matters is far from perfect. Having for years shouted her views that black Bermudians should refuse to accept any honour offered to them by the British, whom she views much the same way Castro sees the Americans, Mrs. Browne-Evans then accepted her Damehood without a moment's hesitation. There are some who think her bonkers.
In most places, corruption lives in the shadows. Criminals do not receive civic awards, especially if, through their actions, hard working men and women have been denied their legal entitlements. Usually, such Robin Hoods in reverse appear in the crime
Politicians tend to be held in low regard all over the world. For many, the notion of public service seems to mean nothing more than the chance to get rich. Bermuda, where a tiny talent pool is spread so thin that our political scene is a travesty of governance, is no exception.Having only 60,000 inhabitants would be reason enough to limit the number of politicians, but we apply no limits. On the contrary, some of our political constituencies include as few as 700 voters, and none exceed 1,200. We are among the world's most over-represented people, and yet among the most poorly represented in terms of quality.
If you run a company and your business model breaks, or is superceded, you need to find a new model quickly, or you'll need to find a new job. Bermuda's tourism model broke 24 years ago, but no one has made any effort to fix it. No one has been fired as a result. How very odd, you might think.
Small places produce more than their fair share of characters, or maybe such people are merely more visible in smaller populations. Bermuda is a small place, and people here pursue lives that would go unremarked upon in larger environments.