December 2nd, 2013 · Tourism
So they are finally moving ahead with a referendum on gambling. The question in the referendum is:
“Do you favour the introduction of regulated casino gaming for the purposes of creating new jobs for Bermudians and encouraging hotel development.”
Good grief, no. I only support the introduction of gambling for the free booze and cheap hookers!
Part of me is offended by the partisan tone of the question. But I understand their need to blunt the morality vs economics debate on the subject: we’re in this for the money, and if we do it it will be a) regulated, b) implemented in a way that drives employment, and c) as a lure to open new hotel rooms in Bermuda. What’s not clear is what they include in “casino gambling”? Does it include slots?
I do not believe that gambling is the salvation of Bermuda tourism – but it might help. And we need every little bit of help we can muster.
This referendum will take gambling from the “impossible” to the “theoretically possible – let’s talk business” in marketing Bermuda to hotel developers.
Y’all may have heard the news that the American NSA can – and often does – monitor most electronic communications. It is notable that much of this mass surveillance has been undertaken under US “lawful intercept” laws — such as the CALEA law – not surreptitious collection. (Err, well, they do that too!)
This is relevant because Bermuda slid in our own version of CALEA a few years ago as part of the telecommunications reform effort … and the Government seems to be constantly ramping up their use of video surveillance and vehicle tracking.
Confronted by fear of crime, the public has largely gone with the flow. However there are big risks long term in this complacency:
- There are few checks on the use of these technologies by the authorities, little-to-no independent oversight.
- There is no public visibility into the frequency of use of these laws and technologies by the authorities.
- Bermuda has no data protection and few personal privacy laws.
- There are no regulations relating to the long term storage of this data, or its onward use for areas within Government other than law enforcement.
You apparently use your Bermuda subsidiary as a conduit for about $12 billion in annual revenue, saving unbelievable sums in taxes.
You don’t actually do much here, which is a shame given the amount of grief we catch for your financial engineering.
But would you mind taking a few minutes from global domination and set up www.google.bm? I mean seriously. The Ascension Islands gets a custom Google. And Andorra.
Fergoodnessakes even The Pitcairn Islands have one and they only have a population of 50 people (and 6 goats)!
Pretty much the whole world gets a bespoke Google except Bermuda. C’mon Google, we know Bermudanic is a little rusty, but throw us bone! We like to feel important. And if Cayman gets one first, we are truly gonna lose it!
Of course, adding us to your high speed fiber project would also be a nice way of saying thanks for the double dutch.
September 27th, 2013 · Economy
Momentum takes a long time to wind down.
Let’s face it, the PLP essentially broke Bermuda’s momentum starting years ago. The party was able to continue for years while Bermuda’s long trends of stability were slowly eroded. Momentum ground to a halt, and then the pain started to accelerate.
We are now seeing the hammers start to hit, the latest blow being the rating downgrades of the local banks.
It’s shocking to read their analysis that 15% of local loans are non performing. And even worse to hear their predictions that bank loan losses may double to close to $500 million over the next two years, along with a steep increase in unemployment.
We have a credible and responsible government now in the OBA. But unfortunately it will take sustained years of effort to turn around Bermuda’s negative momentum before we can start to grow again.
September 24th, 2013 · Economy
Government has tabled a bill to levy an additional one quarter of a cent per litre tax on gasoline in order to fund improvements to St Georges. It’s an interesting idea – and another nibble into Bermudian’s pockets. I suppose we’ll see more like this to pay for major infrastructure projects like the Causeway … umm, and the ever gawping debt.
But I must say I was aghast to read this quote:
Finance Minister Bob Richards, who tabled the bill, said Government was still in the process of working out how much cash the move might raise.
Now, that sounds like the PLP talking. How can you propose raising taxes for a specific project without a clear idea of the funds required, or a target of the funds to be raised? And if it’s for a specific project, when will the tax cease?
Government has moved back its planned referendum on gambling as someone found the rest of the Innovation Group study that cost $300,000 in 2010. As reported in the media at the time only a “hand wrapped” green paper was released to the public – while a larger analytical report was kept private. And apparently lost or forgotten.
This incident underlines the fact that the secretive Bermuda Government really has no commitment to PATI (public access to information/freedom of information). Although the PATI law was passed in 2010, it remains “not in force”.
But really do we need a law to enable Government to publish reports paid for by the public? If we paid for it, we should be able to see it.
Literally millions of dollars have been spent on external consultants in recent years to write advisory reports for Government … most of which are buried. There should be a Government policy – release as much information ROUTINELY to the public as possible. You don’t need a law for that. You just do it.
The Corporation of Hamilton today announced that they will raise parking rates in the central business district of the City to help cover their declining revenues, and announced an “aggressive” campaign of wheel clamping on all city streets. (That’s gonna hurt all those retailers who, by the way, pay most of Hamilton’s taxes).
Amazingly, despite these declining revenues, the Deputy Mayor and his contingent found it a priority to attend a weeklong shindig in Colombia held by the scandal-ridden American National Council of Black Mayors and the Asociación de Alcaldes de Municipios con Población Afrodescendiente, estimated by Bermuda media to have cost around $100,000.
The relevance to Bermuda’s small home town?
During the six days of the summit, mayors and African leaders discuss and reflect on global issues that affect us all without distinction and require solutions from all possible levels.
Oh, well all right then. Well worth the extra parking tax I am sure!
September 20th, 2013 · Crime
The Royal Gazette reports that the Police hope to have an island-wide network of CCTV cameras, including the ability to track vehicles through license plate recognition. This adds to the existing surveillance and tracking capabilities operated by TCD, the Police, and apparently sometimes outsourced by Government to private security companies.
And, changes to the local telecommunications regulations in recent years oblige telecoms providers to assist the authorities with surveillance over users’ voice and data traffic. The public has no way of knowing the extent to which the police leverage that law.
The public wants to feel safe and to have successful prosecution of crimes – so will often tolerate increased public surveillance to that end.
But at the same time, Bermuda has no established regulations regarding the collection, storage, and use of such data. Nor do we have any privacy legislation worth talking about. This is a problem – and should be dealt with now before abuses of these technologies occur. Because they will.
Giving credit where credit is due, I think this chart was supposed to be PLP green:
When your debt per citizen is growing at $10,000 per year, it’s a clear sign you are doing something wrong.
The interim report from the SAGE Commission is out: Read it now!
The scariest message is the total unfunded liability for the three pension funds run by Government is close to $3 billion. In effect, that means if you are in your 30s, you probably won’t get a pension unless the plans are reformed and fast. As the SAGE Commission said: “promises will have to be broken.” Unavoidable, but still ouch.
I applaud the SAGE Commissions’ efforts to “define” the problems that Bermuda faces. In my opinion the hallmark of the PLP was that they put in lots of fixes for problems that did not exist, or undertook costly “look busy” kneejerks that in fact caused more problems. The OBA has a hell of a hole to dig us out of, and those affected (public, civil servants, etc) have to be perfectly clear on the nature of the problems before they can buy into possible solutions.
I had to LOL when SAGE mentioned the major reports commissioned by Government over the years that disappeared. I can think of a dozen without even trying. The issue here is that Government is so secret – they hide the reports, thus making it easier to ignore them. Here’s one reason we should have PATI (or public access to information/freedom of information access). If the reports were public, at least we could comment on them … and push for action to occur.
July 25th, 2013 · Economy
Government workers have agreed to take 4.6% pay cut for two years, in a move that will save the Government just over $20 million a year.
Any pay cut is painful, and I congratulate the unions and the OBA for approaching this calmly. That’s remarkable given Bermuda’s tradition of brinksmanship in these matters.
The fact is, however, that this saves $20 million a year. Our revenue gap is $300 million a year. It’s a drip in the bucket.
Early retirement incentives will be offered to up to 480 additional employees which would save more but either more needs to be cut or business has to boom … or watch your back ’cause the taxman’s looking hungry.