Vexed Bermoothes

Blustery Opinions From Bermuda

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Back to the Hill

July 16th, 2014 · Accountability, Bermuda Politics, Transparency

I encourage the elected members of Parliament for the PLP to start attending the House of Assembly.  The blunt reason is that it’s their job to do so.  It is also very troublesome for a political party to abstain from the democratic process – participation in Parliament – while leading street protests.  They’ve made their point:  now get back to work.  Raising emotion on the streets doesn’t fix Bermuda’s problems.  Only the OBA and the PLP working together in Parliament can do that.  And frankly, listening to the broadcasts of the House just makes me sick.  There is little sense of community and problem solving projected there:  there’s too much bile and petty point scoring.

On another point, the emotional issue of the Tucker’s Town compulsory purchases underscores the need for Public Access to Information (PATI) and more broadly easy access to Government information.  That is to say, PATI is not just about the rights of an individual to obtain specific information pertaining to them.  PATI is also about Government adopting a default position of transparency and making public records available and accessible.

Government sits on data.  As a result, there is no real culture of research in Bermuda.  There is little use of the Internet to make information available.  It is difficult to dig into historical trends, and there is not even much investigative journalism.  In the absence it is easy for “whisper campaigns” to build up, and even be manipulated.

  • One side:  Land was stolen from our ancestors.
  • Other side:  Compulsory purchases were made in the common good.  Fair value was paid to landowners, as set by arbitration panels.

The answer is in the records.  Why on earth are the responsible Government departments not stepping up to make those records available?

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Must Fix Pensions

July 10th, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

Everyone has known for many years that Bermuda’s public sector pensions are in deep trouble.  But nothing has been done.  The politicians have kicked the can down the road, and seem at every stage to delay or obscure reporting on the condition of the funds.

Foe example, when Robert Stewart raised the alarm back in 2009 (as he had on many previous occasions), the platinum Minister of Finance Paula Cox scolded him “There is absolutely no reason for pensioners to worry about the health of the fund … Half-truths and alarmist comments about the economy and public finance are a recipe for confusion and unfounded fear about Bermuda’s economic future.”

Well, the SAGE Commission last year laid it on heavy – at that time the unfunded liabilities for the civil service pensions were over $1.150 billion – and the “gap” was growing by about $115 million a year.

We can’t ignore the problem – it won’t get better.  And so the OBA has finally taken the cautious step of slowing down the cost of living increases that were mandated in law.  That’s responsible.  If nothing is done, both the pensions and our Government will be bankrupt. They’ll have to go much further to resolve this issue.

The irresponsible bit comes from the PLP, who are seeking to use this as an issue to raise the heat … in line with their current “summer of discontent” theme.  They didn’t deal with the problem – and they are actively working to prevent others from fixing it either.

But let’s be realistic.  The following was from an alarming article in The Economist about US municipal pensions that are also scrambling to “reset” for sustainability. You think Chicago’s liability per resident is scary?

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Well, Bermuda’s works out to close to $20,000 per resident.  The word “screwed” comes to mind.

Who are you going to trust?  Those who are constantly seeking to undermine?  Or those who are seeking to fix Bermuda’s real problems?  Kudos to Bob Richards for stepping up to the plate (and commiserations to those pension holders who will be affected).

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One Draw

June 17th, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

Following the passage of drug-testing law for MPs, Michael Scott of the PLP quoted Hamlet:

“I suspect there is something up.  There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.”

One could only wish he had shown this prescience during the decade-long constant carnival when his own party was in power.

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PATI Coming

June 13th, 2014 · Accountability, Transparency

Premier Dunkley has announced that PATI (Public Access to Information) law will be operational by April, 2015.  That’s 5 years after the law was passed, and 12 years after the topic was first introduced by then-Premier Alex Scott.  Bermuda time, I guess.  But this is very positive news.

Even better news is that the Premier today announced that another law will be expanded to include more information – at least financial – for a wider range of organisations funded by taxpayer money.  This omission from PATI was highlighted during the public consultation by international FOIA/Right to Information watchdog Article 19.  I hope that Government will take another look at the Article 19 consultation for other possible improvements to our PATI law.

PATI supposes that citizens must ask Government to share information.  Our Government sits on a mountain of data and reports.  Government really needs to outline its policies on open data, and ensure that useful information is proactively released in accessible formats (not just buggy PDF files buried in byzantine websites devoid of helper tools like API or even RSS feeds).  It should not be left to the folks like http://bermuda.io/ to scratch this information together.  Our public talent should go into analysing the data and building new tools from it, not exhausted on the task of grubbing it from Government’s dusty corners.

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Heroes

June 10th, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

The problem with “national hero days” is that the politicians promptly name themselves as heroes.  That’s not the way it works guys.

I’ll enjoy my holiday this year with thoughts of a Bermudian legend:  Teddy Tucker.

From treasure diving to ocean exploration, he’s both an unique Bermuda character and a heroic figure to many.

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Wisdom of the Internets

June 5th, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

Arguing with a PLP troll is like playing chess with a pigeon.

No matter how good you are at chess, the pigeon is going to just knock over all the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around acting like it won.

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Bean’s Law

June 2nd, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

I propose that there is a scientific basis for the PLP’s “below the belt” tactics in politics.  I’ll call it Bean’s Law:

The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude higher than that required to produce it.

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Campaign Finance … Again

May 16th, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

In the aftermath of dummiegate, the Bermuda Sun has raised the issue of campaign finance reform which the PLP hints that it may be willing to support.

Here’s what I wrote on the subject in 2009, 2010 twice, 2011, and 2012.

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Insurance in the Real World

May 8th, 2014 · Business

The news lately has covered the adventures of the “Bentley Mutual Insurance Company,” which is reportedly a group of 50 people who have banded together to provide their own motor insurance.

Bentley claims that they are allowed to do this under Bermuda’s archaic “friendly societies” law which allows these groups to act in

the making good any loss sustained by the members by fire, lightning, tempest or shipwreck, or by any contingency whereby they sustain any loss or damage of their live or dead stock, boats, goods, or stock-in-trade, or of the tools or implements of their trade or calling;

Like many people, I think Bentley is dangerously stretching the intent of the 1868 law.  The BMA has warned the public that Bentley is not a regulated insurance provider, TCD has disavowed the policies issued by Bentley, and the Bermuda Friendly Societies Association says Bentley is not a member.

Bentley’s supporters are pulling out the old “big guy/little guy” arguments that are so familiar in Bermuda, and saying that they are a mutual insurer.  In my opinion, they have no leg to stand on for the following reasons:

  • Mutual insurance companies are indeed an important part of the insurance world.  Mutual insurance companies are also regulated just like other insurance companies.
  • You simply cannot have an insurance company with only 50 insureds.  The premium flow would not cover any meaningful payout on claims and we have no idea how much capital Bentley has in reserve.
  • The mandatory third party vehicle insurance in Bermuda is not intended to cover the insured’s losses;  it’s intended to cover your losses and mine if they hit us.  Not only is this “third party coverage” activity outside the parameters described in the Bermuda Friendly Societies Act, it means we the public have the right to demand that only competent, well regulated, and well capitalised insurers provide this coverage.
  • Bermuda makes its international claim of having a well regulated insurance sector – it is at the core of our international business.  The island simply cannot afford to allow a non-conformant insurance company to operate here.

If Bentley wishes to be a mutual insurer then they must approach the BMA seeking that oversight, and meet the established standards for capital, financial accounting and public reporting, and claims processing.

Saying that you are an insurance company does not make you one.

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The Gamblers

April 23rd, 2014 · Bermuda Politics

A good leader thinks like the casino, not like the gambler.

That’s the problem with the PLP:  they roll the dice on too many issues assuming that lady luck will smile our way.  They look like “the man that gets things done” – but the actual thing normally ends up being a busted flush.

UPDATE:  More on this subject from Bermuda Blue. I agree with his summation that the OBA is “too gentlemanly”.  Like managers, they assume they will be judged by the results of their work.  They ignore the cut and thrust of grassroots politics.  Contrast this to the tactical high “noise levels” generated by the PLP (although it is very clear that both on local talk radio and on websites, that array of commentary in fact emanates from just a handful of supporters and what appear to be paid political consultants).  In maintaining their “big tent” the OBA are afraid to offend anyone – and thus sometimes come across as wishywashy.  For the record, I know they are not.  The PLP left Bermuda in an abysmal state.  The OBA are doing a yeoman’s job at turning that decline around.  

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