Richards: “Disastrous Might Be Understating”

December 10, 2010

Yesterday [Dec 9] Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards spoke on national finances, and also addressed comments made by a Government Senator earlier this week saying “One of the things that is most amazing is in spite of this evidence of economic weakness we have Government Senators declaring we are better off than we have been. This represents a complete disconnect from reality — which is not surprising because there’s been a lot of disconnect from reality for this Government.”

Senator Laverne Furbert had said that child welfare campaigner Sheelagh Cooper was exaggerating the extent of poverty in Bermuda during an appearance before the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on violent crime.

Last week the Coalition for the Protection of Children leader said fully 50% of black female-headed households with children lived at or below the poverty line when the 2000 census was taken. Those numbers, she suggested, would have grown worse given the impact of the global recession on Bermuda’s economy since 2008.

Earlier this week figures released by Government’s Statistics Department showed Bermuda’s Gross Domestic Product had plunged 8.1 percent in real terms.

“The figures are out for 2009 and if I was to characterise them as disastrous, I probably might be understating the case,” Mr. Richards said yesterday at a UBP event introducing Susan Jackson as the party’s Parliamentary candidate for Southampton East Central. “We haven’t had anything this bad ever as far as I know.

Below is a 6 minute video of Mr Richards speaking at the press conference yesterday:

Mr. Richards said the fact there’s a growing number of people struggling to make ends meet is reflected in the rise of Bermuda’s violent criminal underclass — a phenomenon he argued, which is directly tied to the number of people now falling below the poverty line.

He implored Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox to cut Government waste, saying the island would be hard pressed to ever recover from the global recession if across-the-board austerity measures were not put into place.

“We know revenues are weak — no rocket science there,” he said. “We have to look at Government spending … It’s inexplicable to me that the Finance Minister hasn’t come out and told Bermudian point blank that ‘I’m going to take these steps to control Government spending’.

“There’s going to be a big problem with this year’s finances. Revenues will have been weak for the year 2010/11 so we’re going to be in the hole worse come budget time in February. At this point in time it really all has to be about austerity. That’s the only way we’re going to survive.”

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Comments (32)

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  1. Graeme Outerbridge says:

    Keep banging away because YOU HAVE BEEN RIGHT all through the recession re Government spending. Now tell me and the Bermuda People what your financial plan is to fix the National Debt…..and please we want the details of your plan^^

  2. Terry says:

    Well first of all, they should ban importation of Sherry and ^peppers^. That would be a good start…………………

  3. Where has the money gone says:

    Let’s look at some quick facts.

    More expats are leaving the pay and conditions are now better oversea for a lot of categories. Loss of revenue for Bermuda and its people

    Bermudians are losing the jobs, pay cuts, less hours etc.

    Kids are coming out of school with no chance of getting a half decent job.

    We have not hit rock bottom yet, while North America is rebounding we are still sliding fast.

    We have no money to do a stimulus package like the UK and US.

    What is this going to mean, good questions. Obvious facts.

    Home foreclosures, repossessions of cars, boats etc. Toxic assets for the banks with nobody to buy them.

    More kids coming out of the private schools into government schools which will a bigger strain on the government finances.

    More international business will leave, they have been telling us for some time now they are. AWAC are in the process of downscaling by 50 percent.

    So with all this debt from business, government and people how can Bermuda recovery if tourism and international business is dead.

  4. Triangle Drifter says:

    Keep banging that drum Bob. Sooner or later it will hit them that the huge GDP downturn has little to do with global recession & much to do with PLP ineptitude. I just can’t imagine the board of directors of a company voting in a CFO as CEO who, under the former CEO, ran the company into the ground. The shareholders would revolt & throw the whole board out. What happens with Bermuda Inc.? Why everything is fine & dandy no matter what shape the comany is in.

    I like quotes. In the late 70s when the UBPs Sir John Sharp, a former Premier & Finance Minister for those too young to remember, was asked why Bermudians should not vote for a PLP Government. His response… “Bermuda cannot afford a PLP Government”. How prophetic & dead right he was.

  5. LaVerne Furbert says:

    Hi Bernews,

    I see that you have used the Royal Gazette as your source for comments made by me during the Motion to Adjourn in the Senate on Wednesday, December 8, 2010. While senators are not “allowed” to read directly from prepared nots, leeway is given to new senators as was the case on Wednesday when the President of the Senate allowed me to pratically read from my prepared notes. I know that there were comments that I added while speaking, but my prepared notes were as follows:

    Madam President, I recently read a statement in the daily newspaper by Mrs. Sheelagh Cooper who was described as a “poverty campaigner” by the reporter. Mrs. Cooper was speaking at the Joint Select Committee on crime. During her presentation she said that the violent crime rate in Bermuda was 20 times that of the UK and 10 times that of the U.S. While I agree that we all should be concerned about the rise in violent crime in Bermuda, we should not sensationalise it in an effort to grab headlines. The rise of violent crime is not a phenenom that only affects Bermuda, it also affects our sister islands to the south of us and leaders in those Caribbean nations are grappling with the problem just as we are in Bermuda.
    Mrs. Cooper also stated that “The spawn of fear, anger and desperation has reared its ugly head and its roots are firmly planted in Bermuda’s darkest secret – that poverty has become a problem of epidemic proportions.”
    Madam President, I am sure you are aware of the Bible verse which says that “The Poor will always be among us”. The point I am trying to make is that there have always been poor people in Bermuda and to think otherwise would be folly. When I was a young person many of our people had to use “outhouses” however, in today’s Bermuda we do not see that. When I was growing up it was not unusual to see up ten children sharing one bedroom, however in today’s Bermuda, many children have their own rooms complete with televisions and computers. Certainly this is the case with my grandchildren.
    People in Bermuda have always had to work two and three jobs. My father worked two jobs in order to provide for his family, and I as a single mother worked two jobs so that I could provide a home for my sons and to ensure that they got a college education.
    I believe that this government has put in place many programmes to help people to rise out of poverty, including free tuition at Bermuda College, child care assistance, free bus fares for students amongst other programmes. Those of us in leadership positions must encourage our brothers and sisters to take advantage of these programmes.
    While I commend those in our community who are involved in breakfast and lunch programmes for needy school children, I believe in the adage that it is better to teach a man how to fish than to give him a fish, or something similar. The children who are now benefiting from breakfast and lunch programmes will not learn how to prepare breakfast and lunch because they have not been taught, hence the beginning of cycle that will have no end. I would encourage those people who are now providing feeding programmes for our school children to think about putting in place programmes that will have parents to raise healthy children in all senses of the word.

    • Dragging A Lure says:

      Keep up the good work, you’re had a sensational start in the Senate. Do not expect any different behaviour from the combined opposition with the RG being the unofficial leader for the UBP. They set the tone/tune for the UBP through distortion of news and facts. I bet there is no one out there that can dispute your prepared speech.

      Enjoy the Weekend

      • Rob says:

        Dragging, I do believe that senator furbert has the country at hart. But unfortunately it’s been about her first and country second. It’s been a hard struggle over the short period of time to be recognized. Hail the radio chat shows and Dr. brown. She did it! One question. Who told you she did very well in the senate. Are you friends with Col. Burch? Or are you just Brown Noseing.

    • Bottom Line says:

      Good to see you back!! I was getting tired of watching Jerry Springer re-runs!

      • David E. Chapman says:

        Bottom Line, all you do is name call and give negative rhetoric. I was hoping BERNEWS would develop a more constructive dialogue than other blogs like Bermuda Is Another World, etc. Why not look at what Senator Furbert is saying and comment on that rather than just be divisive. Bermuda needs unity and constructive dialogue not more negativity for negative sake.

        • UncleElvis says:

          Here we have Mr. Chapman denouncing “Bermuda Is Another World”, without, of course, backing up what, exactly makes them so bad. Has Mr. Chapman attempted dialogue there and received negativity?
          Has he even signed up, or just read what he wanted and cherrypicked to back up his already biased opinion?
          This may be a conversation for another time, but what, other than the fact that there is a majority of members with an anti-Dr. Brown slant, makes the dialogue so bad? Have they said you can’t post there?

          Full disclosure: I am a moderator over there (lapsed) and I know for an indisputable fact that no one has ever been banned without reason.

        • UncleElvis says:

          I do, however, find it HILARIOUS that you would denounce someone for “namecalling”, “negative rhetoric”, a refusal to look at what someone is saying, “divisiveness” and “negativity for negative sake” in defense of Sen. Furbert, though…

          • David E. Chapman says:

            Uncle, I did not say the dialogue is bad…To be fair, from my visit to Bermuda is another World, there are some interesting dialogues on their in reference to positive suggestions for change. I especially found the one about “alternative forms of government” interesting….but rather I was referring to Bottom Line’s reference…it is just a negative comment based on someone’s personal bias rather than an actual comment on the issue being discussed. I personally visited, upon someone telling me to go take a look, Bermuda is Another World as I said earlier. They have a whole thread/blog section dedicated to my mother Mrs. Furbert and if you are a moderator there you would know that some of the comments that people post have nothing to do with anything constructive or even remotely critical of my mother’s comments. Some are just plain nasty, simple as that. Especially for a son reading the stuff. Although I know many dislike my mother for her political views, etc., I know she does not say nasty and uncouth stuff about people. She is not like that.

            To be clear, as I have said to many others, I and my mother are two separate people so if I happen to agree or disagree with something she says, it is based on my own opinion and independence. I am not loyal just because. In this case, I truly believe that many, including Mr. Richards, did not receive the accurate message as accorded in her statement but rather, chose to just use the Royal Gazette article as a source and thus have biased views. I have no control over my mother’s comments and if you feel some of them are negative or divisive, than please by all means pull her up on that, especially in her role as a public figure now. The statement she delivered in the Senate though was in my mind upon reading it, a call for Bermuda to encourage less entitlement mentalities and rather more empowerment. Many blessings…

        • Bottom Line says:

          I’ll tell you what she’s saying. If you’re feeling squeezed out in today’s economy, working 2 or 3 jobs to get by, then get used to it. It is what it is and there is no better way. Sounds very old school UBP. And BTW, LaVerne and her cousin Dr. Brown were the architects of divisiveness and downright hate. Well today’s plantation is crowded out by migrant workers brought in by the PLP elite who pander to the greedy businessman (another old school UBP pratice). I guess LaVerne might want to tell the BIU that shrinking pay and the unemployment situation in Bermuda isn’t all that bad, and we should just get used to that too.

    • UncleElvis says:

      So… because it’s not as bad as it used to be, and because other islands are having problems, and because it’s always been bad, it’s a bad thing to “sensationalize” the level of poverty we have here?

      Were Mrs. Cooper’s statements incorrect? Were her comments on the comparisons between the UK and US and Bermuda wrong?
      If not, why shouldn’t she bring them up? It seems that our crime rate being 10 times the USA’s is quite a significant piece of information!

      And if so, why didn’t Ms. Furbert talk about THAT? Why didn’t she point out that Mrs. Cooper was incorrect, if she was?

  6. wiaruz says:

    what incentive does Mrs.Cooper have to exaggerate the situation?

    • Obvious says:

      …and where do you read that Senator Furbert says Mrs. Cooper is exaggerating the situation – I swear I only read the words “While I agree that we all should be concerned about the rise in violent crime in Bermuda, we should not sensationalise it in an effort to grab headlines.”….maybe you should read the exact statement again…

      • wiaruz says:

        Maybe you should read the whole statement again. She doesn’t use the word “exaggerate” but It is pretty clear that Ms. Furbert thinks that Mrs. Cooper is making the situation sound worse than it is and has been in the past. She clearly thinks things are better now. i.e. that she (Mrs. Cooper) is exaggerating the situation.

        Def: Exaggerate – Represent (something) as being larger, greater, better, or worse than it really is

        So I ask again:
        What incentive does Mrs.Cooper have to exaggerate the situation?

  7. Optimistic says:

    I wonder, are ministers working for the people or the pay? Elected officials that are aware of this mess should commit to reducing their ministerial wages – how much do they make any way?

  8. Sara says:

    I see we have yet another person in government continuing the tradition of shoot the messenger instead of listening to the message. Tradition is alive and well in the PLP government! Picking on the little people just trying to help the community, sad, sad, REALLY sad.

    • Samuel says:

      @Sara, the PLP ARE the little people.

      • hahaha says:

        Yeah…little people make over a $150k a year….i must be miniscule then!

        • Obvious says:

          Do you really believe that all PLP members or even a majority of them make over $150k a year…can you be that deluded? I guess your just trying to make some sort of point…I assume…

          • UncleElvis says:

            To use your words:

            “…and where do you read that…” someone said ALL “PLP members or even a majority of them make over $150k a year”?

            “maybe you should read the exact statement again…”

    • Sara says:

      The VOTERS are the little people, NOT the party members. And those little people are the ones that are getting breakfast and NOT from the PLP!! The government of power the little people oh that’s funny!!!

  9. Hmmmmm says:

    Listen folks; you cannot save yourself into economic prosperity. Government spending is one, very small aspect of a country’s economic fortune. New revenue streams is the answer to Bermuda’s issues in the medium and long term. this nonsense about reducing government spending and all will be well is a joke. Government’s must spend especially one that is reversing 400 years of almost non-existent social programmes and crumbling infrastructure. We must grow the pie not figure out a hundred more ways to slice it !

  10. Obvious says:

    So Mr. Richards, as you say in your statement “We have to look at Government spending…”…maybe, we should start by Government calling in the $200 million gauarantee from the Bank of Butterfield…oh wait, you “gave your full support to Government’s financial backing of Butterfield Bank saying the move was necessary to bolster public confidence in the banking sector.” (and thats a quote from him)…hmmm, did someone say “declaration of interests please”…

    UBP doublespeak. Simple as that. You can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time…

    • Understand first...then comment says:

      Actually the Govt will not disburse the cash to BNTB unless the bank defaults on their payment obligations regarding the $200mn of pref shares, which is now more than unlikely as the bank has improved thwir once dire situation. On top of that the Govt is actually making money of this guarantee as they receive a certain percentage annually (i believe, correct me if i am wrong) in light of this guarantee.

      Since BNTB holds approximately 40% of the market share of BDA’s banking sector allowing it go bankrupt would be more than disastrous for the island as a whole.

      Some people really need to understand what they are talking about before they open their mouths. No one needs to fool you mate as it sounds like you are a fool already.

      Do you or any of your family have bank accounts with BNTB?

      • Obvious says:

        …so you are telling me the guarantee is not accounted for on the Government balance sheet…as a debit…if not, how do they receive a “certain percentage every year” as you put it…

        • Rob says:

          It has to be quite Obvious that the Finance ministry has the BNTB guarantee fully under control on it’s balance sheets. After all the Ministry does not have a reputation for throwing money out the window.

          • Obvious says:

            Cute Rob! Hehehehe…you’re mischievous! My overall point is a concern with the amount of doublespeak in politics. Regardless of the financial arrangement behind the BNTB guarantee, the fact is that Bob Richards gave his support to it. If he did, with all his knowledge and plus scrutiny of the government’s balance sheet, why would he advocate for that guarantee if he felt government could not be called on the guarantee if the BNTB ever defaults. The BMA would never have allowed it either. I am not questioning whether or not Bermuda’s economic climate needs to improve from prior better times. What I am saying is we need to move away from all of the political point scoring, double speak and inaccuracies that are thrown around in local politics. And that is what his statement is doing, using a Royal Gazette article first to comment on a particular Senators in-senate remarks and then expressing concern over something that in other quarters he actually is supporting.

        • Duhhhhh says:

          they hold some of the pref shares and thus receive a dividend

          • wiaruz says:

            They also get 1% p.a. fee for the guarantee. I don’t think they can back out of the deal, unless the bank were to buy back all the prefs and cancel them. With the 8% coupon this ain’t gonna happen. But given that BNTB is now mostly owned by a private equity fund and a Canadian bank, it is unlikely the guarantee will ever get called on.