Richards: Steps To Rebuild Bermuda’s Economy

July 20, 2011

[Written by Bob Richards, Shadow Finance Minister] A founding principle of the One Bermuda Alliance is opportunity. We believe that if you work hard and play by the rules then you should have the opportunity to succeed.

Opportunity depends on a strong economy which today is weak, with job losses and shrinking paycheques pressuring thousands of families.

We can turn this situation around. It will not happen overnight, but we can start today doing things that will strengthen our ability to attract and hold business.

On Friday, I put forward a motion in the House of Assembly noting the Government had no real plan to get the economy back on track.

The following summarizes some of the ideas I put forward in that motion – part of our plan to grow jobs and paycheques and expand opportunity. They focus largely on changing the way we conduct business as a government and the way we work with the outside world.

Become a more welcoming society
There can be no meaningful, sustainable economic recovery without Bermudians understanding we are in the service business. To be better at it, we need to change the official attitude toward the people who come here to work and live – our customers.

Government must lead the change in attitude. In key areas of government, the culture is rigidly bureaucratic and cold. This must change to a culture that is service-oriented. The mantra up and down the line should be to provide better service to our customers.

Reform Immigration
The Government has been slow to understand this. Its inward-looking, xenophobic immigration policies have been a major factor in our faltering economic performance.

We have to change the way we greet people. We have to encourage them, not alienate them.
The whole idea of guest workers as customers, instead of interlopers, is the most crucial first step in getting the economy back on track.

Immigration must radically remake itself into part of Bermuda’s welcome wagon for our customers.

Cut red tape
There is an urgent need to cut red tape to facilitate economic growth. Red tape inhibits the inflow of foreign exchange – the lifeblood of our economy – and irritates our customers. The time is long past due to get rid of it.
Government can start the process by setting up a Spending and Government Efficiency Commission to streamline government processes, improve delivery of services, make government more efficient, more cost-effective, more transparent and more user-friendly.

Cutting red tape will reduce the cost of doing business helping us to become more competitive

Welcome the very wealthy
Another part of the attitude change is how we treat wealthy individuals whose presence here creates jobs for Bermudians on a variety of levels.

It has been estimated that 50 such individuals could generate about $100 million to our economy each year.

Government needs to review its policy toward such job-generating, income-creating people. Let’s find the right set of conditions where they can be granted PRC status. They want to belong. Let’s help them help us.

Repeal discriminatory regulations
Licenses for non-Bermudian spouses for purchase of real estate is obscenely discriminatory to Bermudians married to non-Bermudians. Repealing this procedure will promote more property purchases and development.

Cut the cost of doing business
Bermuda needs to cut the cost of government – one of the key reasons we are losing our competitive edge as a place to do business. We can start by freezing civil service hiring, freezing salaries and, for better leadership, a pay cut for ministers. We cannot call for sacrifice without sharing sacrifice.

Help small business
Government can do a lot to promote economic activity without spending more money.
Many businesses large and small fail due to poor cash management, rather than lack of revenue. Cash flow is vital. We would issue directives to ensure:
Vendors are paid within 30 days
Planning is fast-tracked to get jobs-producing projects off the ground, and
At least 20% of Government spending on goods and services is directed to small businesses. That’s tens of millions of dollars going to businesses that can use the work and money to hire workers and grow their operations.

Each of these steps can generate and support a significant amount of activity that can help Bermudians get through tough times.

My colleagues and I have a plan to get the economy back on track. We will continue to put forward ideas in the days and weeks to come. Like you, we want Bermuda to succeed but it will require a commitment to change – change in the way we conduct business and change in the Island’s leadership.

- Bob Richards

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Comments (35)

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  1. BombsAway says:

    Well wriiten Mr. Richards. Hopefully, one day you will be the bus driver.

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    • Tell de public says:

      Bob being the bus driver can possible mean more non revealing contracts for himself. He needs to disclose exactly how much his company made from the over 2 million dollar consultancy contracts IT for tcd??? Answer that oba supporters.

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      • Vote for me says:

        The recent response by the Premier to a Royal Gazette story indicates that Mr.Richard's company earned approx. $46,000 for a consultancy contract with TCD. I am not aware that Mr. Richards has confirmed the figure. In the interests of integrity we will wait for him to do so. He may also be earning consulting fees basaed on investmetn advisory services to teh Public Fnds Investmetn Committee. Again, we will leave it to him to confirm any amounts.

        One of our persistent challenges is to separate emotion from fact. If you listen to and read recent Ministerial statements by the Premier and Ministers, most of the proposals being put forward by Mr. Richards are already in proces by the PLP. Many will comment that the PLP is simply responding to comments made by the OBA. This is cleraly not the case since in many instances, the government annuoncements precede comments by Mr. Richards.

        Of note, the PLP just informed the public of the intention to remove the 'nuisance of certain work permit restictions' to allow a 10 year permit. Further, if a CEO or Board Chair is able to be on island for 10 years, hire and objectively promote Bermudians and otherwise exercise good citizenship, they will be eligible for consideration as a PRC recipient.

        In addition, Minister Perinchief has announced a review of certain land purchase restrictions, Minister Wilson has spoken extensively about how Immigration is being reformed to be more user friendly and responsive, and on Friday the House debated amendments to the Small Business Corporation.

        To conclude, I enjoy a good debate but lets give credit where credit is due. Not everything the PLP are doing is bad. In fact, if we focus on the current administration, the good that they are doing far surpasses any errors that may be made.

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        • Chart says:

          Bob Richards is chairman of an IT consulting company that has software development and support contracts with the Government. Publicly tendered and awarded.
          The difference is that his company is doing real work with real deliverables for the Government. The PLP insiders are "advisors" to Cabinet ... on subjects for which their expertise is debateable and the deliverables are very undefined. Basically it's a way to put friendly PLP types on the payroll.

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  2. andre says:

    Freeze pay? Lost my vote.

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    • Pay freeze says:

      @ Andre, just so you know all Bermuda C0llege employees took a pay cut of 2.3% this year so everyone could keep their job. As a result we will be closed the week of Cup Match as a part of that. We are leading the charge so it is time for others in government, starting with the Ministers to do the same and lead by example.

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      • lou says:

        Hope the banks freeze mortgage payments, that tuition and food prizes all freeze as well. Don't forget dental and health prices.

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      • andre says:

        I was referring to MY personal pay which I do not believe deserves to be frozen. I congratulate you for your stance and actions. I am not prepared to do the same. Remember, you get what you pay for!

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  3. Question says:

    What about an independent Office of Procurement to stop the awarding of govt contracts without competitive bids, or to incompetent construction companies which are dominated by politicians?? Does the OBA support this or not??...........also, will an OBA govt bring about an independent Tourism Authority that will de-politicise the tourism industry and bring about growth?? Does the OBA support this or not? I WANT POLITICS OUT OF THE DECISIONS MAKING PROCESS. BERMUDA IS A BUSINESS. THE BEST SOCIAL PROGRAM IS A JOB. I WANT POLITICIANS WHO PUT BERMUDA FIRST. The first govt to implement this will get my support.

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  4. 28Red says:

    Amen, brother. Perhaps it is time for me to consider the OBA instead of the PLP. Keep talking like that (with a firm commitment to action) and you will have my vote.

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  5. loquats81 says:

    Bob Richard is one of the few ppl who has the savvy and financial skills to put BDA on track...pls leave personal feeling alone and start emphac.on saving Bda from gross mismanage. and econ.woes..Give him a chance.Plus the man is comfortable wealthy u don't have to fear he is coming to 'self-interest nor to profit from you!

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    • College Graduate says:

      So because he is wealthy he doesn't want more money?

      Rich, poor or middle class people are always looking for a come up

      I'd vote for who ever lets me toke

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      • False hopes says:

        'I’d vote for who ever lets me toke'

        If that's all that's important to you , maybe you should refrain from voting until you can see the big picture ..(and past your selfish needs)

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  6. Laquisha92 says:

    we should give Mr. Richards an opportunity to guide us through this rough time..we have place our blind faith in this PLP govt and they have sunk us into more financial mess plus they help themselves to most of our money..Too much of money went missing or unaccountable

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  7. Pace seeker says:

    Inquiry minds would like to know exactly how much was awarded from contracts from 2005 to Mr. Richards.

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    • Really, does it matter as he is a partial owner. That money is directly for him as he is not a sole owner of the business.

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    • Thinker says:

      I think I read somewhere that Bob's company (he is a shareholder in BITS) was paid in the region of $45k, BITS is a software consultancy company that employs a number of Bermudians. Bob personally would have see almost none of any government contract,

      Bob has some good ideas, I would love to see Paula ad int that she has been wrong about the economy and embrace some new ideas.

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  8. Tell me more says:

    Yes hear it all!

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  9. Andy P says:

    Well said sir! This is the type of man that should be running our country. I could not agree more to his policies set forth to turn Bermuda's slump around. This current government has run its course and seriously needs to come to terms with the economic state that the country is in. Everything is blamed on something else and no one is accountable. We need to shape-up as a country or else we will slowly continue to lose the charm that makes us who we are!

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  10. "Bob Richard is one of the few ppl who has the savvy and financial skills"

    what exactly are these savvy and financial skills - aside from being a marginally elected MP with poor interpersonal skills - what are his credentials schooling etc. - it's not like he's john swan or something

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  11. lol says:

    Agreed - he's riding on the coat tails of his father (which he's nothing like) his father cared about the common man. Bob Richards, Louise and company are elitist. Recall the crab effect, claw down de other crabs so they are the head crabbers in charge.

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    • Rockfish#1 says:

      "Riding on the coat tails of his father" etc. Sounds similar to Paula Cox's journey!

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  12. navin johnson says:

    I would think that before this Government awarded Mr. Richards firm any contracts they would have fully vetted and realized that it was in the best interests of Bermuda to do so..otherwise it would have gone to Andre Curtis...$46,000? drop in the bucket to this Government....$46,000,000? that would have gone to party cronies...how sad....interpersonal skillls? how about the Colonel....look where that got us....everything he has predicted has come true.....last chance to save Bermuda change the Government...

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  13. Kudos says:

    I am confused. As far as I can recall most of these ideas the current government is implementing to some degree. Where is the new stuff Bob?

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  14. Googlybda says:

    What will "BOB" do to offset all the negative external threats that Bermuda is facing? "No Tax" on profits and capital gains is being eroded and attacked vehemently around the world. This is key feature to Bermuda's success in the past. What "real" advantage is Bermuda going to replace this in our Business Model.
    What innovative ideas does he have?

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  15. I am somewhat disappointed of Mr. Richards's plan. I was expecting something more brilliant and innovative. I really was hopeful; he had some real creative ideas in mind. As I said it is so easy to “criticize”, but more difficult develop a plan of action. However, most of the above ideas by Mr. Richards, have and are currently been implemented by the government. There is nothing that he recommends that has not been done. Except that government has been more modest in cutting jobs of civil servants. I think that is a good move, as those persons will still working and earning a living. To reduce too many jobs at once will surely increase the unemployment levels, as well as require government to fund them. We do not need to turn into a welfare state. The more people working, the better for any country. So unfortunately there is “nothing new” presented here by Mr. Richards. As a result it does suggest that this government is on the right track. Keep pushing on PLP.

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  16. navin Johnson says:

    let us say that The OBA sends its leader and Finance Minister John Barritt and Bob Richards to a meeting with a propective IB company considering a move to Bermuda and the PLP sends its leader/finance minister and deputy leader Premier Paula Cox and Derrick Burgess who would be more likely to convince the company to locate in Bermuda? the only thing new that we need is a Government .....

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  17. Navin,

    Guess you have not been in a debate with the Hon Premier Paula Cox? I would not want to debate her, she is extremely brilliant, and she knows her stuff. Please try and get to hear her discuss or debate any issue. I consider myself well read, and knowledgeable about most issues, but this Hon Premier is just brilliant. I had the opportunity to hear her debate, and all the assumptions; I had of her fell flat on the floor. She can out debate almost every politician in the UBP/OBA and PLP. Do not let her quite, polite, well-mannered, demeanour fool you!!

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    • navin Johnson says:

      Specialgirl 4you

      I have heard her speak and have been in her company on more than one occasion and while I find her to be well spoken and personable I have failed to see any true leadership ability and believe she is as much responsible for the condition of Bermuda as her predecessor.....they just have different styles...IMHO Bermuda is in desperate need of a change almost to the point of any change is good change. The party has failed and all are suffering the consequences and most do not know how bad things really are because they are not fessing up...I am also of the opinion Specialgirl that we will never fully recover from the misguided policies of her Government and need to face reality. We are too small for Westminster form of Government and should have the best people in the right positions regardless of party affiliations however politics is now a highly paid job in Bermuda with too much at stake...

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  18. Bermuda debt is not as high in comparison with other countries. Our debt ratio is lower than most countries in the world. This debt is an issue that OBA/UBP will use to paint a picture that we are in such a bad situation, and voting for the PLP is a no no. In fact our debt does not even match most countries. It is also a level of debt that which can be dealt with, and if there had not been a recession, there would have been a quicker level of pay back of the debt. Some debt can be good, as long as it can be managed. This government has invested in the infrastructure and social agenda programme of this country. While there has been overruns of most capital projects, this is not uncommon for most governments.

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    • navin johnson says:

      Sorry Specialgirl but I do not think you get it...we are not most countries but a one trick pony economy and your government has done everything it could to kill that pony of IB..Other countries have some other source of revenue while we do not....tax revenues are going to be down dramatically this year as your government has no clue how to budget or run the economy. lower tax revenue with fewer people to tax with mounting debt is the recipe for disaster that we now face...what people are now beginning to see is that the global recession that the plp constantly refer to would have missed us almost entirely had it not been for Ewart Brown and David Burch and their loud mouthed pandering to your electorate which drove
      IB people and companies out....yes we have a negative impact as far as tourism due to the recession but tourism is such a small part of the economy yet gets all the attention because it could employ a large number of people. We need a change and all of the talk about smoking out the UBP from the OBA means nothing for people now see that under previous governments everyone worked and we were debt free and had a future which your government has shattered....sorry to be so blunt but the PLP has given Bermuda a standing 8 count and another hate filled election campaign will be the knock out...new broom sweeps clean so take race out of the equation and do what is right for Bermuda

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