Opinion: “2014 Was Another Year Of Change”

December 31, 2014

[Opinion column written by Larry Burchall]

Like the thousands of years before, 2014 was another year of change.

A ‘palace coup’ took out a Premier; changes in the way news is captured and disseminated took out the 50 year-old Bermuda Sun and eliminated VSB from television; my great-niece Sophie started ‘big school’.

After 71 months of continuing decline, Bermuda’s economy got some good news when the widely known secret that Bermuda was to host the 2017 America’s Cup was publicly announced. The announcement set off a series of pre-planned ceremonies and events that encouraged Bermuda and Bermudians to do some national rejoicing – for a change.

After a long lull, there was a spate of shootings and a self-described gang member was gunned down in Southampton. Ominously, gunmen escaping from that execution shot at a pursuing police vehicle and Bermuda silently moved one rung higher on the ladder of violence that Bermuda first stepped on to in June 2003.

Rumours and anecdotes abounded. There were many tales of hard done by Bermudians, unemployed Bermudians, homeless Bermudians, down-and-out Bermudians, emigrating Bermudians; but there was little hard data to support most of those anecdotes and rumours.

By midnight on 31st December 2014, Bermuda will have kissed goodbye to $653 million of the $800 million that Minister for Finance Bob Richards borrowed in 2013.

As the year ends, only some people are still stubbornly clinging to the idea that since 2008, only about 2,000 persons had left Bermuda. These people are still stubbornly denying and refusing to acknowledge that since 2008, Bermuda had lost between 6,000 and 8,000 residents.

These people are still refusing to acknowledge that a large ResPop loss was a major contributor to Bermuda’s six year long recession.

Telling the real story of national economic decline, in mid-year, Government admitted that by March 31st 2015, Government was expecting to give out $46.9 million for Financial Assistance. That would be five cents out of every dollar [$901.7 million] that Government expected to take in in FY 2014/15.

Because of the Debt trap that enmeshes Government’s finances, of that $46.9 million, some $12.7 million must come from borrowed funds. So Government was not just borrowing for its day-to-day expenses [that’s bad!], it was also borrowing to make its ‘charitable’ payments to its own needy citizens [that’s awful!].

The OBA rode into “Dodge City” in December 2012. With intentions blazing, they came in riding hard, swearing to rid the town of rustlers and bad ‘uns. Two years on, seems like the promises were tongue-in-cheek.

The PLP have been blazing away at everything in sight, have organized many marches and protests, have gotten themselves sued, and members of the PLP seem to have come close to being involved in a fracas with members of the OBA inside the House of Assembly itself.

Parliament’s lone Independent surrendered and retreated. He was replaced by a political re-appearance.

Then, in quick sucession, in the ten days between 11th and 20th October, Bermuda got hit by Category 1 Hurricane Fay. In hours, Bermuda recovered and hosted the three-day PGA Golf Tournament. Bermuda quickly dug in again and got hit by Category 3 Hurricane Gonzalo. Bermuda recovered and re-opened for business by 21st October. All with no loss of life.

As Bermuda leaves 2014 and prepares to step into 2015, my strongest impression is that of a punch-drunk bloody nosed boxer still upright but now unsteady on his feet; getting ready to bob and weave and duck another series of blows that are yet to come.

The blows are coming. But with the application of the kind of common sense, discipline, and fortitude that most of us showed during those ten days in October, we can collectively bob and weave our way through the economic blows that lie just ahead.

See you next year………!

- Larry Burchall

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