Opinion: Larry Burchall On “27 Missing Words”

September 2, 2014

[Opinion column written by Larry Burchall] There are 27 missing words that could have and that still can make a big difference. Those missing words have been a major contributor to the mess that Bermuda is in today.

Between 1st April 2004 and 16th December 2013, two Bermudian individuals – politicians both – created a $2,705 million mountain of Debt. The Seventh Minister borrowed a total $1,905 million. Then Minister Bob Richards borrowed another $800 million.

Neither of these two politicians – Ministers – had to get our agreement before they committed us, our children, and our grandchildren to repay the billions that they borrowed. They did not have to ask because Bermuda’s legislation does not require that they ask.

Currently, Bermuda’s Minister for Finance is free to toddle off and borrow any amount without first having to get any kind of permission at all. No permission needed. Just toddle off and borrow.

The Minister must tell us afterwards. But need not tell us – and certainly not ask us – beforehand.

Does that make managerial and administrative sense? Is it a good way to manage Bermuda’s national finances?

If you agree that it does make sense, then you are saying that you agree with every borrowing decision that was made between 1st April 2004 and 16th December 2013.

These are the borrowing decisions that you weren’t asked about beforehand, but that you would say that you are agreeing to:

  • June 10, 2004 – $75,000,000
  • June 17, 2005 – $200,000,000 [paid off in June 2010…]
  • December 04, 2007 – $140,000,000
  • May 21, 2009 – $45,000,000
  • May 21, 2009 – $30,000,000
  • May 21, 2009 – $100,000,000
  • November 10, 2009 – $80,000,000
  • November 10, 2009 – $60,000,000
  • July 13, 2010 – $500,000,000
  • May 18, 2011 – $200,000,000 [paid off in 2013…]
  • July 03, 2012 – $475,000,000

That’s a total of $1,905,000,000 that was borrowed during the Seventh Minister for Finance’s eight and a half years of financial terrorism between April 1st 2004 and December 16th 2012.

Then along came Minister Bob who toddled off and borrowed $800,000,000 between August and December 2013.

That’s $2,705,000,000 that has been borrowed, that we certainly have to deal with, but that we were never asked about; before those two politicians toddled off and turned all of us 50,000 Bermudians into financial hostages.

For our own financial safety, going forward, us lot should have the basic right to discuss and determine our own future financial obligations. Especially the kind of financial obligation that can hang around for decades and that can, as we are now finding out, actually affect our jobs, our families, our lifestyles, our present, and our future.

What has been happening, and what is still happening, verges on national financial insanity. Certainly national stupidity.

A simple 27 word amendment can fix this. Here is that amendment [in italic]:

Government Loans Act, 1978 [PDF].

Authority of Minister of Finance to borrow

2 [1] The Minister may, in such manner and on such terms and conditions as may be agreed with the lenders, borrow sums within the limit established by section 2A:

[2, added new] Before borrowing such sums, the Minister shall inform the Legislature and shall get the approval of the Legislature before entering into any agreement to borrow such sums.

[3, renumbered] Any agreement between the Minister and a lender under the powers conferred by subsection [1] shall be made in the name of the Government and shall be signed by the Minister or, if so authorized in writing by the Minister, by the Registrar.

[4, renumbered] As soon as practicable after the execution of an agreement under this section the Minister shall inform the Legislature. Etc……

If you disagree with this change in legislation, then you are agreeing that this kind of present and future national financial behaviour is still acceptable to you: “Any Bermuda morning, any Bermuda Minister for Finance can wake up, yawn, scratch his [her] butt, and then toddle off and borrow another $500,000,000 – and only tell us afterwards.”

These 27 words would be every Bermudian’s first line of defence against future acts of financial terrorism by any current or future Minister for Finance.

For your own sake, this Amendment must be in place before the next General Election. So activate your smartphone. Call and tell your MP! And keep telling and re-telling and reminding and re-reminding your MP until those 27 words become law.

If you’re Bermudian, young or old, employed or unemployed, right now you are responsible for repaying your part of today’s $2,185,000,000 of debt that nobody ever asked you about.

Watch out! That knocking on your door might be the Debt Collector. Call your MP!

 - Larry Burchall’s columns are published on Bernews each Tuesday morning at 10.00am.

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Comments (12)

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  1. Thanks Larry says:

    Thanks Mr Burchall

    Please write a piece on trickle down and the 2,000 jobs

  2. Rhonnie aka Blue Familiar says:

    Personally, I’d much rather we deal with those responsible for making it necessary for the Island to have to borrow that money to cover the debt.

    I’m pretty certain if they were held personally liable we could get a reasonable amount back in punitive damages.

    As for the Bermudian people taking the right to decide about the Government’s borrowing to cover debt. Most people, myself included, wouldn’t have a an iceberg’s chance in a volcano of knowing where or how would be a better choice than has already been made.

  3. Toddled quite a bit….I wish I could toddle day much….Tell you what…put me in charge I’ll borrow a billion and device the money evenly umongst every single Bermuda resident…we will all be set for life…money to spend in our economy…we have to pay it back anyway right?Well the way I see it….if we have to pay it back …we should have it!….politicians….politicians!…W do need no stinken politicians!!!!!!

  4. Rhonda says:

    facts given without context is a lie……
    EXAMPLE my Mom left me a fully paid off deteriorating uninhabitable shack of a house…I borrowed $600k, once construction is completed the house will be worth $1 million…

    if someone said, oh my, her mother left her a home fully paid for and now she is 600K in debt..what a shame.. would that be a true statement…or a lie by omission…

    • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

      sorry Rhonda,but i’m not really understanding your comment…BUT i’m fully understanding this one…”If you’re Bermudian, young or old, employed or unemployed, right now you are responsible for repaying your part of today’s $2,185,000,000 of debt that nobody ever asked you about.” are u sayin this is a lie??

    • Unbelievable says:

      What the heck don’t you get, Rhonda?

  5. Spliffs says:

    Thanks PLP,for enslaving Bermuda to foreign lenders.

    • Ian says:

      This guy clearly missed the point… must be the splits…

      • swing voter says:

        no he didn’t Ian….we are indebted to overseas lenders for decades to come. It really doesn’t matter anymore who caused the unnecessary debt……until election day ;-)

        • Ian says:

          Bob adds 800m as quickly as he did and the Spliffster charges the PLP alone for enslaving Bermuda?? Again, missed the point.

  6. MAKE MY DAY says:

    As usual Larry Burchall is “right-on-the-money” (No pun) and he certainly knows his “finances” – as the facts speak-for-themselves!!!

    The PLP absolutely “destroyed” BDA’s economy over their 14 yr tenure – through terrible economic management and so-called planning!!

    How the Island will ever repay this enormous amount of $$$ – is well beyond me and I think many others as well!!