Opinion: Famous On OBA, SAGE, Richards

October 28, 2014

[Opinion column written by Chris Famous]

“We are debating the SAGE Commission Report. The Finance Minister has made a pledge that he will consult widely. He will consult with the unions before we make any major decisions as it relates to the Civil Service.” OBA Minister Shawn Crockwell, December 13, 2013

Long after this promise for public consultation, the OBA finally held its first SAGE public town hall meeting on October 8, 2014. Finance Minister Bob Richards spoke to a gathering of over 500 persons about Bermuda’s current state of finances and stated that OBA has decided to implement 16 of SAGE’s 200 recommendation.

Yes, read it again.

After promising public consultation and collaboration, the OBA announced that it has already decided what they will implement without even talking to the unions or the people of Bermuda.

For many this comes as no surprise as OBA, and Bob in particular, have shown themselves not only to be arrogant and uncaring but also willing to make decisions that will affect thousands of Bermudians without any form of public consultation.

The Minister of Affluence and Arrogance

When a lady in the audience spoke passionately about not being able to make ends meet on her government paycheck, Bob replies:

“You have only took a 4.6% pay cut, I took a 10% pay cut!”

Since being elected, Bob has pocketed nearly $354,000.00 in pay. Does it sound like he is suffering?

In response to a suggestion to move government offices out of privately owned buildings in order to save $13 million in annual rental fees, Bob replied, “The public service is much bigger than the number of buildings that we own. Much, much bigger so we will have to rent no matter what.”

He actually contradicts that with his statement about the OBAs intentions to:

“To establish a property asset management plan to dispose of unused assets…”

So if Government has unused property, why not renovate them to accommodate government staff instead of renting? Is it perhaps because most of the rented buildings belong to OBA supporters?

For example, the Department of Telecommunications rents office space at Corner House for $155,000 per year and the Internal Audit Department is at 12 Wesley Street for $172,000 per year.

So is Bob saying these could not move to Southside to save $327,000 per year?

When asked about diversifying the economy and adding new revenues such as Aquaculture to the tax base, Bob replied, “Those are all great entrepreneurial ideas…they are not ideas for the government to do because the government doesn’t have any money for that.”

Yet Bob finds money to give the rich, including multi-million dollar tax concessions to the rich for their private ventures letters of comfort [guarantee] of $125,000.000.00 to the Chairman of the SAGE committee for his private hotel venture.

When asked about taxing companies, Bob replied, “Some people have the notion that if we only increase taxes on rich people, it would solve all of our problems. I want to disabuse you of that idea. Never in the history of man have tax rates been increased and an economy grows.”

Hmmm and double hmmm.

Press rewind selector:

  • OBA has held zero public consultations before deciding on 16 SAGE recommendations.
  • Bob is paid $177,000.00 annually in taxpayers’ money.
  • Bob has dismissed ideas on how to grow and diversify the economy.
  • Bob has not sat down with the unions to find a better way than cutting thousands of jobs.
  • Bob is rude and condescending towards the very Bermudians that pay his wages.
  • Bob won’t tax the rich or cut their taxpayer income but will fire the poor.
  • Bob will be in London throwing a rum party with the room rental alone costing taxpayers approximately $13,000.00.

You drink your big champagne and laugh, all along that day. Where you gonna run to, downpresser man, where you gonna run to, all along that day – Peter Tosh

- Chris Famous

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Comments (40)

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  1. Kangoocar says:

    Being the socialist thinking types such as famous never understand the fact that what Min Richards said was true about increasing taxes and what happens every time it has been tried!!! I now invite famous to actually give some examples of when taxes were raised the economy did better??? Instead of just saying ” hmmm and double hmmm” which obviously you said that because you really don’t have a clue about economics or business, GIVE SOME EXAMPLES?????

    • Justin says:

      Agreed, like when Paula Cox tried increasing payroll tax to 16% in an attempt to increase revenue. Well that surely backfired because the next year she put it back to 14%! Same thing with the tax on new boats that year that got reversed the next with the payroll tax. I don’t believe that Famous doesn’t know this, I believe that he writes this nonsense to stir up emotions. Ewart Brown used the same strategy to get his party elected, and him and the PLP are still utilizing the same failed strategy. Goes to show there is absolutely no fresh ideas within the PLP.

      • Seen says:

        And how she tried to claim it was only a 2% increase when in fact it was a 12.5% increase.

    • Lauren Bell says:

      Well, actually it appears that Mr. Famous understands economics and business quite well.

      Our Minister of Finance MP Bob Richards was, in fact, incorrect when he said, “Never in the history of man have tax rates been increased and an economy grows.”

      For examples for you:-

      1. President Roosevelt increased tax rates – starting at a top rate of 63% in 1935 and climbing to a top rate of 94% in 1945. And guess what? Unemployment rates did go down (dropping from about 28% to 3% in that same time frame).

      2. US President Reagan’s tax increases in 1982, 1983, and 1987 saw job growth was mostly positive for these years.

      3. Conversely, we all remember increased unemployment rates that followed Bush’s attempt to cut taxes of the rich.

      4. Using the Pearson correlation, a study was conducted on the correlation btwn US tax rates and unemployment for every year from 1948 until 2010. Results indicated that there was a statistically significant negative correlation between the top marginal tax rate and the unemployment rate the following year, r(63) = -.267, p = .034. These findings suggest that when top marginal tax rates are low, the unemployment rate the following year tends to be high, and when tax rates are high, the unemployment rate the following year tends to be low.

      True economists understand that MP Richards statement is far too a simplistic view on a very complex issue. What influences unemployment rates is dependent on many, many factors; taxation is but one of them. An economy is far more complex than the intersection of two data sets……and MP Richards knows this

      Don’t underestimate the electorate’s level of understanding.

      • Creamy says:

        And when Paula Cox increased payroll tax it lead to more unemployment, and she had to reduce the tax a year later.
        The Laffer Curve.

      • WillSee says:

        You forget the war,1939-45, was a major economic stimulus for America.

  2. flikel says:

    1) “When asked about diversifying the economy and adding new revenues such as Aquaculture to the tax base, Bob replied, “Those are all great entrepreneurial ideas…they are not ideas for the government to do because the government doesn’t have any money for that.””

    I completely agree with this. This is not the job of government, but the job of private citizens, companies or entrepreneurs. If an individual or company has an idea for a private enterprise, they need to put the necessary business plan together and take steps to make this happen. Bob is right on this one, it is not the job of Government. If I have an idea for a new store, can I ridicule the Finance Minister for not risking tax payer funds to make my private enterprise a reality?

    2) “When asked about taxing companies, Bob replied, “Some people have the notion that if we only increase taxes on rich people, it would solve all of our problems. I want to disabuse you of that idea. ”

    By companies, if you are referring to IB, then please stop here. The minute you think about taxing IB, they will leave, never come back and Bermuda will be much worse off.

    In my opinion, if you have an idea….then go for it. Put together your business plan, do your homework. Don’t expect Government to do this for you…it’s not their job.

    We need to increase our tax base, but there is strong opposition to letting more people into Bermuda an increasing our population. This doesn’t make sense to me. It’s as if we expect people to come to Bermuda, shut their mouths, spend lots of money and then leave.

    • It's not just that IB will leave ... says:

      It’s not just that IB will leave but there’s a little thing called the Exempt Companies Act that says that those companies will not be taxed until 2035 (it was extended that far by the PLP because they realized that international companies were starting to consider their options if/when the former guarantee expired).

      Given that the biggest single reason that IB is here is tax it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what will happen if the government of the day does decide to (somehow) tax those companies.

      We all saw what happened when the payroll tax was increased – the island hemorraged jobs and they still haven’t come back.

  3. Just a matter of time says:

    Well said Chris. The ideas suggested to save money for the Govt or raise revenue, many coming from within the civil service itself only to be met with deaf ears, are not the same ideas that fit their agenda. So they continue to poo poo and ridicule them to make it look like there is no thought to the matter and that is why they have to push like they are doing. And the lie is continually perpetuated, especially about the civil servants that somehow they are not caring about the debt or the deficits or their country but only themselves. And that is simply not true. Simply putting civil servants out of work, one of Bda’s largest workforce, because theirs happens to be a more secure job for now has been spawned out of jealousy and envy, and this will have a detrimental effect on Bermuda’s economy. Right now apt renters and other vendors such as banks etc, love civil servants. Be careful what you ask for. There must be true public reform to effect true efficiencies. That will save money as well if the powers that be will only listen to them.

    • Curious says:

      Why dont those civil servants that have ideas for raising revenue for the Govt leave their civil servant jobs and be part of the solution?

    • SMH says:

      Just a matter of time….so according to the PLP our solution is to rely on fictitious revenue. That’s what they did for 14 years. It takes years and years for a new industry to develop. What about ALL the civil servants that we have to pay now? Maybe the PLP answer is fictitious pay checks….mmmmm?

  4. hmmm says:

    Chris Famous you really hate Bermuda don’t you. You certainly are doing your utmost to disrupt and see this country fall.

    The Sage report has been out there for ages for anyone to read, discussions have taken place publicly and feedback sought.

    Do you get expenses or funds, or in kind benefits from the PLP or the Unions ? Please declare your interests.

  5. hmmm says:

    Your Tosh quote applies to the antics of your beloved PLP. Please apply them appropriately.

    “Bob is rude and condescending towards the very Bermudians that pay his wages”

    What a crock of nonsense. You are making things up.

    Rude = “I don’t care what you think”, …a PLP attitude.

  6. inna says:

    SMH. I think this guy writes these article to simply get a rise out of anti-PLP bloggers.

    How on earth, as a PLP supporter, can you believe, even follow, the ranting written above?

    • SMH says:

      …but that’s the problem. The PLP supports do believe this type of garbage…listen to the talk shows if you want to hear ignorance of epic proportions.

  7. Curious says:

    We get it.
    You would rather shoot the messenger then address the message.
    How about trying to pick on Larry Burchall instead?
    For all of our sakes can you attempt to refute just 1 point Mr. Burchall makes?

    (Guess what.. He makes the same points that Minister Richards does!)

  8. Rhonnie aka Blue Familiar says:

    OBA has held zero public consultations before deciding on 16 SAGE recommendations.
    — Contrary to some opinions, public consultations are not mandatory. We voted these guys into office to make the decisions for us. I’m usually pretty happy to let them do that.

    Bob is paid $177,000.00 annually in taxpayers’ money.
    — And? Frankly, I wish to heck we could pay him more, given his responsibilities, which I happen to think are more important than the Premier’s, but we can’t.

    Bob has dismissed ideas on how to grow and diversify the economy.
    — Just because someone has offered suggestions doesn’t mean that they have to be taken. Funds and time are limited and choices have to be made on what is deemed the most viable options. Opinions on this differ, but he’s the guy making the decisions.

    Bob has not sat down with the unions to find a better way than cutting thousands of jobs.
    — We all know that the unions are not in the business of compromise or money savings. They’re in the business of keeping people in their jobs regardless of their value to the country so that they can keep paying their union dues. Talking to the unions about finding betters ways to decrease expenses is kind of like talking to a bird about how not to have feathers.

    Bob is rude and condescending towards the very Bermudians that pay his wages.
    — Just because he says things people don’t want to hear, doesn’t make him rude and condescending. It makes him honest and aware that sometimes you have to lay things out in black and white so they can be clearly seen.

    Bob won’t tax the rich or cut their taxpayer income but will fire the poor.
    — Simple logic. Tax the rich more, or cost them more money and they leave. They leave and what we were getting is gone. Foot effectively shot. As for ‘fire’ the ‘poor’… the poor as a whole aren’t working, and if they’re working for Government odds are good they’re making more than I am and therefore are not poor unless they are lousy at money management. Also no one has said ‘fire’ unless the person happens to be completely incompetent in their job in which case they should have gone long ago.

    Bob will be in London throwing a rum party with the room rental alone costing taxpayers approximately $13,000.00.
    — If that party brings more attention to Bermuda and brings Bermuda up as a good business centre in people’s minds, it’s well worth it. Besides, if it’s within his budget… where’s the problem?

    No, don’t misunderstand what I’ve said as me agreeing with everything that the OBA is doing, has done, or is planning to do. I don’t, I haven’t and I probably won’t. But there is absolutely no point in creating something out of nothing, just because you’re unhappy with the day things are.

    Stop being part of the problem and try being part of the solution, which is about doing, not about talking.

  9. el presidenti says:

    One would have thought ALL Belco personnel would have been far too busy with the job they are paid to do than write a load of nonsense for the local media.

  10. Guy Carri says:

    So what are the 16 rec’s? Do they include job cutting or is this an ASSumption?
    The multi-millon tax concessions – would anything have been viable (spent) if there were no concessions? How much was spent (and circulated to companies and jobs) even though there were concessions?
    You live within your means. If you make $1m/yr, you’ll live like you do. If you make 50k/yr you’ll live like you do. Point is, your lifestyle is reflective of your paycheck. 10% is still greater rate cut than 4%. Yes he lives a better life than MANY on this island. I see your point, but does it matter how much you make (and spend) or how much you save?
    “The rich” own companies, pay people, make this island generate revenue (admit that or not). Tax them, they have less incentive to operate…and you see where that goes…
    Who signed the lease for that building across from the new police station and who owns it? – I honestly can’t remember. One thing is for sure, PLP had tons of time to move gov offices and save money AND it was suggested. Suddenly it’s a good idea.

    As for arrogance – the PLP carries that like NO other and still doesn’t see it.

    • LiarLiar says:

      The PLP spent millions of our monies (with the ultimate beneficiaries hiding behind a blind trust) on a new police building and now house the police executive in their mates building that just happened to be built at the same time right actoss the street.

      And the fact that famous seems to insinuate that the offloading of unused Govt assets are all office buildings exemplifies how ignorant he is of facts or how low he is willing to go in his opinion pieces.

      But then again this is the same guy who said that when the OBA reduces the size of the Govt car fleet that the police and fire service will haev no vehicles to attend emergencies! Disingenous at best and a liar at worst.

      On top of that Mr. Richards is absolutely right when he says teh Government doesn’t have money to start new industries. It is not the job of the Government to create new industries, but instead ensure the infrastructure is available to accomodate them. So why doesn’t Famous come up with a comprehensive aqualculture plan and then apply to Govt for a tax exemption to get off the ground? I mean that is what the hotel developers have done. The Government didn’t build the hotels and they didn’t build up the developers. What Famous omits is that his beloved PLP voted in favor of the tax concessions and as a result of them passing approx. $100mn will be plowed into redeveloping the Hamilton Princess alone. Guess Famous doesn’t value these jobs that were created by the unanimously approved concessions.

      Actually I am stil waiting to hear him explain why he didn’t have one word to say when the PLP outsources and/or privatized several Govt functions:

      - numerous airport functions
      - recycling pick up
      - TCD emissions testing
      - Global Hue appointment for tourism
      - Dr. Brown’s outsourcing of the HIP function to a foreign firm
      - hiring a foreigner to sculpt the Dame Lois statue
      - etc.

      Famous will not answer these questions which essentially nullifies his arguments as it appears that it is simple minded partisanship that now makes him oppose the same actions that his team undertook while in power.

      Anything Famous to say on the above? Or will you cower as usual?

      • SMH says:

        Thank LiarLair….Neither Christopher nor his beloved PLP have come up with a plan to pay down our $2B+ debt. The silence on that is deafening. Unfortunately the easily led lap all these type of “facts” up each time he write an article like these.

  11. Tolerate says:

    I honestly will say I only skimmed over the article as the information provided is usually not confirmed and there is often too much slights to take as a serious report.
    “Since being elected, Bob has pocketed nearly $354,000.00 in pay. Does it sound like he is suffering?”
    Is this figure based on the Finance Ministers salary times two years? Last I checked, our last failed Finance Ministered made $448,184.00 during the same time frame (as reported on February 22nd 2011); and did a right job of cocking up this Island?
    Don’t remember too many opinion pieces by Mr. Famous noting this? And arrogance? Wow Mr. Famous; did you just arrive to Bermuda? Please stay on track and keep to the point. Adding the constant jibs only show pettiness. This is in NO WAY in defense of the OBA, but really makes it hard to take your “story’s” serious.

    Just saying….

  12. SMH says:

    I think that because Mr.Famouss’s lack of maturity and intellectual prowess, he gets off on writing these types of uneducated opinions just to get a reaction. He is completely incapable of putting together a sensible, comprehensive opinion piece so this is the trash he writes instead. Mr. Famouss need’s our sympathy much more than he needs our criticism.

    • Ronald says:

      I agree. I actually feel sorry for this man, I pity him. He is so filled with hate for Bermuda. Why does he want to see Bermuda in constant turmoil? I pity anyone that wakes up with this much hate inside them. Really sad.

      • Impressive says:

        How can it his non approval be categorized as hate??? He has stated a list of complaints he has with the government and more directly, the Minister of Finance.. I would really like to know how it can be seen as hate//

      • jonah says:

        Ronnie, dude, hate is relative and I saw mucho hate during the PLP years. Massive!!!

  13. flikel says:

    “Bob has dismissed ideas on how to grow and diversify the economy.”

    This is not entirely true. During the meeting at Pier 6, one gentleman suggested Government purchase lots farmland in the US, hire Bermudians, grow food and then ship the food back to Bermuda. Bob was not very keen on this idea.

    Should we ridicule and chastise Bob because he does not want to get into the farming and shipping business?

  14. watching says:

    Well said famous.
    Let the haters hate…it means you are scoring goals!

  15. Smh says:

    A part of me wants these amateurs to get back in power so that they very people who voted for them will finally see the level of their incompetence because it’s the blue collar workers that would be the hardest hit. It’s like trying to reason with someone who wants to swim in a fast current when the last 14 people all died from it. You keep trying but eventually you have to walk away in order to save yourself.

  16. Just a matter of time says:

    It’s fascinating how Chris’ comments bring such a negative reaction each and every time he writes an opinion. To the point where you would think he robbed your mother. That’s because he hits the nail on the head each and every time and the truth hurts. What is wrong with his suggestion of saving money on the costly rents? It’s ok to knock civil servants but not question the huge yearly rents paid to private individuals and companies who benefit greatly? What is wrong with questioning the huge concessions given to hoteliers? He is speaking the truth. The reaction to Min Richard’s arrogant attitude towards the audience at Pier 6 was brought on by himself alone. It proved once and for all how extremely out of touch he is with the people. Bringing on a consultant as the moderator knowing the sensitivities of Govt expenses towards consultants was a foolhardy choice at best highlighting their cluelessness and severe lack of being able to put their finger on the pulse of the country. Where were his Govt people while he sat at the front table taking the hits? Oh right, they were HIDING in the audience wishing a hole could swallow them or snuck out quietly. Not one of them stood up to defend or support his points. NOT ONE. My ‘heroes’. Amazing. The OBA have already made several broken promises in less than two years on the job. Oh and having that costly rum party will bring in the tourists, like really? Just a matter of time…

  17. Chris Famous says:

    Way funny comments. The OBA / Bob promised 2,000 jobs for Bermudians.

    Anyways thanks for reading.

    • LiarLiar says:

      Still cowering from the hard questions huh Famous?

      Not suprising one bit.

    • Creamy says:

      So, no answers. Just throw out another PLP slogan.

  18. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    I can give you 26 reasons why the tourists do not come here each reason begins with the letter “T”

  19. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    Job opportunities

    Job 1) Clean water tanks.
    Job 1999) Start your own business,employ some people.

  20. PANGAEA says:

    What is Taxing to me, is Taxing to you.

  21. clearasmud says:

    This appears to be one time that Famous has struck a nerve because it is all true! Still loyal goverment supporters choose to ignore that what they know is true and question that which they have a different opinion on.

  22. PANGAEA says:

    Never under estimate the power of a woman in the job market.