Posted by: alsys | November 17, 2010

2010 Throne Speech – Business Development and Tourism; Economy and Auditor General

Now I’m no expert, in any of the above subjects. I do work in IB however and that hopefully may allow me to put forward my opinions in a way that has some relevance. Just had to get that out of the way first…

The Throne Speech is never the most exciting read and as a “blueprint”, it always is less informative than I would like, on a personal level. That’s no real criticism as it’s not really meant to detail exactly what the government plans to do but it would be nice to have something a bit more juicy. This year I think that the speech spends more time explaining which of the newly named ministries oversees what existing Governmental duties than actually saying what new the Government intends to do. Having said that, let me get right down to what I’ve been tasked to do.

The Ministry of Business Development and Tourism

Personally, this is probably my least favourite of the new ministries. This one ministry basically encompasses our two main sources of revenue under one person. Huge responsibility and hugely tasking. Not in a good way. These are two sharply divergent industries, tourism and international business. Both of them are truly a full-time job. Successfully integrating them even if only under the same banner will be difficult.

The Throne speech spends just one paragraph on this huge Ministry, mostly talking about “sustaining and increasing our competitiveness in both areas”. Which is a laudable endeavour to be sure. Both of these industries, a large part of the very foundation upon which our economy rests, are increasingly shaky. Which is why the little amount of time spent on it in the speech is disappointing to say the least. There are no new ideas presented, no new concepts of solutions, no real defining of a path forward. At the very minimum, I would have expected some new information on how to sustain and strengthen.

The Speech mentions, briefly, the idea of looking for new revenue streams. Again, something that could have been elaborated on, if only to a small degree. There are some very intelligent people in this new Government, as is our new Premier, and I would have thought they’d have been able to release some thoughts right out of the gate.

As I said above, this Ministry encompasses a huge part of Bermuda and while the sentiments expressed in the Speech are great, they seem to be just that, sentiments. Big in rhetoric but very very short on details.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

This new Ministry (yup, another one) is intended to focus on “the needs of local business and career aspirations of Bermudians”. This is great because a focusing on Bermudians and local business emphasizes the importance of Bermuda business in the microcosm of the economy. I find most people put all their importance, and often their resentment, on the international business sector. We often forget that there are other kinds of businesses as well as other kinds of jobs. Not everyone is meant to work in IB, nor in that kind of career. Variety being the spice of life and all that. However, and this is a big however, I’m a bit uncomfortable. With the separation of what was mostly Labour before into this us v them concept, it brings me to wonder why the need. I mean, our economy, our industry, our business development, our tourism industry… well, that’s almost by definition our second biggest trade. All these things are not only important to us as Bermudians but also highly important/dependent on our partners, our guest workers and businesses. Meh, it’s just a small thing and quite possibly more of a personal reaction but on the whole, this is a good thing.

The rest of the Speech’s comments on this ministry seem to focus on “assessments”. I wonder if this means more surveys and more consultants? We can only wait and see but I really do think the Bermuda public is near on  survey’d out.

The other things the Speech comments on, work permits (seem to be no real change in procedures), the expansion of EEZ (need much more details on this before I can comment as it deserves) and the post office, there really aren’t enough details to make any real comments.

Auditor General

This is always one of my favourite Government Departments due to the nature of my career. I’m definitely encouraged by the Speech on this subject. I need not bring up any of the details of how tumultuous the relationship between the Government and the Auditor General’s department has been over the last couple of years but  the tone of this Throne Speech seemed to attempt to alleviate some of that tension. What with the ideas for a new Independent Counsel, possible amendments to the Audit Act and “oversight strengthening”, this looks to be a much cleaner partnership. I actually look forward to more details on this.

The Throne Speech is supposed to give people some way of seeing what the possible year ahead looks… this didn’t do that, not for the most part. The new Premier is always touted (and occasionally ridiculed) for having such a wide array of words at her disposal. I just wish she had used a bit more of them here. I think after all this island has been through over the last couple of years and quite possibly have still to go through, a more in-depth Throne Speech was needed. Especially when you consider this is the first under the new Premier’s tenure. Might be nitpicking but I guess I just wanted to actually have a glimpse into her head. Information is key, and really, there was just too little of that. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Best of luck, Premier Cox.

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