Saturday, February 27, 2010

2010 Bermuda Budget

Now I'm no economist but, still the 2010 Budget raises some interesting questions in my mind.

1) Where are the spending cuts promised?

We were promised 10% cuts in departmental spending. Instead we've seen a 9% rise in total. With the Department of Education being one of the few that takes a cut.

The government blew through the good times with a spend spend spend attitude, putting very little aside for when times turned bad and now that we are in those bad times they seem completely unable to deal with it. The country's debt is going through the roof, passing this government's fiscal problems off to my generation to fix, and the Bermudian people are facing hard economic times to which the response of government is to raise taxes. That being said however we do see an increase in the amount of money being put towards financial assistance for lower income families which is commendable however how much can the government do when the very people they are trying to help are being forced out of their jobs by the taxes paying for the government's thrifty attitude.

On the point of the Department of Education's budget cuts it may not be as shocking as it may seem to be on the surface. While we do face major issues with the public educations system on the island one must take account of the fact that the number of students enrolled in the system has constantly decreased over the years (undoubtedly a symptom of the failures of the system). It will remain to be seen if the spending cuts are in line with the reduction in students and if the budgeted amount is enough to turn the failing system around but, for now I believe they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

2) Why tax employment when we already have a problem of unemployment?

Perhaps someone can explain it to me but, I always thought that the more someone has to pay for something, the less of it they will want. Since the budget includes a 1% rise in the amount of money employers will have to pay for every worker won't that actually discourage employing more workers? Or even force small businesses to lay off workers or close down? Perhaps I'm missing something, or our Government knows something about the economy that the rest of us are missing.

3) Why are they still claiming that no one saw this coming?

Again Ms. Paula "cog" C0x claims that this is something that no one saw coming, stating that it was a once in a 100 years event so they couldn't have been expected to prepare for this. As Shadow Minister of Finance Bob Richards retorted post-budget, apparently his name is No One. 3 years ago he warned that something was coming and was shouted down as a scaremonger... Oops.

As I have already mentioned there is also the question as to why the Government wasn't putting money away when the economy was booming to deal with even unexpected downturns? Save while you can, spend when you must should have been the motto of Ms. Cox's department but, then again, how can the head of the department tasked with managing the government's finances and spending do anything? It's not like it's her job or anything. She's just a cog in the wheel.

4) How much more of this kind of fiscal management can Bermuda take?

Who knows.. On this one there's not a lot of room for..

Wishful Thinking

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hmm.. Now Thats An Idea

An interesting article I found on the BBC:

MPs to be watched on local issues

Web-based democracy activists have kicked off the first round of a project to see if MPs keep their promises.

Meetings are being arranged up and down the country to draw up lists of issues important to locals.

Once compiled, prospective MPs will be quizzed on their views about the issues and the responses recorded.

After the election, the voting behaviour of MPs will be monitored to see if the policies they back or vote against match their words.

Better democracy

The meetings are being organised by volunteers involved with the Democracy Club, a non-partisan online group that aims to ensure people are better informed about their political representatives.

Seb Bacon, the co-ordinator of Democracy Club, said it was set up to become the place people could turn to for neutral information about MPs.

"It gives people an insight into the people they are voting for rather than them just getting information from the party machine," he said.

Volunteers who sign up to help get given weekly tasks, said Mr Bacon.

"It's about giving people small bite-sized tasks to further transparency and improve democracy," he said. "It's about doing something small to achieve that bigger goal."

Democracy Club now has about 3000 volunteers spread across 98% of the UK's constituencies. The task they have been given this week involves setting up meetings to brainstorm a list of important local issues.

Mr Bacon said he only expected a few meetings to be held but, so far, about 40 are being arranged. An indicator, said Mr Bacon, of the desire among the electorate in the wake of the expenses scandal to ensure politics becomes more transparent.

"The next phase is going to be turning those local issues into questions we can put to candidates," he said.

"The questions must be answerable yes or no so at a glance they can compare what the candidates are saying," said Mr Bacon.

"Exactly how it is going to be useful, we'll have to see," he added.

Democracy Club has grown out of volunteers involved with the TheyWorkForYou website which monitors the activities and voting records of MPs. Information gathered by Democracy Club will appear on the TheyWorkForYou site.

Tom Steinberg, founder of MySociety which created TheyWorkForYou, said gathering the information would act as an incentive for MPs.

"If you have an opaque regime where people can get away with things they will try to get away with them," he said.

"This will give them the incentive to do right in the first place," he said.

In October 2009, Mr Steinberg started advising the Conservative Party on ways to make government more open and efficient. At the time, Mr Steinberg said he would be doing the advising and MySociety would remain "strictly non-partisan".

It would be interesting to see such a thing implemented in Bermuda, it would certainly improve accountability although it would still depend on the electorate caring... I wonder if even with that system in place in Bermuda race and petty party politics would still be the orders of the day though. As long as they are, no amount of accountability is going improve Bermuda politics.

Busy busy life > Blogging but, my posting should become more regular again soon.

Wishful Thinking