Is a congestion tax around the corner?

A long held suspicion of this blog has been that the introduction of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags was to enable the creation of a congestion tax for entering town (https://www.21square.com/2007/04/solving_our_tra.html). Being that congestion taxes are usually initially seen as unfavorable by the public it is likely that Premier Brown has waited until getting a mandate before anouncing it. If introduced, such a tax could do much to reduce congestion with the proceeds likely going towards the costs of free transportation.

While long time readers of this blog would know of this writer’s support for such an initiative, they may also recall the preference of such an initiative being implemented as a 6 month trial as was done in Stockholm (https://www.21square.com/2007/04/traffic_solutio_2.html). Such would allow for the people to have a say in whether it makes a difference by providing followup studies of it’s effectiveness and a public plebicite (also known as a vote) being held to let the people decide if the policy was effective. This course of action however is less than likely as public consultation at this point would delay a plan likely years in the works and having a mandate means it’d be a trivial matter now anyway. None the less, hopefully we’ll see what impact a congestion tax can do to decrease traffic.

It never ends

Surprise. The media takes advantage of a slow news period by stepping up calls for Public Access to Information legislation and, of course, that means a mass anti-PLP conspiracy must be afoot. Nevermind the fact that most people seem to agree that we need such legislation and have agreed since long before the Royal Gazette decided to run a series on it. Nevermind that it was the PLP themselves who originally proposed such legislation or that the UBP also thought it was a good idea and were willing to impose it upon themselves. No, it must be a mass conspiracy to bring down the PLP because an election is just around the corner, right?

So here we go again. The evil oppressive media is out to distort and manipulate the minds of the people. The race traitors are out in full force and anyone who doesn’t condemn those supporting PATI must be anti-PLP and likely racist. Nevermind the message, shoot the messenger.

Remember when there were those of us who wrote about the pointlessness of expressing independent thought? This is why.

It makes one wonder if people care about accountable government. If we don’t need PATI, why do we bother having the government report on anything at all? Should they not be allowed to do as they please? Should we bother having any rules or laws apply to government? Should it be acceptable for anyone to speak anything but praise for all actions of government?

Is it just me or did the PLP not just win the election? How then can this be a conspiracy to bring them down? Why is the present any less worthy of a time to pursue what most agree is the right thing to do? Ask yourself; if not now, than when?

How do we best manage our economic growth?

Please note: The following post has been composed on my mobile and as such please accept my apologies for the lack of typical exact quotes and links, as well as potential typos.

Buried within the “The leader-less opposition – what next for them” discussion over on Progressive Minds is a great few comments regarding concerns regarding controlling growth in Bermuda’s overheating economy. It is suggested that growth can be controlled through manipulating the spending power of individuals. This writer however wonders if growth could be controlled through sound policy? Whether we could moderate over-employment and development, put a temporary halt on the influx of new business and better control the effects of inflation on those impacted by it most? Would such steps offer better management of our growth for the benefit of all Bermudians?

In his commentary on the Progressive Minds blog, Oscuro Branson seems to suggest that growth can and has been controlled through a reduction of the spending power of individuals through taxation, high housing costs and manditory pensions. He essentially suggests that growth in Bermuda is caused by an increase in consumer demand and which can be controlled by increasing consumption taxes (duty) on luxury items.

This writer would readily agree with Oscuro Branson’s suggestions if Bermuda were a large country, however as a small island Bermuda’s situation may be different. As Oscuro Branson notes, Bermuda has no ability to control money supply through central banking policy due to the lack of a central bank and pegged currency and thus growth must be controlled through other means.

Before studying how we could control growth, lets assess the problem to understand what we’re attempting to solve. Growth itself is not a problem, however too much growth due to a lack of infrastructure and too much development causes over-employment, or a lack of available people in the workforce. Over-employment causes the importation of foreign workers to supplement workforce demands, which add strain to our infrastructure. This strain inherently causing inflation, a rising of prices on goods due to a devaluation of our dollar’s purchasing power.

Housing is one example of strained infrastructure where demand has risen faster than supply causing increases in rent and home prices due to the influx of foreign workers. Subsequently, because Bermuda imports the majority of it’s goods, the rise in foreign workers has also caused a rise in local spending and thus a rise in imports which has caused greater strain on our shipping, transport, storage and retail infrastructure. Being that our shipping infrastructure was originally designed for much less capacity, costs have risen to reduce the demand to cope with the difficulties of importation. This when combined with an increased number of individuals purchasing goods along with rises in housing costs, a fundamental need for all people, compounded with the snowball affect of rising cost of living causing prices to be hiked causes inflation to rise dramatically. This all occurs outside of external uncontrollable inflationary pressures such as the rising cost of oil and the rising cost of imported goods due to inflation in countries we trade with.

Being that we don’t have a central bank and our currency is pegged, we cannot manipulate our lending rates to control money supply and thus control inflationary pressures. Instead can we turn to controlling inflation and over-employment through sound policy and well planned government spending?

In times of too much growth causing over-employment, should government be reducing and eliminating unnecessary capital projects thus reducing demands on the workforce that contribute to over-employment? Beyond this, because we are a small economy, can we more easily control the growth of new international business as well? Thus, could we put a temporary halt on the formation of additional exempt business (a soft close as has been written about previously on this blog) to also reduce the influx of foreign workers? A reduction of foreign workers would hopefully reduce demands on local sectors such as hospitality, retail and construction. All of this should also be considered when questioning plans for a raft of new hotels and their added strain on our workforce and infrastructure.

While this writer does agree with Oscuro Branson on increasing duty on luxury items (though moderately and reasonably), especially the suggestion to use it to eliminate our debt and build up currency reserves, this writer also believes in the allocation of some of that increased revenue, along with the reduction and reallocation of wasteful spending towards rebates and social services vouchers to distributed equally among all people as has been discussed previously in this blog’s writings of a fairer tax system.

While this writer agrees with greater taxation on luxury items, he disagrees with utilizing a reduction in spending power as a specific solution for controlling growth as it has the potential to place greater strain on poorer elements of our society; those most affected by rises in inflation. Instead, could we control growth through sound policy by moderating over-employment and development, putting a temporary halt on the influx of new business and better controling the effects of inflation on those impacted by it most? Thus, is there a means by which we can better manage our growth for the benefit of all Bermudians?

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No longer accepting applications for senators

When defending the police crackdown on the enforcement of all laws on the radio this morning Senator Burch said:

“You can’t have citizens cherry pick what laws they choose to observe!”

Funny, isn’t that what one needs to do to increase their chances of getting into the senate? I suppose that must mean applications are no longer being accepted.

Should the UBP disband?

Disbanding the UBP to create a new party would have little impact, however, what of disbanding to yield independent representatives? Would it end this historical battle of Us vs. Them and free our people to focus on real issues? Should the UBP give the PLP what they’ve always wanted and disband for the betterment of Bermuda’s future?

Regardless of any new form the UBP takes, it is likely existing UBP members or those who have ties to the UBP will still be painted with a UBP brush. Just as any new individuals who run as a part of the UBP or as part of a party created out of former UBP members would also be. Thus would creating a new party of any name composed of former UBP members be fruitless?

However, should the UBP split into independents and allow each independent to only represent themselves, vote every vote on conscience and not be required to toe any line; could this make it harder to target the opposition as ‘them’ and open the door to independents in the community who want no ties to either the UBP or PLP and just care about making a difference to step forward with a fighting chance?

Could it also create the ability for PLP dissidents to not have to cross the floor to make a difference? They could instead leave the party, stand as independents and not require allegiances to anyone in order to retain their seat. They could support PLP motions they believe in, and vote against those they don’t. Could such a move even break down the PLP’s party line? Does this contrasts today’s situation where individuals must toe the party line and if they don’t cross the floor they are nearly guaranteed to be marginalized by the UBP/PLP divide and lose their seat. Thus, despite how internally divided the PLP may be, as long as the UBP exists will the PLP and it’s supporters always be united in opposition to the UBP?

Would independents work? If it worked before the PLP and UBP existed than why not now? Would it be possible for independents to publically, transparently and openly vote on every issue based upon either their own conscience or the believed desires of those they represent? Could they not back PLP proposals they believe in and oppose those they don’t? Would they also be more able to propose or sponsor legislation with the potential for PLP members to join in supporting it without marked as traitors?

Could the disbanding of the UBP spell an end to party politics? Would the end of party politics be what we need most in order to achieve true progress away from focusing on Us vs. Them? Would it move our people closer towards unity and closer to a focus on debating real issues as opposed to focusing on who is who?

Does the UBP’s very existance make it impossible for this endless historical battle to ever end and thus would disbanding finally cause people to focus on the issues? Would we be better off with an opposition composed of independents? Thus should the UBP give PLP supporters what they’ve always wanted and disband in the best interests of Bermuda and it’s people?

First day of recruit camp

The sky drizzles of rain as it slowly brightens signaling the beginning of another day. Largely overcast, grey clouds cover the sky as anxious and nervous new recruits of the Bermuda Regiment huddle outside the front gates of Warwick camp. Inside, regiment personel are positioned and ready to receive the new recruits as a handful of press cameras line the entry roadway to document the recruits as they arrive.

Huddled outside the front gate the new recruits anxiously and nervously await the entry into their new home of the next two weeks and the beginning of their minimum 3 year, 2 month and 2 week term in part time service in Bermuda’s army. Some have a faint idea of what to expect, having talked to friends and family who have served in the past, others have imagined and some enter with no expectations.

As the clock ticks within minutes of 8am, a squad of troops are marched around in preparation. The rain turns from drizzle to steadly sleet as the Company Sergeant Major (CSM) yells out the command “Guards! Open the Gate!” causing a torrent of troops to pour through the gates and scurry into camp.

Standing cold and in the rain, some have thought ahead to wear their issued rainsuits, others not. The recruits line up and listen to instructions from the CSM. Calls and shouting emerge from outside the front gate as people have gathered to watch the new recruits begin their new camp, with some there for encouragement while others there for entertainment.

As the recruits stand there, the CSM goes down the list sounding out names as each recruit is instructed to go and join their new corporal, section and platoon; their regimental brothers for the next two weeks as well as the rest of the year.

In a change from last years camp, the late stragglers coming in through the gates are no longer being gripped and led along by the guards to hurry them into camp, perhaps an aspect of changes within first day procedures or a result of the extra media coverage. Those arriving late are encouraged to run by the Regimental Police guards as well as the jeering crowd outside. Appearently even rain won’t keep away those who enjoy the spectacle.

This years new recruits have two weeks of 18 hour days of initial training in basic army skills and tactics to look forward to. This along with marching, kit and equipment maintenance and basic life skills. Today’s schedule, being no exception, begins with a morning of brief orientation and a firepower demonstration of the regiment’s assortment of weaponry. Following lunch, recruits will be introduced to the weapons assigned to them for their entire stint in regiment and will be instructed on the basics of marching. The day concluding with an evening introduction to the basics of kit maintenance including boot polishing, ironing and the functioning of their regimental equipment.

So begins recruit camp 2008.

Disappointment

commentary of this writer’s recent remarks of disillusionment with political blogging disappointingly demonstrates exactly the arguments this writer was making.  It supports the notion that many Progressive Labour Party (PLP) representatives and their supporters prefer to shoot the messenger rather than discuss the message.  It supports the suggestion that many incorrectly believe that the only reason anyone would criticize today’s PLP is because they are prejudiced, while also supporting the incorrect belief that bias is only acceptable when it originates from a pro-PLP source.  It is this Us vs. Them mentality that does nothing to move Bermuda forwards and is one that too many are being sucked into.  It causes us to lose focus on what actually matters and has caused many who actually do care about real issues, including this writer, to feel tired, saddened and disillusioned by Bermuda politics for it shows no signs of abating.

In an update of my ongoing disillusionment with Bermuda’s political spectrum posted on Monday I suggested:

[The PLP and it’s support base] is more interested in attacking the messenger than rationally discussing and debating the message, at which point one begins to wonder what the value of attempting to deliver the message really is.

While my remarks unfairly generalized out those good people in the PLP, they were epitomized by 30 Strong, a writer of the PLP’s youth blog.  In his commentary, rather than focusing on debating what was said, 30 Strong paints false and invalid assumptions upon my character:

  … in my opinion, [Denis] never really tried to see the good the Government was doing because he was prejudiced against them in the first place.

30 Strong’s opinions in this regard are completely incorrect and support the suggestion that anyone who criticizes today’s PLP will be attacked as prejudiced, often times by individuals like 30 strong who utilize a PLP sanctioned medium to express such views and do so while hiding behind a pseudonym.

As proof to the contrary of 30 Strong’s opinion, he is invited to meet or speak with  PLP Member of Parliament Michael Scott who can attest to the fact that a significant amount of this writer’s time and services were provided at no cost or expected compensation to the Telecommunications Ministry during Mr. Scott’s tenure in hopes of assisting our government and our island.  This directly contests 30 Strong’s view that of this writer’s supposed long standing prejudice against the government. 

Without basis for his conclusions, 30 Strong continues: 

[Denis’] disillusionment with politics is more-so because the PLP won.

Again, 30 Strong would be best to educate himself by reviewing pre-election day remarks regarding expressed disillusionment prior to stating his assumptions.  It isn’t the specific victory of the PLP that has turned many off, but instead the victory of Us vs. Them attack based politics and it’s continuing climate; of which members and supporters of both parties are guilty. 

In spite of the the examples provided above which attest to the contrary the assumed prejudice painted upon this writer, 30 strong continues in his attempts to project bias by seeming to suggest that critics should evenly focus on criticizing UBP members as equally, as often and as harshly as PLP members regardless of circumstances.  This while not placing any such requirements on those who are pro-PLP.  Indeed, should you decide to disobey and break laws simply because you don’t believe in them and happen to express pro-PLP bias despite the laws being the child of this government, well, you just might be senate material.

While ignoring that as incumbent, the PLP inherently attracts more attention to their actions, 30 Strong’s example goes no further to prove his case when he suggests:

A Denis Pitcher that criticizes Mark Pettingill just as harshly as he criticizes Lovitta Foggo will be much more highly regarded.

Truly focusing on bettering our island isn’t about winning popularity contests or getting high ratings, is about standing up for what is right.  This writer makes all attempt to do so by calling out those who in the opinion of this writer are wrong or do wrong.  However, being that Mr. Pettingill has never been written of on this blog, it is a large leap to consider that this writer should be endowed with some sort of omnipresent superpower that allows him to track his every word and action.  Indeed, comparing focus on Mr. Pettingill to Ms. Foggo is weak when considering that Ms. Foggo was a candidate in the constituency of this writer and thus was of specific focus and attention.

Indeed, even when 30 Strong attempts accusation of not having criticized the UBP as harshly, this writer maintains that when aware, he lays criticism when criticism is due.  Such an example exists when one reviews the criticism made of UBP Deputy Opposition Leader Patricia Gordon-Pamplin when she created a spectacle by launching a preemptive and public emotional attack on her husband.  In this instance this writer went so far as to question her ability to handle herself in other situations and questioned her viability as a potential leader of our society, an opinion criticized as overly harsh by numerous UBP supporters.

30 Strong’s commentary of this writer’s recent remarks of disillusionment with political blogging disappointingly demonstrate exactly the arguments made.  Thus, my dear reader, you can now look back on this time that has now been wasted defending the character of this writer that could have been spent rationally discussing and debating real issues.  You can see that if you choose to question the intentions or motives of our leadership you will have dirt thrown at you in hopes that it will stick.  Indeed, you can see that as a thinking individual your thoughts are only warranted when they agree with expectations and otherwise you will be accused of prejudice and bias as you are painted as the enemy.  It is this mentality that overshadows real issues and impedes real discussion.  As long as it does it will keep us from moving forward and will enshrine failure in our future regardless of the intentions of good will expressed by our leaders.  This is the very reasoning why some question the value and energy required to debate issues important to our future when debate is neither desired nor welcome in the ‘new Bermuda’.

New blog: Short a dollar

There’s a new blog in town, only this one isn’t Bermuda related. 

Introducing www.shortadollar.com, my attempt to apply some of my energy and analytical ability in analyzing world economics and politics. 

While content is bare for the moment, expect new things to be posted shortly.

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Be progressive: Ban the import of incandescent light bulbs

Today’s paper:

Government has called on Bermuda’s public to save energy in a bid to reduce the impact of inflation driven by rising oil prices after the inflation rate soared to a 19-year high of 4.8 percent.

Here’s a recurring thought:

According to a lab test conducted by Popular Mechanics, Compact Florescent Light bulbs “use about 70 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.”  

Has government considered a ban on incandescent bulbs as a means to promote energy savings Bermuda wide as has been done in Australia and California?