Paula Cox may or may not be the best choice for leadership of the PLP and subsequently Bermuda.  Certainly Ms. Cox did a great job in getting TIEA agreements signed but does this lend itself more to her credibility as a trained and experienced lawyer than as someone tasked to adequately manage a budget?  Does managing a budget or getting agreements signed make for a good leader?  Certainly not alone.  Good leadership is knowing when to delegate.

It is hoped that should Ms. Cox be successful in her leadership bid that she will demonstrate the hallmark of a great leader and move not to take on everything and instead delegate responsibilities to those best suited for the each role in Cabinet.  Given the past few years this would be a welcome change.   Hopefully our next leader will ensure the person who is best trained and experienced at managing each role is tasked with the job of doing so.

Of our prospects for PLP MPs in Cabinet, here’s hoping that should Mr. Lister not be our next Premier that he is made our next Finance Minister.

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Spending trends

There’s been a lot of talk about the economy lately and yet so few examples of proper analysis.  In order to get a better idea, let’s take a look at some charts.




Here’s a picture of Retail spending as of August 2010 (we’ve emphasized 2010 for added illustration).  What you’ll note is that we’ve used the past few years worth of available data to approximate the trend for the remaining months of the year.  By rough eye we can note we’re close to 2005 spending levels, but haven’t dropped to 2004 levels*. 

*Note, data from prior to Feb 2007 is approximated based upon % change numbers due to Feb 2007 change methodology that impacted the sample size and resultant statistics.

Now that we appreciate the approximate retail sales levels and a reasonable approximation the remaining months of 2010, let’s use the annual summation of these numbers so we can compare them to duty collected each year.  Note that we’ve identified government’s and our estimates in different colours and that the axis minimums have been adjusted to provide a more comparable visualization.


There are a few things we can note in this chart.  Notice how spending levels still rose from 2007 to 2008 and yet duty collected by government declined.  We can estimate that this is due to retailers having to pay duty up front and that duty to shelf time prior to sale that we would likely see a 6-12 month lag of spending behind duty levels.  This would explain why duty levels dropped in 2008 while spending was at it’s highest.  We could also presume that the flat level between 2008 and 2009 is due to a glut of inventory where retailers bought less in 2008 but continued to sell it in 2009.  Subsequently we can look at Government’s duty estimate.  Barring changes in duty rates that are unknown to this author we can note that government has been overly optimistic regarding the 2010 duty rates, predicting a return to duty rates comparable to 2006 spending levels.  What we can note however is that we’re on track to match 2005 spending levels and if there indeed is a lag in duty rates than the ongoing decline in spending may compound the impact on duties received.

Let’s take a moment to approximate duty levels based upon prior spending levels and our approximate number for 2010, which for the last few years we’ve averaged just under 20% of spending levels.



Interesting, with this projection we can expect to only bring in $221 million in duty receipts, about $10 million less than the $232 million government projected in the 2010/11 budget.  Depending on whether duty receipts are a leading indicator for spending then we could well see even more of a decline.

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Break from the traditional to succeed as a new party

In order to gain ground a new party needs to be to local politics what Bernews has been to local news, and then take it further.  Bernews has accomplished what was seen as impossible, they’ve broken into a declining, saturated market to not only gain a foothold but a rapidly growing following.  Contrast this to our opposition parties who more closely resemble the plight of the Mid Ocean News and Bermuda Network News.  In order to succeed a new party needs to bring a fresh and game changing perspective that leverages their strengths and capitalizes on the incumbent’s weakness.

Asked less than a year ago if there was a business to be made in local news and you likely would have been laughed at.  The incumbent players held considerable market share, interest in local news was on the decline and one paper had recently folded.  Despite all of this a small outlet with limited financing and even fewer resources managed to not only break into the scene, but is rapidly becoming a major player in local news and a first go to resource for many.

Rather than follow the traditional model, Bernews broke traditional rules and made its own.  There’s no paid subscription and no print.  Articles are to the minute and breaking news is a priority over tedious articles.  Through successfully leveraging a blog style website, comments and mediums like twitter and facebook, Bernews in a span of a short few months has gone from an unknown to a heavily relied upon resource. Bernews has achieved success by breaking the mould and turning traditional media on its head.

Any party wishing to succeed in local politics would benefit from a Bernews style approach.  Copying legacy methods and going head to head with the incumbents at their own game is a losing battle ensuring little if any success.  A new party shouldn’t be encumbered by a traditional constitution, traditional party framework, the need for heavily scripted press releases, encumbering opinion pieces and traditional platforms.  These are the ways of the incumbent, not the agile innovator.  A Bernews approach to a new party would be fully leveraging new media, new technology and new democracy.

The incumbent, despite their success at leveraging new media simply can’t be as agile and as quick as a new party could be.  They’re encumbered by legacy.  Take their delegate selection as an example.  Their constitution requires a significant turnout but given supporter apathy, they’re struggling to fulfill the requirement.  In today’s fast and well connected age people want to be involved without having to turn out for encumbering meetings.  An in person meeting isn’t agile, it ties people with busy lives to a scheduled time and runs counter to the increasing trend that life is on demand rather than on schedule.  A new party could be leveraging this weakness and turning it into an advantage.

A new party could be agile and reactive.  Supporter mobilization, feedback and voting need not take massive scheduled meetings but instead could leverage new media like a website, facebook, twitter and mobile phones.  An agile organization can easily leverage these mediums to garner on-demand participation from its members.  As such, the organization would be free to pursue even greater levels of participation, involving members in far more decisions than the norm.  A new party need not be encumbered by traditional constitutions and platforms, requiring many levels of slow bureaucracy to affect change.  Instead they can let these party instruments be living and free, open to rapid change and evolution through greater member involvement.  It offers the power to break into unfulfilled niches where you could give people a taste for true bottom up participatory democracy rather than continue to subject them to our top down representational excuse for one.

A new party should be able to push out remarks and statements via all media forms rapidly and with ease, responding to and publishing statements and feedback not only from the incumbent and media but also the people.  Being agile doesn’t mean just being the voice of the people but instead giving the people a voice.  It means leveraging technology to their advantage and bring people into the fold rather than alienate them.   Make people heard, make their issues known, show that we aren’t alone and that there are far more out there who share our problems and our sentiment.  Leverage our voices to gain feedback, mobilize, evolve, change and flow with ease.  Be quick and agile, tackle issues untraditionally and focus on small and manageable pieces, not elephant sized chunks.  People shouldn’t have to work on the party’s schedule but instead the party should work on the people’s schedule.  Be agile, on demand and flexible, all the things the incumbent is less able to be.

Bernews has achieved success where others have failed because they’ve broken the mould.  They haven’t bound themselves by the traditional and instead have embraced new media, new ideas, new approaches and greater feedback to leverage it for strength rather than weakness.  It is no surprise that they’ve achieved success and it would be no surprise if a new party also did if they followed a similar pattern.  A new party needs to break the mould, embrace new media, embrace new ideas, garner feedback, be agile and bring democracy to the people, not expect the people to come to democracy.  There is an opportunity to be leveraged, a niche to be exploited, a new party could succeed, if they had the right approach.  They just need to recognize that they don’t need to play by the rules of the old because in today’s new world, the rules of success in new politics have yet to be written.

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