Bermuda Govt debt has been climbed73% as income dropped$383mi
Published: January 21. 2010 10:28AM
Breaking News: Bermuda's current account surplus falls by $383 million
Bermuda's current account trade surplus dropped by $383 million in the third quarter of 2009.
Balance of Payments figures released by Government today showed that the current account surplus was $542 million in the third quarter of 2008 but slumped to $159 million in the same period in 2009 as income fell due to declines in investment income and personal incomes.
Payments rose by about $100 million, mainly because of an increase in investment income payments out of the Island.
“All major accounts experienced a deterioration in their balance compared to last year, with the income account recording the largest decline in its surplus balance,” the department stated.
For the first nine months of 2009, Bermuda's current account balance of payments has a surplus of $698 million, compared to a surprlus for all of 2008 of $1.239 billion. The balance of payments surplus in the fourth quarter of the year is traditionally the smallest and was $80 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Ewart Brown,PLP gross overspending and mismanagement!!
we hear today about 5 primary schools closing for the sake of economics, yet we've got a $15,000 per month spanky office in Washington DC an empty space, without dedicated staff, more than four months after its official opening,
Washington D.C. office is empty
"A Washington DC office opened by the Bermuda Government four months ago to "immeasurably strengthen the links" between the Island and the US is still without staff.
Premier Ewart Brown described the opening of the facility close to Capitol Hill — which required $58,000 to set up and renovate and costs taxpayers almost $180,000-a-year to lease — as a "watershed event" for the country.
It was intended that three staff would be based there and would work with Congressional staffers to further Bermuda's interests in the States, particularly in relation to tax issues.
But the Cabinet Office admitted this week that it had not yet advertised the jobs.
Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque told The Royal Gazette: "The posts have not been advertised but significant interest has been shown in working for the Government in this forum.
"Working in the Washington DC office may present an opportunity for a secondment or transfer within the public service and as such external advertising will be considered after full consideration of these and other options."
This newspaper understands that because the office was officially opened in the middle of the financial year — in September, to coincide with Government's attendance at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Weekend in DC — the money to pay for salaries was not available in the 2009/10 Budget.
Instead, it was decided to stagger recruitment and pay lobbyist Darlene Richeson, a locally-based consultant to the Government, to keep a watching brief on the office.
It is believed economic constraints, coupled with the Obama administration's focus on health care rather than tax policies, convinced Government it would be sensible to hold back on filling the three posts.
Mr. Telemaque said Ms Richeson "regularly" attended the office and that "a number of meetings" had been held there since the official opening.
He could not specify how many meetings but said: "The establishment for the Washington DC office has been approved by Cabinet. The intent of the office has not changed since it was first announced."
The office, which is seven blocks from the US seat of government, will cost taxpayers $1.79 million to lease for ten years.
The administrative costs of running the facility, on the third floor of Liberty Place, at 325 Seventh Street NW, are $374.59 a month and the final figure for renovating and setting up the space was $58,328.
Dr. Brown announced the DC outpost in the House of Assembly last May when he said it would serve as further evidence that the Government "pays more than lip service to the ideals of sound regulation and genuine partnership".
He said it would be for use by Government ministers and senior officials and would provide a "localised source of information and key contact personnel at the disposal of Congressional staffers charged with briefing and preparing legislators". The Premier added: "It will immeasurably strengthen the links between our two countries."
Last night, both opposition parties questioned whether the money being spent on the office could be better used.
Bermuda Democratic Alliance MP Donte Hunt said: "In these times of economic downturn and resulting strain on the Government Budget, we have to ask whether the sums being spent represent an effective use of the people's money.
"We would be interested to know what meetings have been held at the location to justify the cost. Surely delegations visiting Washington can rent office space on a temporary basis for meetings and instead use the money currently allocated to permanent rent obligations to upgrade and maintain facilities for housing those families that are at the fringes of our economy in Bermuda."
He added: "Subject to a reasonable explanation from Government as to how the facility has actually been beneficial to the people, the Alliance suggests that this commitment be reconsidered."
United Bermuda Party leader Kim Swan said: "The failure of the Bermuda Government to get the Washington office up and running flies in the face of the importance the Premier attached to its opening. "It appears to be one more example of the Premier and his Government paying lip service to an issue as opposed to getting something done."
Mr. Swan said the rationale for opening the office — "to have a ready presence in Washington to deal with legislative and regulatory change that might harm Bermuda's international business sector" — had not gone away.
"And yet, the office remains an empty space, without dedicated staff, more than four months after its official opening," he said. "Concerned Bermudians must ask why this is so."