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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online
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February 17. Traditional barriers in Bermuda are to come down as the island opens some doors in a bid to boost the economy with foreign investment. David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced an end to the 60:40 rule to guarantee Bermudian majority ownership of island businesses. Now only 40 per cent Bermudian ownership will be required. Mr Burt also signaled that global legal firms could get an easier path to an office in Bermuda, while the Government will examine ways to expand “the types of banks that can operate in Bermuda”. Mr Burt told MPs that many Bermudians were “resistant to the idea of foreign capital as it has never benefited them”. He said: “Foreign investment is not the enemy, it is required to sustain our economy and our way of life. The true enemy of all Bermudians who feel marginalized is an unbalanced and unfair economy that allows the haves to get richer while the have-nots fall farther behind, not foreign investment.” Mr Burt also announced that payroll tax for the island’s lowest earners is to be cut. He said that employee-rate bands will be adjusted to give tax relief to people earning less than $96,000 a year. The lowest employee band will be reduced by 0.75 percentage points to 4 per cent. Mr Burt also pledged that the 2018-19 financial year will be the last in which the net level of debt, expected to stand at $2.42 billion by the end of March, will increase. He said that the Progressive Labour Party government would move away from “austerity” to “stimulus”. Mr Burt admitted a relaxation of the 60:40 rule would “face opposition from both sides of the political spectrum”, but insisted it would increase access to capital for Bermudians. Mr Burt said: “We need more economic activity in Bermuda and that means we must welcome investment from non-traditional quarters and not shy away from the competition it may create.” He added: “This government is determined to create the conditions and opportunities that usher the ‘left behind’ from the stands and sidelines to the playing field. Bermudian entrepreneurs should not have to rely on their inheritance or banks that often refuse to lend to fund their ambitions. In the truly competitive marketplace, the consumer will always be the winner as all Bermudians want and seek lower prices for goods and services.” He also signaled that planning rules will be relaxed to allow higher residential and mixed-use buildings in the Hamilton economic empowerment zone with a view to maximizing space and boosting the economy. Condominium ownership restrictions will be eased in the same area to boost demand, generate wealth and give extra work to the construction industry. The Government will also not implement the second phase of a payroll-tax increase introduced by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration, so tax rates for employers will remain unchanged. Mr Burt said the payroll-tax bands change would mean a couple earning $48,000 a year each, will get a $720 annual increase in their take-home pay. A worker who earns $48,000 a year will be $360 a year better off, those on $36,000 a year will be $270 better off, while those on an income of $60,000 will also take home an extra $270. Mr Burt, delivering his first Budget, told MPs: “Anyone making less than $96,000 will see a reduction in taxes; anyone earning more than $96,000 will not see any change in their payroll taxes. This reduction in taxes will reduce the Government’s payroll-tax yield by approximately $5.1 million.” He added that a loophole to allow business owner-managers who earn their income in whole or in part through a share of profits to declare “notional salaries” — less than they earn — for tax purposes will be closed. Mr Burt said: “To further address this problem ... the notional salaries will be replaced with a requirement to declare all income received on a cash basis. This change will improve transparency, assist enforcement and largely eliminate the risk of under-declaration and underpayment. It is estimated that this change will increase payroll-tax revenues by at least $10 million.” A proposed professional services tax on accounting and law firms will not be imposed. Mr Burt was speaking as he told the House of Assembly that total expenditure for the year will be $1.18 billion, an increase of $2.5 million on the OBA’s budgeted spend for 2017-18. He said: “This was achieved despite the Government’s pay awards to public officers, which cost the Government approximately $9 million.” Capital expenditure — spending on bricks and mortar — will be $62.2 million for the year, $5.2 million lower than the original estimate for last year. Revenues for the year are estimated at $1.09 billion — $47.5 million or 4.6 per cent higher than the original estimate for the last financial year. Mr Burt added: “This level of spending in necessary in order for the Government to implement its growth strategy while ensuring we have the facilities and equipment necessary to deliver public services. Sin taxes are also set to rise, with an increase in tax on tobacco “to reduce the inconsistency between duty rates on cigarettes and tobacco. Finally, the duty on wines will be raised by 30 cents per litre in April 2018 to achieve additional customs revenue.” A proposal to tax commercial rents has been shelved, but land tax rates on commercial properties will go up by 5 per cent as a temporary measure. The move is expected to bring in an extra $15 million a year, although economic empowerment zones will be exempted. Mr Burt said the Tax Reform Committee will continue to examine commercial rents. A new sugar tax on some products, which is to be finalized after next month, will go ahead. Healthy food items would face a reduction in tax or have that tax eliminated altogether. Duty on eggs and many vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, and fruit such as oranges and apples will be reduced to 0 per cent from 5 per cent. Mr Burt added: “To reduce the cost of living, the Government will lower the duty rate on textiles, which include linen and blankets and shoes.” Duty relief will also be given to sports clubs with youth programmes, which will include full duty relief on uniforms and equipment. Mr Burt told the House: “This budget, as should be every budget, is about the people. The results of July 2017’s General Election are concrete proof of the rejection of trickle-down economics. This government accepts the economic realities of Bermuda today, but we are determined to forge a future that defies and shifts those realities and empowers this country’s citizens. Traditional businesses will be respected but must compete for their market share and come to terms with the voices of others at the table who will, in turn, drive this economy.”
February 17. A change to payroll taxes for taxi operators is being praised by the president of an island organisation. Difficulties collecting tax from drivers meant only $350,000 of the expected $1.2 million yield was achieved last year. David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced an annual charge of $1,000 will now be implemented, to be paid at the time of registration. Leo Simmons, president of the Bermuda Taxi Owners Association, said that the move created a “win-win situation” for operators and the Government. Mr Simmons said that the change meant that registered operators “are going to pay less than what we have been”. He added: “Now, Government doesn’t have to go around and spend money chasing down delinquent drivers that owe taxes, so that saves the Government money in manpower and time.” Mr Burt said in his Budget Statement: “To increase the yield from this tax and make it easier to collect, we will amend the payroll tax provisions for taxi operators by implementing an annual charge of $1,000, to be paid at the time of registration.” The fee will be paid by taxi owners, and then passed on to the operators. Mr Burt said that under the current system, full-time taxi operators are currently required to pay $2,233 per year in payroll taxes. Part-time operators are required to pay $1,118 annually. He said of the change: “This fee represents a reduction in payroll taxes to taxi operators of at least 50 per cent.” Mr Simmons said that for taxi owners, passing on the cost to drivers worked out at “about $80 a month”. He added: “So when you start breaking it down into days, it’s less than $3 a day.” Mr Simmons said the tax change was something the organisation had been working on for about three years. He added: “We started this negotiation under the old government.” Mr Burt said that while there were more than 550 licensed taxis in Bermuda, there were only 411 active taxi drivers registered with the Office of the Tax Commission. He added: “Even fewer drivers actually file returns.” Mr Burt said: “This Government recognizes the challenges faced by taxi operators. However, it is important that taxes are collected.”
February 17. The Bermuda Government stands to reap millions by tightening payroll tax on notional salaries in owner-managed businesses. Branded an “often-abused part of the payroll-tax system” by David Burt in his Budget speech, notional salaries were estimated to yield $10 million of tax revenues for the coming fiscal year. As a form of income from employment that is not categorized as salary, the Premier and Minister of Finance said “notionals” were applied to “deemed employees” receiving an income “partly or wholly through sharing the profits of the business instead of only through salaried remuneration”. As an example, Mr Burt told Parliament that “partners in local law and accounting firms may declare a notional salary of $200,000, while they may actually earn $1 million from their business”. Such a partner would be taxed on the $200,000, but not their remaining earnings, he said. Notionals came under fire in the pre-Budget report, which signaled that such arrangements for “professions deemed particularly at risk of under-declaration” were being examined by the Office of the Tax Commissioner. The report vowed that the OTC would enforce notionals “more robustly”, with added resources to “cut back on abuse and ensure that all pay their fair share”. The Payroll Tax Act 1995 is to be amended, requiring deemed employees to declare all income received on a cash basis, Mr Burt said. Overall, the yield from payroll tax is estimated at $454 million in 2018-19, or nearly 42 per cent of total government revenues. The suggested professional services tax was axed after industry consultation. With the PST standing to increase the cost of business, and tax reforms in the United States singled out as “the most pressing threat that we face at this time”, the Government has opted to avoid imposing an extra cost on local businesses. Calling payroll tax “the enemy of job creation”, Mr Burt said the second phase of the payroll-tax increase put forward by the former government would not be implemented. Accordingly, all employer rates will remain unchanged — a step that would be “favourably received by many”, according to John Wight, president of the Chamber of Commerce. Tax relief was promised for lower-income workers struggling to make ends meet, with a break for those earning less than $96,000 a year. Other tax initiatives included absolving employers who gave jobs to disabled persons from their portion of payroll tax, and a year’s tax exemption for new entrepreneurs meeting Bermuda Economic Development Corporation standards. The bipartisan Tax Reform Commission, unveiled earlier in the week, is to consult with retailers for potential tax adjustments to their sector. Although taxes on commercial rents were also dropped from the Budget, a temporary increase on rates for commercial properties was projected to add $15 million to the public purse. Telecommunications taxes have also been approved, with hikes to mobile phones fees and the government authorization fee. Fees for most services provided to residents and businesses will be increased by 5 per cent — a biennial increase projected to bring in an extra $5 to $6 million, Mr Burt said.
February 17. Premier David Burt has pledged $3 million to help bolster Bermuda’s battered bus fleet. The Premier and Minister of Finance said during his Budget Statement: “Rebuilding the bus fleet is a priority for this Government as we support public transport.” He said the $3 million would be used to purchase eight new buses. The money formed part of $64.2 million promised to the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs. Mr Burt said the funds would ensure the island “can have a reliable public transportation system on land and sea”. Transport minister Walter Roban told The Royal Gazette that he would answer questions on the announcement next week. Problems with the ageing bus fleet have led to daily route cancellations amid a shortage of operational vehicles. A fleet of minibuses was hired for school runs in the fall to supplement traditional buses. In December, a government spokesman confirmed that dedicated school buses would not run when the minibus contract concluded at the end of the year. Sandys resident Janice Battersbee began exploring the idea for a carpool scheme for schoolchildren amid the ongoing bus shortage. Ms Battersbee said yesterday the announcement of money for the new buses was “a positive step”. She added: “It would all be a step in the right direction based on what we’ve been experiencing. At face value, it’s a good thing.” Ms Battersbee said the poor state of Bermuda’s buses was not something that happened overnight. She explained: “It was a long time coming to this situation, so it’s going to take a while to get out of it. Nothing’s going to happen at the snap of a finger — and you’re talking about money. We have to be realistic about it.” Ms Battersbee said she had received a few new e-mails from people “who are enthusiastic” about her carpool idea. She said: “It’s good to know that people are interested. You never know when something like this might be needed.” Mr Roban announced last month that the first of four new buses had arrived on the island. At the time, he said that the remaining three vehicles were expected “within the next four months”. Mr Burt also pledged yesterday to upgrade the island’s fleet of trash trucks to “ensure the reliability of trash collection”. Figures provided in the Budget book showed that an average of seven trash trucks have been available for work weekly. The Ministry of Public Works was given a budget of $74 million, down $1 million from last year’s allocation. Mr Burt explained: “Most of the savings will be achieved by moving Government departments from private facilities, thus reducing the Government’s rental expenditure.” Works and Engineering has been allocated $30.5 million. Jonathan Starling, executive director at Greenrock, said he understood there would be a “substantial increase” to the repair and management budget for the Department of Waste Management. Mr Starling added: “If that’s correct, then I think that’s welcome. We won’t see the impact of that right away of course, and thus the switch to once a week collections.” Mr Starling said the group welcomed the “substantially” increased budget for recycling. He said: “I’m hearing it’s a 42 per cent increase, which is certainly welcome.” Originally budgeted at just under $1.3 million, $911,000 has been spent on recycling. Next year’s estimate sets the cash just shy of the $1.3 million mark.
February 17. Seniors will see their pensions rise at the same rate of inflation for the rest of the Progressive Labour Party’s tenure. However, Charles Jeffers, an advocate for the elderly, warned that seniors would continue to struggle because of the soaring costs of medicine and groceries. Delivering the Budget for 2018-19 yesterday, David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said: “The Ministry of Finance will keep the Progressive Labour Party platform promise by increasing pensions for our seniors by the rate of inflation this year, and every year as long as we are in office.” Responding, Mr Jeffers, the deputy chairman of Age Concern, said: “That’s wonderful, except are they going to tie the cost of prescriptions, groceries and medicine to the cost of living? If insurance goes up by 5 per cent or 10 per cent or even more, what good is that? If there’s no control over prescription drugs, especially for seniors, then what good is that? We are grateful for anything that’s being done in a positive way for seniors, but unless other things are controlled then it might not count for so much.” Mr Burt announced further good news for seniors by directing an extra $1.8 million to the Ministry of Health to fund programmes for long-term care and public health services. He said this would enable the reopening of the fourth floor of the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility, which has been closed since September 2016. Further funds will be made available for community health nurses.
February 17. The Government’s plan to reinstate a $25 million subsidy to the Bermuda Hospitals Board is not enough to bring island’s hospitals back to a healthy financial position, a spokeswoman warned yesterday. She added that the grant would help delay the impact of “unsustainable decline in the BHB’s revenue” but would not halt the decrease on its own. It came after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, announced that the Government would be bringing back the subsidy, which was cut by the former Government in last year’s Budget. Delivering the 2018-19 Budget, he said: “We have restored the $25 million subsidy for hospital care for children, indigents and seniors, which was cut by the former Government to fund the America’s Cup. By reinstating this funding, we aim to progress the sustainability of the hospital while larger reforms in our health system financing are implemented.” The spokeswoman said the BHB welcomed the Premier’s confirmation that the $25 million would be restored. “This will help delay the impact of the unsustainable decline in the BHB’s revenue. She added: “Unfortunately, it is not enough to halt the decrease in revenue and bring the hospitals back to a healthy financial position.” Speaking in the House of Assembly in March last year, former finance minister Bob Richards said the cuts in last year’s Budget were in part because the BHB had amassed $100 million in cash reserves. BHB chief executive Venetta Symonds told the Public Accounts Committee in May that the $25 million reduction in its 2017-18 budget subsidy had caused serious financial difficulties for the board. Although she said that the cuts would have no impact on clinical services for the year 2017-18, she warned that the situation was unsustainable. The PAC heard that the BHB faced a minimum $40 million deficit for 2017-18. The spokeswoman added yesterday that the subsidy decrease in last year’s Budget “has contributed to a deficit budget position for the current financial year, which ends on 31 March. BHB anticipated that the $25 million subsidy decrease would apply only to the current financial year. BHB was informed at short notice last year of the $25 million decrease in the subsidy for hospital services for seniors, youth and the indigent. The impact of this was compounded by significant decreases in fees for diagnostic imaging, dialysis and laboratory services, and changes to the way fees for continuing and long-term care patients are handled.” She added: “BHB continues to focus on internal efforts to improve value and efficiency, such as defining the scope of clinical services we offer, following a financial recovery plan and focusing on quality improvements.”
February 17. The Bermuda Government will borrow an extra $90 million in 2018-19 and put back the date to balance the budget by another year. David Burt’s maiden Budget yesterday focused on economic stimulation at the expense of austerity. One of the results is that the deficit will not be eliminated in 2019-20, as had been projected by the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration. The Progressive Labour Party had promised in its 2017 election platform to “balance Bermuda’s budget by 2019”. The Government will require extra borrowing of $89.7 million next year and $30.6 million the year after, before posting a budget surplus of $31 million in 2020-21. Mr Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, emphasized that the net debt would stop increasing by 2019-20, because some of the borrowed funds in that year will be paid into the Sinking Fund — which contains money set aside to pay down debt in future years. Mr Burt yesterday claimed the previous OBA government had “tried to cut its way out of a recession without investing for the future”. Mr Burt said: “It is clear that our economy is stagnant and therefore unable to provide for those in our country, and so we must ask the question: how are we going to fix the problem? Finance ministers around the world have been faced with the same question: ‘do we cut spending, or do we invest to grow the economy?’” He said voters in last year’s General Election had “voted for an end to austerity”. Fiscal performance for the year ending March 31 is better than the projections made by Bob Richards, Mr Burt’s predecessor, in last year’s Budget. According to the revised estimates for 2017-18, expenditure is $2 million less than projected at $921.5 million, while capital expenditure will be $7 million less than planned at $60.4 million. Meanwhile better-than-expected income from customs duty, payroll tax and stamp duties helped revenue to track about $2 million ahead of budget at $1,044.3 million. Meanwhile interest payments on debt were $4.5 million less than projected at $119.5 million. So the 2017-18 deficit will be about $119.2 million — significantly better than the $134.7 million deficit that was expected — and 35 per cent down from the deficit in 2016-17. As a result, the net debt at March 31, 2018 will be $50 million less than was projected, at $2.42 billion. “As this is the last year in which we are expecting our net debt to increase, the Government will not be raising the country’s debt ceiling,” Mr Burt said. “Our debt ceiling is currently set at $2.5 billion and the Ministry of Finance will exercise prudent management of funds in this year, our final year of net borrowing, to ensure that we remain below the debt ceiling.” During the coming year, Mr Burt has budgeted for a 0.2 per cent increase in public spending and a 4.6 per cent rise in revenues. The biggest single boost to revenue will be the $15 million increase to land taxes from a temporary tax increase on commercial properties, which will swell total land tax revenues by 24 per cent to $78.3 million. Another $10 million boost is seen coming from the payroll tax reform on notional salaries, which will require “deemed employees” who earn much of their income through share of profits rather than salaries, now having to declare all their employment-related income. Debt servicing costs will grow in the coming year to $188.2 million, comprising $124 million in interest payments and a $64.2 million to the Sinking Fund — meaning it will consume about 17 cents of every dollar of revenue coming in. Mr Burt said the Government’s aim was to bring this figure down to ten cents. However debt servicing will no longer cost more than the largest ministry, as it did in 2017-18. The Ministry of Health, whose budget gets a 16 per cent boost for next year after the restoration of the $25 million subsidy for hospital care of indigents and seniors, is now the most endowed ministry with a $190.6 million budget. Mr Burt said: “It is expected that this will be the last year in which our debt service costs will increase; debt servicing is predicted to drop to $181 million in fiscal year 2019-20 and to reduce further to $169 million in the following fiscal year.” The Government’s debt has risen more than eightfold over the last decade on its way from $277 million in 2008 to $2.42 billion by March 31 this year. Net debt is expected to peak at $2.44 billion in a year, before dropping to $2.34 billion in 2021. Bermuda has no debt repayments scheduled for the next fiscal year. However, $215 million of seniors notes fall due in 2019-20 and a further $100 million in 2020-21.
February 17. David Burt conceded he will face opposition from within his own camp as he outlined plans to reform the business ownership 60:40 rule. In yesterday’s Budget Statement it was announced foreigners, who could previously only own 40 per cent of a business, would now be able to own up to 60 per cent. Mr Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said the move would help end a “vestige of our oligarchic past”, and allow Bermudian entrepreneurs to access capital if turned down by banks. He said: “I recognize that this proposal will face opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. There will be those who want to protect their existing interests, and there will be those who feel that allowing entrepreneurs access to foreign capital enabling them to compete is not consistent with putting Bermudians first. However, I want to assure the people of Bermuda that the Government will consult and strike the right balance to ensure that the revision of this rule has the intended consequence of providing more opportunities for Bermudians to become wealth-generating owners and not just employees.” Mr Burt had signaled the plan as a method of stimulating growth last month, when he described the 60:40 rule as a “sacred cow” that may need to be touched. Yesterday, he explained that the origins of policy bear witness to the history of Bermuda and its systemic inequalities. He said: “The rule is the ultimate in protectionism, which runs counter to the claim of Bermudian entrepreneurship. If wealth is concentrated in a few hands, and those hands will never invest in anything that competes with their vested interests, a true entrepreneur is confronted with a policy that essentially tells him or her, ‘We’ve got ours; good luck getting yours. In 2018, this vestige of our oligarchic past must be ended. We need more economic activity in Bermuda, and that means we must welcome investment from nontraditional quarters and not shy away from the competition it may create. In the truly competitive marketplace, the consumer will always be the winner, as all Bermudians want and seek lower prices for goods and services.” Mr Burt noted Bermudians would prefer to own 40 per cent of a million-dollar business than 100 per cent of a $50,000 business. He said: “For too long, the majority of Bermudians have been spectators of the creation of wealth in this country. This government is determined to create the conditions and opportunities that usher the left-behind from the stands and sidelines to the playing field. Bermudian entrepreneurs should not have to rely on their inheritance or banks that often refuse to lend to fund their ambitions.”
February 17. The Bermuda Diabetes Association welcomed the inclusion of a sugar tax and a cut in duty rates for healthy items in the 2018-19 Budget yesterday, but emphasized the need for education on healthy eating habits. Chairwoman Debbie Jones said: “Education is key and education about eating healthy needs to be in the schools, workplace, grocery shops and restaurants. The public needs to be educated about the toxic effects of sugar and why it is important to drink water and eat healthy.” She called for posters with instructions on how to read food labels and recommendations for daily added sugar intake. It came after David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, said: “In line with the Ministry of Health’s consultation paper, it is proposed to introduce the sugar tax as an increase in the rate of duty on a defined group of items. The sugar tax will be finalized after the consultation period ends on March 1, 2018.” He added the Government would reduce or eliminate duty on healthy food items to offset the expected increase in customs duty from the sugar tax. Mr Burt said: “Accordingly, duty will be reduced from 5 per cent to 0 per cent for eggs, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, oranges and apples. A portion of the revenues from the Sugar Tax will be earmarked for educational programmes to improve health outcomes.” Ms Jones said having the Government on board was key and welcomed the proposed sugar tax while also applauding the Government for reducing the tax on health items. Ms Jones said: “Bermuda, like so many countries around the world, is facing a diabetes epidemic which is threatening the healthcare dollar not to mention the quality of life of so many who have, or are at risk of, type 2 diabetes. Education is key but often it takes a government intervention for the public to realize that this must be important. Some people will say that reducing sugar intake should be personal responsibility. It still will be personal choice but it will cost more to drink sugary non-nutritious drinks than it will to drink water.” Sara McKittrick, BDA diabetes educator, said she was happy to see that a portion of the revenue would be used for educational programmes. She added: “An ideal outcome would be that people began to make improved decisions based on knowledge and understanding in an effort to improve their health.” Bruce Barritt, general manager of John Barritt & Son, pointed to adverts run by the company last week, which stated the sugar tax is a bad idea. The soft drinks distributor said it agreed that Bermuda has a serious problem with obesity and accompanying chronic health issues. It added: “We commend the Government for tackling the matter, but disagree with placing the blame for this situation wholly on the consumption of sugar and particularly on sugar-sweetened beverages. Obesity is a public health issue of serious concern and if we want to get serious about it, we need to start with education to influence people’s behavior and habits, not taxes. Obesity is a complex issue, and no single food or beverage category alone is responsible for the obesity crisis. Consequently, a tax on a single food or beverage type will not solve the obesity crisis.” The company also questioned why imported baked goods and chocolate are not included in the sugar tax. John Wight, Chamber of Commerce president, shared his personal view on the sugar tax because a chamber task force is examining the proposal. He said: “It is not surprising that the proposed sugar tax is catching the attention of many people. In my view, the bigger discussion that needs to take place first is around the health of our community, which statistics show is not good. The obesity issue in Bermuda is alarming, and is manifested in so many health issues such as diabetes and high rates of certain cancers. Good health is a function of exercise and a proper diet. I would like to see us develop a national strategy on getting healthy followed by a plan of action to make this happen. Reduced healthcare costs, reduced absenteeism at work — there are so many positive results that Bermuda can benefit from if we approach it from the top down.”
February 17. An accountant who admitted laundering a fortune stolen from the Bermuda Government has been jailed for seven years and four months by the Welsh courts. Confiscation proceedings are now under way to recover the funds stolen from the island by Jeffrey Bevan during his time in the Bermuda Accountant-General’s office. Bevan, 50, from Cwmbran, Wales, has been convicted of laundering £1.3 million, according to the Bermuda Police Service. In total, $2.4 million in Bermuda currency were laundered through various bank accounts in Bermuda and the UK. The conviction closes four years of joint investigations between the Organized and Economic Crime Department of the Bermuda Police Service and the Welsh authorities. Bevan pleaded guilty to all 13 counts on the first day of his trial at Cardiff Crown Court. Co-defendants Joel Ismail and Paul Charity, both from Leicester, who had also faced joint charges conspiring to launder money stolen from the Bermuda Government, were unanimously acquitted last week. The court heard that Bevan, a qualified accountant, was employed as payments manager for the Bermuda Government between 2011 and 2013 on an annual salary of $112,000. During that time he used his expertise to manipulate payments software system to steal $2.4 million in 52 separate thefts over two years. Detective Superintendent Sean Field-Lament, head of the Crime Division of the Bermuda Police Service, thanked all who took part in the case. He said that there was “no doubt that as a result Bermuda is safer for the combined efforts demonstrated in this investigation”.
February 17. The annual Bermuda Fashion Festival is set to take place in July. Now organizers are calling on models, retailers and salons interested in taking part to sign up. A spokeswoman for the City of Hamilton said: “The Festival is celebrating its 9th year as one of the most highly anticipated events on Bermuda’s social calendar. 2017 saw its departure from a summer show to a fall event. This was largely in part due to the busy summer season afforded to Bermuda by the activities and events associated with the America’s Cup. The Bermuda Fashion Festival is back to its summer roots and is anticipating another exciting week of exceptional fashion and high energy runway shows.” The Festival will kick off with the Evolution Retail Show featuring fashion from local retailers on July 8. The Hair & Beauty Show will take place on July 9 and the International Designer Show will be on July 12, followed by the Local Designer Show on July 13. The Bermuda Fashion Expo, featuring all of the local designers in the Festival as well as other Bermuda designers, will be held on July 14. The spokeswoman added: “The Festival is calling on all retailers and salons interested in participating to sign up no later than March 1, by sending an email to email@example.com and requesting an application package. Submissions by local designers should be delivered to by 5pm on March 2. Successful applicants must be prepared to embark on a four-month mentor programme that will prepare them to introduce their brand at the Local Designer Show. Model auditions will take place on March 10 and March 11 at the lower level of Pier 6 between 11am and 3pm. Children aged six and over will audition on March 10 and adults will audition on March 11. All models are asked to wear a white fitted tee and blue fitted jeans or shorts. Men and children must wear white sneakers or black dress shoes and ladies are asked to wear black heels, four inch minimum, no wedges. All adults are asked to bring a swimsuit.” The festival will run from July 8 to July 14. All runway shows will be held under canvas at No. 1 Car Park. The criteria for the design proposal can be found online at bermudafashionfestival.com. For more information, contact the event project manager on 279-5254 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 17. Eugene Phillips, a Progressive Labour Party stalwart, has been recalled by Ewart Brown, the former premier, as the “spirit” behind the seniors medical insurance scheme FutureCare. Dr Brown, along with his wife, Wanda, expressed “heartfelt condolences” at the death of Mr Phillips, of St George’s, at the age of 95. Dr Brown said that Mr Phillips, while not a Member of Parliament or of the Senate, nor an officer of the PLP, had supported the party “with every bone in his body”. He added: “Eugene Phillips was the spirit behind FutureCare. It was he who stood up at every Central Committee meeting and made the case for Bermuda’s elderly population who found themselves without health insurance 30 days after ending their employment. Even when his fellow members grew impatient with him, he persisted in his effort, and the PLP subsequently launched FutureCare. We salute him and his family for this memorable contribution. May he rest in peace.”
February 16. Premier & Minister of Finance David Burt today delivered the Budget Statement for 2018-19. Here are the main highlights:
February 16. Payroll tax for the island’s lowest earners is to be cut, the Premier and Minister of Finance said this morning. David Burt said that employee-rate bands will be adjusted to give tax relief to people earning less than $96,000 a year. The lowest employee band will reduced by 0.75 percentage points to 4 per cent. Mr Burt also pledged that the 2018-19 financial year will be last in which the net level of debt, expected to stand at $2.42 billion by the end of March, will increase. He said that the Progressive Labour Party government would move away from “austerity” to “stimulus”. Mr Burt added the 60:40 rule, designed to guarantee majority Bermudian ownership, would be reversed, even though it would “face opposition from both sides of the political spectrum”. He explained: “We will increase access to capital for Bermudians by reforming the 60:40 rule to one that only requires 40 per cent Bermudian ownership to operate in the domestic economy.” Mr Burt said: “We need more economic activity in Bermuda and that means we must welcome investment from non-traditional quarters and not shy away from the competition it may create. This government is determined to create the conditions and opportunities that usher the ‘left behind’ from the stands and sidelines to the playing field. Bermudian entrepreneurs should not have to rely on their inheritance or banks that often refuse to lend to fund their ambitions.” Mr Burt said: “In the truly competitive marketplace, the consumer will always be the winner as all Bermudians want and seek lower prices for goods and services.” He also signaled that planning rules will be relaxed to allow higher residential and mixed-use buildings in the Hamilton economic empowerment zone with a view to maximizing space and boosting the economy. Condominium ownership restrictions will be eased in the same area to boost demand, generate wealth and give extra work to the construction industry. The Government will also not implement the second phase of a payroll-tax increase introduced by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration, so tax rates for employers will remain unchanged. Mr Burt said the payroll-tax bands change would mean a couple earning $48,000 a year each, will get a $720 annual increase in their take-home pay. A worker who earns $48,000 a year will be $360 a year better off, those on $36,000 a year will be $270 better off, while those on an income of $60,000 will also take home an extra $270. Mr Burt, delivering his first Budget, told MPs: “Anyone making less than $96,000 will see a reduction in taxes; anyone earning more than $96,000 will not see any change in their payroll taxes. This reduction in taxes will reduce the Government’s payroll-tax yield by approximately $5.1 million.” But he added that a loophole to allow business owner-managers who earn their income in whole or in part through a share of profits to declare “notional salaries” — less than they earn — for tax purposes will be closed. “To further address this problem ... the notional salaries will be replaced with a requirement to declare all income received on a cash basis. This change will improve transparency, assist enforcement and largely eliminate the risk of under-declaration and underpayment. It is estimated that this change will increase payroll-tax revenues by at least $10 million.” But a proposed professional services tax on accounting and law firms will not be imposed. Mr Burt was speaking as he told the House of Assembly that total expenditure for the year will be $1.18 billion, an increase of $2.5 million on the OBA’s budgeted spend for 2017-18. He said: “This was achieved despite the Government’s pay awards to public officers, which cost the Government approximately $9 million.” Capital expenditure — spending on bricks and mortar — will be $62,2 million for the year, $5.2 million lower than the original estimate for last year. Revenues for the year are estimated at $1.09 billion — $47.5 million or 4.6 per cent higher than the original estimate for the last financial year. Mr Burt added: “This level of spending in necessary in order for the Government to implement its growth strategy while ensuring we have the facilities and equipment necessary to deliver public services. Sin taxes are also set to rise, with an increase in tax on tobacco to reduce the inconsistency between duty rates on cigarettes and tobacco. Finally, the duty on wines will be raised by 30 cents per litre in April 2018 to achieve additional customs revenue.” A proposal to tax commercial rents has been shelved, but land tax rates on commercial properties will go up by 5 per cent as a temporary measure. The move is expected to bring in an extra $15 million a year, although economic empowerment zones will be exempted. Mr Burt said the Tax Reform Committee will continue to examine commercial rents. He said a new sugar tax on some products — to be finalized after next month — will go ahead. But he added that “healthy food items” would face a reduction in tax or have that tax eliminated altogether. Duty on eggs and many vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, and fruit such as oranges and apples will be reduced to 0 per cent from 5 per cent. Mr Burt added: “To reduce the cost of living, the Government will lower the duty rate on textiles, which include linen and blankets and shoes.” Duty relief will also be given to sports clubs with youth programmes, which will include full duty relief on uniforms and equipment. Mr Burt told the House: “This budget, as should be every budget, is about the people. The results of July 2017’s General Election are concrete proof of the rejection of trickle-down economics. This government accepts the economic realities of Bermuda today, but we are determined to forge a future that defies and shifts those realities and empowers this country’s citizens. Traditional businesses will be respected but must compete for their market share and come to terms with the voices of others at the table who will, in turn, drive this economy.”
February 16. The salary bill for David Burt’s two-member personal staff comes in at $227,000. Mr Burt, the Premier, said a total of four people were employed under the Premier and Opposition Leader Personal Staffs Act 1983. The information was revealed in responses to questions posed by Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, in Parliament last week. He said Owen Darrell, his Chief of Staff, received $122,064 per year in the post. Mr Burt described Mr Darrell’s responsibilities as “co-ordinating the Premier’s schedule, activities and projects, and managing inquires to the Premier from residents”. He said Mr Darrell has been employed since July 20. Dana Selassie, the Premier’s special adviser, is paid $105,765 annually. Mr Burt said Dr Selassie provided “communication support”. She has been employed since November 6. Mr Burt said Liana Hall held the post until October 31. Sessions House also heard that a housekeeper for Clifton — the Premier’s official residence — was employed at $35 per hour. Judy Benevides, employed part-time as aide to the Opposition leader, is paid $43,769. Mr Burt said Ms Benevides had been employed since August 22. The salaries of Mr Darrell, Dr Selassie and the housekeeper are the same as they were for those holding the same positions under Craig Cannonier, the former Premier. Mr Cannonier’s personal staff salary bill was revealed to be roughly $418,000 in 2013. Michael Dunkley, who succeeded Mr Cannonier after he stepped down in the wake of the Jetgate scandal in 2014, axed Dale Jackson, Mr Cannonier’s chief of staff, and press secretary Charmaine Burgess. Mr Cannonier said Mr Jackson was paid $122,064 annually, while Ms Burgess received $113,480 per year. Mr Dunkley was not immediately able to provide the names, job titles and salaries of his personal staff when he succeeded Mr Cannonier. He said: “Cabinet Office would have that.” A request for the information sent to a ministry representative was not responded to by press time. Mr Dunkley said the personal staff he had hired as Premier was the “lowest in recent history”. Asked to clarify if he meant the salary spend was the lowest or the size of his personal staff, Mr Dunkley said: “I would suggest both, as I had no housekeeper.”
February 16. One Bermuda Alliance MP Craig Cannonier has been described by sources close to the party as angry about a reshuffle that has returned Michael Dunkley, the former premier, to the Opposition’s front ranks. Mr Cannonier’s tenure as premier ended abruptly in May 2014 when he stepped down over the furore about the Jetgate political scandal, and was replaced by Mr Dunkley. Mr Dunkley, in turn, resigned as leader after the OBA’s overwhelming defeat to the Progressive Labour Party in the July 2017 General Election. At that time, Mr Dunkley said he was heading to the OBA back benches while remaining as “a senior statesman in the caucus room to at all times express what is on my mind and support the team”. Mr Cannonier was subsequently given the shadow portfolio of public works after Jeanne Atherden became Opposition leader in November. However, last night an OBA spokesman said that Mr Cannonier had told Ms Atherden in January that he wished to “take a step back and focus on his business”. The spokesman added that Mr Cannonier had indicated that because he did not win the leadership in November, he “had a little concern about the direction of the party” after the resignation of Nick Kempe, who quit as OBA chairman days after his removal from the Senate by Ms Atherden. According to the spokesman, the Opposition remained in an “adjustment period”, and plans to hold a retreat in a couple of weeks’ time. He said: “After that, Mr Cannonier will take a look at the party and see where we are moving forward, and whether he wants to get involved again in a more high-profile way.” A source close to Mr Cannonier said he had spent significant time overseas on business in recent months. With the resumption of Parliament, Mr Cannonier’s shadow portfolio has been taken up by Opposition MP Trevor Moniz, while Mr Dunkley is now the Shadow Minister for Government Reform. Mr Cannonier was not available last night for comment. The OBA spokesman said: “Once Ms Atherden became leader, she had conversations with Mr Dunkley to try and get him more involved.” With the appointment of PLP MP Lovitta Foggo as Minister of Cabinet Office with Responsibility for Government Reform, Ms Atherden sought Mr Dunkley for the shadow role based on his experience as a former premier. Mr Dunkley confirmed that his background made him suitable for the job, telling The Royal Gazette: “The most important thing is that I want to work with my colleagues to be the best Opposition we can, to grow the party, and to make it as strong as possible. I can fill any role.” He called Mr Cannonier “a very important part of our team”. He added: “I have the greatest respect for Craig. For comment, you will have to speak to him directly, but he supports me as well. Anytime you have a change in leadership, you will see that person will want to put people in the places they feel most comfortable. That’s their prerogative.” Another source within the party ranks said the shuffle was “not a seismic shift” and said the OBA would “see more changes as we go forward”. The OBA member added: “It’s a tough time for everyone and we have got to regroup.” Mr Moniz, who has previously served as public works minister, was said to have agreed readily to serve as shadow, in addition to his role as Shadow Attorney-General.
February 16. Bermuda’s lack of speed-limit signs and speed cameras and “complete disregard” for hired scooter riders has come under fire from a tourist. Don Jones, a repeat visitor, contacted the Bermuda Tourism Authority to complain and the BTA forwarded it to The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign. Mr Jones also highlighted a lack of consistency in speed-limit signs, with some still in miles per hour rather than kilometers per hour. The tourist, an experienced scooter rider on Britain’s roads who has hired bikes on visits to Bermuda, said: “Speedometers on possibly all imported two-wheeled vehicles are in km/h making it impossible for any driver to judge the correct speed. I do not recall any guidance on speed limits or how to convert km/h to mph being given by the scooter hire company.” Mr Jones added: “There are virtually no speed limit signs in evidence apart from the approach to Hamilton. There appears to be no use of speed control cameras, apart from possibly outside Hamilton. There is one automatic speed indicator when leaving Hamilton, but it appeared to suffer from a random fault.” Mr Jones said he experienced at least four instances of “extremely dangerous driving” by riders and drivers on a recent three-day visit to the island. These included overtaking at high speed on blind bends — and one where a company van overtook him as he prepared to turn right with his indicator on. Mr Jones said: “As many visitors depend upon being able to hire scooters to make their visit to Bermuda viable in both practical and economic terms, it seems extraordinarily short-sighted of the Bermudian authorities to ignore this blatant disregard for the very visitors the island wishes to attract. It will only take reports of serious accidents to spread on social media for long-term damage to be done to what is, sadly, a declining Bermuda tourist market.” Mr Jones said some tourist problems could be solved by including speed-limit conversion labels on vehicles and an awareness campaign designed to make drivers and riders aware of safe clearance distances to overtake two-wheeled riders, including pedal cyclists. Mr Jones added that there appeared to be no visible enforcement of road safety laws. Inspector Robert Cardwell, head of the police roads policing unit, said: “The BPS has a very active presence on Bermuda’s roads and they work together with the services’ resources from other operational departments aiming to be strategically deployed island-wide to progress the intents of the BPS roads safety strategy. The intent is ultimately to calm the roads and save lives. We also work with our partners in the Bermuda Road Safety Council, Piece of the Rock and Cada to increase awareness of road safety. From time to time, we partner in an enforcement capacity with the Transport Control Department traffic enforcement unit.” Mr Cardwell said the public could keep updated on the work of the RPU by following its Twitter account on @bps_rpu.
February 16. A Hamilton car park and sections of the parking lanes on Front Street will be closed today because of road resurfacing work. A City of Hamilton spokeswoman said asphalting of the westbound parking lane between Parliament Street and Burnaby Street would start early in the morning. She said: “This necessary work is part of the upgrades around the city that must take place as per the required course conditions for the MS Amlin World Triathlon in April.” The spokeswoman added that No 5 Car Park, the westbound parking lane and the eastbound parking lane opposite the asphalting works would all be closed to parking. She said: “The City advises that there may be a short time period when the westbound driving lane may be closed during the work. There will be diversion signage in place when this happens and for the duration of the asphalting. The City apologizes for any inconvenience caused during this time and urges all motorists to use caution when traveling in the affected area.” The spokeswoman added that the work was expected to be done before the evening rush hour.
February 16. A Devonshire man appeared in Magistrates’ Court this morning to face child porn-related charges. The man, who cannot be identified, was charged with eight counts of accessing child pornography. Court heard that the charges related to hundreds of pictures and videos, some displaying sexual content involving animals and bondage. The materials were alleged to have been accessed by the accused between April 2010 and March 2015. An arraignment on the matter was set for April 2. The accused was released on $20,000 bail with two like sureties.
February 16. A St George’s man was fined $2,500 this morning after admitting fishing in a protected area. Arnold Pitcher, 34, pleaded guilty to attempting to take fish from a protected area last summer. Magistrates’ Court heard that Pitcher and another man were spotted aboard the vessel Cha Ching inside the Eastern Extended Grouper Protection area on September 2. Baited lines were seen in the water. Pitcher told court that he had fished part time for the last few year. He said that the chart he was using did not indicate the area was protected. He told court: “It was an honest mistake.” Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said: “This is still a serious offence.” Mr Wolffe fined Pitcher $2,500.
February 15. David Burt faces a crucial balancing act tomorrow with his first Budget as Premier, former premier Sir John Swan warned. Sir John called Mr Burt “the best of the best that we could have to lead the Progressive Labour Party. Not only does he have the intelligence. He is also a visionary committed to stepping outside the box when he recognizes the need to do so.” The former leader of the United Bermuda Party, who was Premier from 1982 to 1995, said that Mr Burt “knows he has, in his own party, some of the adversaries and naysayers and people who would like to maintain the status quo, whatever that is in their minds. There are those who still feel there are scores to be settled, and that you need to take from one and give to the other. It seems to me, and I have every faith in the Premier, that he has to take bold steps. He can’t be caught in the rhetoric of Court Street, unions or pressure groups, and he has to encourage his colleagues in supporting him.” The Premier has vowed that the 2018-19 Budget will be “entirely” directed at building growth. Mr Burt has already declared his intention to relax the 60:40 rule on foreign ownership of local businesses, arguing that it would boost competition. Balancing business interests against appeasing the party base would be “a leap of faith”, Sir John said. “I’m happy to support him. I think he can do it,” he added. He noted that Mr Burt was also in the rare hot seat of being Minister of Finance as well as Premier — a role last held by Paula Cox of the PLP. Sir John said: “A Premier puts himself on the line by being Minister of Finance. You’re saying we have massive economic problems, and you can’t ask someone else to do it while you sit back and be the nice guy.” Mr Burt’s most urgent priority was wrestling Bermuda’s debt to the ground, Sir John said. “He also has to take on the commercial side of Bermuda, not just the working man. Nothing has changed in the nomenclature of how Bermuda does business, other than the America’s Cup, which was a one-off. We’re still as protectionist as we’ve been for the last 40 to 50 years.” While he praised the One Bermuda Alliance finance minister Bob Richards for doing “a hell of a job” arresting the island’s decline, Sir John said: “We still never stimulated the economy. I don’t want to hear anything about term limits or foreigners taking our jobs. What we need is more foreigners with capital, and with products and intelligence to produce income for Bermuda. The Premier says he’s going to change it. I hope he does. If he tries to pay dollar debt with penny income, we will just sit here. International business has had a wonderful 30 years, but it’s had its high, and we need to accept that.” Sir John also acknowledged the need for “buses, ferries, schools and garbage trucks — we have to catch up, and that’s going to cost money”. His remarks came as the Bermuda Union of Teachers called for help in the Budget as teachers were forced to buy basic supplies from their own pockets. Meanwhile, the urgency was underscored by Arthur Wightman, leader of PwC Bermuda, who said it was “important not to underestimate the significance of the next few years to the island’s sustainability”. Mr Wightman said the Government could “lay the groundwork for public sector reform, eliminate the fiscal deficit and begin to pay down the debt, create incentives to grow and diversify the economy, boost employment and reduce income inequality. The challenge is that a number of these opportunities vie for the thin resources available in the short term. Such is the nature of the Budget,” he added. A successful government would have to do “more with less and grow the tax base while at the same time making it more progressive and equitable”, Mr Wightman said. “We applaud the critical focus on wholesale tax reform (through the Tax Reform Commission) and on economic growth (through Bermuda First). These and public-sector reform will be key to placing Bermuda on a sustainable path that should facilitate greater income equality. The electorate and the business community will be keeping a keen eye on any signs of fiscal indiscipline.” Mr Burt named the Tax Reform Commission’s membership yesterday, which he said would “go a long way in dealing with some of the biggest challenges which we have”. The Premier added: “Our system of taxation creates inequality by its very nature and structure, and our over reliance on payroll tax at the same time discourages job creation in Bermuda. “We have to balance those two aspects and I’m quite certain that this diverse team will be able to look at the issues that we have and will be able to arrive at recommendations that will help Bermuda as we try to get past that impasse and have broad-based tax reform that encompasses all sections of Bermuda society.” Asked what will be done to address the issue before the commission’s report is done in six months, Mr Burt said: “You will have to come on Friday morning.”
February 15. The Tax Reform Commission is facing a difficult but achievable challenge, according to new chairman Ronald Simmons. Mr Simmons, a former director of the Bermuda Monetary Authority, said he was honored by the opportunity to serve as chairman. He said: “The Premier has selected a great team of distinguished individuals. Given the numerous risks, uncertainties and challenges facing our economy, we have a lot of work to accomplish. However, I am confident we will be able to provide the Premier and the Government recommendations for comprehensive tax reform that is equitable, efficient, effective, transparent and fair, while enhancing Bermuda’s global competitiveness.” David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, unveiled the members of the bipartisan commission yesterday. The commission, designed to make Bermuda’s tax system fairer, stimulate economic activity and create jobs for Bermudians, was one of the Progressive Labour Party’s General Election pledges. Mr Burt said: “I think the work of the Tax Reform Commission will go a long way in dealing with some of the biggest challenges which we have. Our system of taxation creates inequality by its very nature and structure and our over reliance on payroll tax at the same time discourages job creation in Bermuda. We have to balance those aspects and I’m quite certain that this diverse team will be able to look at the issues that we have and will be able to arrive at recommendations that will help Bermuda.” In addition to Mr Simmons, the commission will include Jeanne Atherden, the Opposition leader, and Wayne Furbert, the Junior Minister of Finance. Other commissioners include Donald Scott, a former Cabinet Secretary, Mitch Blaser, chief operating officer of Ironshore Inc, Craig Simmons, Bermuda College economics lecturer, and Brian Holdipp, senior corporate lawyer at MJM Ltd. Mr Burt said: “These commissioners have a mammoth task ahead of them, but I am confident they are up to the challenge. As promised, this commission has representation from both political parties and a cross-section of expertise in Bermuda’s economy.” He said he believed the commission would be fair, and that he looked forward to receiving its report in six months.
February 15. A new international entertainment hub is to be created at the West End’s Cross Island and Moresby House, the Minister of Public Works revealed today. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said that Savvy Entertainment Bermuda had taken over management of the former America’s Cup home in the short-term and would use it to host events that do not require permanent structures. Danilee Trott, Savvy Entertainment Bermuda COO, added the Bermuda branch of the global entertainment company also planned to convert Dockyard’s historic Moresby House into an “A-class” recording studio. She explained that Cross Island “would host a broad range of events including corporate functions, themed parties, live music concerts, skating rinks, team resorts and so much more”. Ms Trott said: “The space will also be available for rent for local promoters and producers, as well as organisations to host their own private events. Our plans for Moresby House include converting it into an A-class recording studio as a destination event for international recording artists as well as for the use of local artists.” Colonel Burch, who said that Dockyard managers Wedco had teamed up with Savvy Entertainment Bermuda, explained that the previous Wedco board had commissioned a sub-committee to look into Cross Island, which was purpose-built to host the America’s Cup Village. He said the executive summary was still being reviewed by the new board. But he added that the board had decided “in the short-term, to make this area available for events that do not require any permanent structures”. Colonel Burch said: “While this is not a decision that should be rushed into, we must also keep in mind that these facilities are Bermuda assets which should not continue to sit vacant while a decision is made. An application has been made to the Department of Planning and we expect to see activity on Cross Island in the very near future.” Colonel Burch said events would have a pre-negotiated fee and any revenue would go to Government and help defer the $39 million construction cost. He added: “Wedco will be releasing further detailed information on their website and other social media on the procedures and contact for booking the island. Colonel Burch also explained that the company, founded by Anthony Blakey, a songwriter for record label Sony, would be “looking to use their expertise and worldwide contacts to help develop local talent”. He added that the charity branch of the company, Savvy Foundation Bermuda, had already applied for charity status on the island. Colonel Burch said former Progressive Labour Party premier Dame Jennifer Smith had been invited to join the board of the international foundation and to be resident director in Bermuda. Tim Blakey, Savvy Foundation president, said the charity’s “four pillars are art, music, health and wellness, and creative entrepreneurship”. He explained that its exchange programme would give local youth the chance to travel and get international exposure. Mr Blakey added: “Our goal here is, of course, to inspire, to educate and to empower them. The main thing in education is that with knowledge comes power. The youth definitely needs that.” Michael Scott, MP for Sandys North, said the programme presented “immense opportunities” for the island’s youth, particularly those feared to be at-risk or involved in gang activity. Singer Olivia Hamilton, who performed at a showcase and industry networking event hosted by the company last month, said she had personally benefited from the company’s work. She added: “Not only are they providing a platform for Bermudian talents but a springboard and an avenue for us to be on the world stage. If you are Bermudian and you have talent — there is so much talent here — come out and get with the team.”
February 15. One of the most severe years for catastrophe losses has proven to be a “stress test” for Lancashire Holdings. The Bermuda-based company suffered a pre-tax loss of $3.2 million, or three cents per share, in the fourth quarter. For the year, the pre-tax loss was $72.9 million, or 36 cents per share. There were declines across key indicators, including gross and net premiums written, and return on equity, which was 0.9 per cent lower for the quarter and 5.9 per cent down for the year, when compared with 2016. Catastrophe losses weighted heavily, particularly in the second half of the year, with net losses of $147.3 million attributable to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and earthquakes in Mexico, during the third quarter, followed by $34.5 million of losses in the fourth quarter as a result of wildfires in California. Alex Mahony, group chief executive officer, said the losses had provided “a real-time ‘stress test for Lancashire’s enterprise risk management function, so it is pleasing that we have passed another important test of our model. Overall we feel that we had the right underwriting strategy, risk levels and capital headroom to absorb these events when balanced against the underwriting opportunity that presented itself during 2017.” Mr Mahony said that as a result of the impairment of capital among insurers and reinsurers following more than $100 billion of catastrophe losses, he felt “the market has finally turned a corner and we are witnessing rate increases, or at least stability, across most of the classes of business we underwrite”. However, he believes this year to be challenging, but he expects Lancashire Group to maximize underwriting opportunities. Elaine Whelan, group chief financial officer, said: “With improved rates at the January 1 renewals, and our current outlook, we continue to expect to put all of our current capital to work this year.” Lancashire’s net operating loss for the fourth quarter was $3.1 million, compared to a profit of $45.9 million for the same period in 2016. The group’s operating loss for the year was $86 million, compared to a profit of $144 million in 2016. The combined ratio rose to 119.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, and 124.9 per cent for the year, up from 76.5 per cent. Lancashire’s fully converted book value per share fell 50 cents to $5.48 at the end of December, compared to $5.98 at the end of 2016. Gross premiums written for the fourth quarter were $67.4 million, down from $95.1 million year-on-year. Separately, Lancashire announced that Tom Milligan, a non-executive director, is retiring from the board. He will stand down on March 31 and will not stand for re-election at the company’s annual meeting. Peter Clarke, Lancashire’s chairman, said: “I would like to thank Tom for his valuable contribution as a member of our Board. In particular, Tom’s executive knowledge in the insurance industry has helped inform our strategic planning in recent years and contributed to the success of our business. Tom has served as a director on the Lancashire board for over three years and he has decided to step down in order to pursue other opportunities. We wish Tom well for the future.”
February 15. Butterfield Bank has agreed to buy Deutsche Bank’s banking businesses in the Cayman Islands, Jersey and Guernsey — a deal that could increase its deposit base by about one fifth. The news came as the Bermudian-based bank declared net income of $40.3 million for the fourth quarter of last year, which completed a year of record profits of $153.3 million for the bank, up from $115.9 million in 2016. Further good news for shareholders came with a 19 per cent hike in the quarterly dividend payment to 38 cents per share and the announcement of Butterfield’s plans to buy back up to one million of its own shares. “I am pleased to report that Butterfield achieved record profits in 2017,” said Michael Collins, Butterfield’s chairman and chief executive officer. “These strong results were driven by our specialized banking and wealth management businesses that generate consistent fee income and an expanding net interest margin that benefited from our efficient deposit franchise and a rising rate environment. We delivered core net income of $158.9 million, up $20.3 million or 14.6 per cent year-on-year, and a core return on average common equity of 19.7 per cent, driven by strong performances in our core banking markets, as well as strong growth in our UK mortgage business.” The deal with Deutsche Bank is the second acquisition Butterfield has made from the German financial-services giant after it agreed last October to buy the company’s Global Trust Solutions business. “The GTS integration process is well under way and anticipated to close early in the second quarter of 2018, ahead of plan,” Mr Collins said. “We are pleased that over 90 per cent of the staff have now accepted employment agreements with Butterfield. This morning we announced that we have reached a second agreement with Deutsche Bank to acquire their banking businesses in the Cayman Islands, Guernsey and Jersey. We are very excited about this acquisition as it could increase our deposit base by about 20 per cent once integrated. It will help us establish a foothold in Jersey, an attractive banking market, as well as increasing our scale and market share in Cayman and Guernsey. The customer base has a very similar profile to our existing banking business and we look forward to welcoming the new relationship teams and their clients to the Butterfield Group.” Results for the fourth quarter of 2017 included lower credit costs with a release of provision for credit losses of $5.4 million compared with a release of provision for credit losses of $0.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2017 the provision release was partially offset by $2.5 million of valuation loss adjustment on a foreclosed property included in other real estate owned.
February 15. Three Bermudians have been added to the Bermuda Tourism Authority sales and marketing team in New York City. Bermudian Lindsay Butterfield is the new executive assistant/office manager in New York, replacing a Bermudian team member who moved to the Bermuda office to fill a vacancy there. Bermudian Shanaye Smith has taken over as front line ambassador in New York, replacing a Bermudian team member who was promoted within the organisation. Bermudian Ciara Eve was hired as marketing production manager in New York, replacing a non-Bermudian team member who moved on to new career opportunities. Ms Butterfield has 11 years of hospitality and customer service experience, of which six of those years are within a managerial capacity. Her seasoned business mind set and knowledge, combined with her self-confidence and passion for tourism, drives guest satisfaction, which will be relevant in her new position. “I am honored to be a part of such a forward thinking group of individuals. Great things are happening at the BTA and I am delighted to join the team,” she said. Ms Butterfield holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce Degree from Ryerson University and has previously managed the Fairmont Gold Lounge at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. Meantime, Shanaye Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising, Public Relations and Media from Middlesex University and a Master’s Degree in Marketing Communications from University of Westminster in London. She will be responsible for providing warm and engaging service to promote the Bermuda brand through positive customer service interaction and social media, as well as general office responsibilities. “I have always wanted to work for the Bermuda Tourism Authority and I am excited for this new opportunity,” Ms Smith said. “I look forward to representing the Bermuda brand from New York, doing my part to help shine a light on our amazing country in an effort to showcase it to the world.” Ciara Eve comes to the Bermuda Tourism Authority from an exciting opportunity with the America’s Cup. She was branding coordinator for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda and now will be marketing production manager for the BTA. Ms Eve holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Design for Visual Communication from the University Centre Croydon in the United Kingdom. “I am grateful to be able to assist my country as an employee of the Bermuda Tourism Authority,” Ms Eve said. “After a revitalized career path and investing in academic growth, I am blessed to be a part of some wonderful initiatives. I am proof positive that through hard work, support and shared belief, the sky is the limit. “Ms Eve begins with the Bermuda Tourism Authority next month. Meantime, Ms Smith and Ms Butterfield have already begun in their new roles. All of us at the BTA are committed to creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bermudians in a resurgent tourism industry,” said Chief Executive Kevin Dallas. “As we continue that mission we are delighted to be able to provide the opportunity for these three talented, young Bermudians to gain valuable international experience that will grow their skills and further their careers. They went through a thorough and competitive recruitment process and we are so proud to have them on our performance-driven team.”
February 15. Two Hamilton office buildings have found buyers in recent weeks amid increasing activity in the commercial property market. Sales have closed on Hemisphere House and Dorchester House, both on Church Street, said Penny MacIntyre, a partner with Rego Sotheby’s International Realty. Ms MacIntyre attributed the pick-up in the market to prices coming down to levels that match today’s economic realities. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from serious buyers,” Ms MacIntyre said. “Some properties have garnered a lot of attention over the last three months and we’ve been receiving offers or have closed on some of them. It’s partly because the prices of these properties are being adjusted to market conditions, as owners have been getting serious about disposing of their assets. It does not do any good for these properties to be vacant for a long time, because when they’re not in use, they tend to deteriorate. We have seen a good number of these buildings re-priced in line with the market and whenever you have sensible pricing, it stimulates activity.” Many buyers were owner-occupiers to some degree, who saw advantages in owning and controlling their own properties, as opposed to paying rent and funding upgrades of a landlord-owned building, she added. Hemisphere House was on the market for at least five years before its sale closed last month. Ms MacIntyre said she was not at liberty to state the sale price or the identity of the buyer. A five-storey 1960s office building standing on 0.15 of an acre, with about 25,000 square feet of space, complete with a penthouse added in the 1990s, it was listed for sale at $8.5 million in January 2013. The price has come down several times over the years and it was last listed at $3.75 million. Hemisphere House looks over Par-la-Ville Park and Ms MacIntyre said one of its advantages was the potential for mixed use, for example residential and retail components as well as offices. The Progressive Labour Party government, which took power last year, has signaled its support for residential development in Hamilton. In its manifesto for last July’s election, the PLP said it would incentivise the development of studio and one-bedroom apartments in the city, to create affordable homes for young Bermudians, create jobs and “bring new life to the city”. Ms MacIntyre said city living appealed to many people, particularly those who wanted to downsize and spend less time on the road. However, potential challenges for residential developers included competition from the condominium segment of the market, which has seen valuations fall amid an abundance of inventory. The lack of parking space in the city was another challenge to address, although there was potential for underground parking at some sites, she added. Dorchester House, a five-floor building at the corner of Church Street and Trott Road, with a total rentable area of 42,000 square feet, was put on the market in September, ahead of the departure of its anchor tenant PwC Bermuda to a newer space in Washington House. The sale of the 1980s structure has just closed, Ms MacIntyre said. It was originally listed for sale at $3.75 million. Another building that has attracted much interest is 87 Reid Street, the former home of Tribe Road Kitchen, which is on the market for $925,000. The property, at the junction with King Street, comprises a 1,280-square-foot cottage and a spacious lawn area that was utilized by guests of the former restaurant. A “handful of prospective buyers” and some rental interest had emerged for the property, Ms MacIntyre said. Nearby 91 Reid Street, a two-storey, 11,538-square-foot building, is also on the market for $1.85 million. It comes with established tenants, including Sunnyroad Designs and Abacus, an accounting services firm.
February 15. More than 600 lionfish were speared last month as hunters dived into the fourth annual Winter Lionfish Derby. Organizer Corey Eddy, who published a PhD thesis on lionfish in Bermuda, said that while the number of hunters doubled since last year, the number of fish caught tripled. He said: “It’s amazing and scary. It really emphasizes that lionfish are very abundant in shallow water during the winter. The average depth of capture was less than 20ft and many were caught in less than 10ft. We also saw far more small lionfish than ever before, which is also alarming as it may indicate a more successful reproductive period in 2017. The smallest lionfish was 3.75in, the smallest I’d seen before.” Sixty hunters signed up for the derby, catching a total of 624 lionfish during January. Lionfish, which are native to the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean, were introduced to the Atlantic in the 1990s. The fast-breeding species spread rapidly through the Caribbean and reached Bermudian waters by 2000. Lionfish have no natural predators in the Atlantic and are not recognized as a threat by local fish. Dr Eddy said culling events like the Winter Derby had been shown to help address lionfish in other areas. Research by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation found that derbies can reduce the number of lionfish in an area by up to 52 per cent. Dr Eddy said: “That is not to say the population will not experience a period of explosive growth, common in the majority of invasive species, which is exactly what we worry about with the record number of lionfish captured in this year’s winter derby. Our culling programme may give us an advantage in staying one step ahead of the invasion. We have an army of lionfish hunters and we need to keep them in the water. Tournaments such as the Winter Lionfish Derby and Groundswell’s annual summer tournament, are great opportunities to do that. In fact, we have tournaments of some sort every season and the spring tournament is right around the corner.” Dr Eddy and his fellow lionfish hunters celebrated the close of the Winter Derby with a party and awards ceremony at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Free-diving team “We Dive at Five” caught the most lionfish, bringing ashore 133 of the invasive predators. Meanwhile, team “LionSquish” took the prize for the Scuba-diving category, landing 49 lionfish. Kweshon Hollis speared the largest fish, measuring 18in, while Chris Cabral caught the smallest. Dr Eddy said: “Even though we had more people than ever before, we were fortunate to provide everyone who registered with some sort of prize thanks to Gorham’s, Makin Waves, BUEI, La Garza jewelers, Blue Hole Watersports, Dive Bermuda, Blue Water Divers, and Jessica Reiderer. The Bermuda Lionfish Task Force donated all the money for cash prizes, and BUEI provided the room free of charge.”
February 14. The Government of Bermuda is standing by claims that Ewart Brown conducted excessive and medically unnecessary scans on patients and paid “kickbacks” to scores of doctors on the island. Lawyers representing the Progressive Labour Party government described how “one person was scanned 20-plus times” and the number of CT and MRI scans overall “skyrocketed” during Dr Brown’s term of office, as they reiterated allegations against the former premier at a court hearing in Boston. The submissions made to Judge Indira Talwani at the United States District Court of Massachusetts on January 31 confirm that the new PLP administration is actively pursuing a civil claim against the Lahey Clinic launched by the former One Bermuda Alliance government. That complaint, filed a year ago by Trevor Moniz, who was then Attorney-General, detailed an alleged “wildly successful” and “unlawful” conspiracy between Dr Brown and the hospital that profited both “at the expense of the Bermudian government and people”. Dr Brown and Lahey deny the allegations. The lawsuit was denounced in Parliament by PLP MPs, including David Burt, then the Opposition leader and now the Premier. Mr Burt, Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, and health minister Kim Wilson signed a legal brief in May last year in support of Lahey’s attempt to get the case thrown out. Ms Justice Talwani heard arguments on January 31 from Lahey’s counsel on why the case should be dismissed — and counter-arguments from the Government’s lawyers as to why it should proceed. A transcript of the hearing, which became available on Monday, shows the Government’s position is the same as a year ago, despite a change in the island’s political leadership. It confirms that the PLP government is continuing with a legal complaint that names Dr Brown — PLP leader and Premier between 2006 and 2010 — as a co-conspirator and accuses him of corruption and bribe-taking during his premiership. The court heard on January 31 that Lahey was paid to read scans by Dr Brown’s clinics in Bermuda during a period of time when he was receiving consulting fees from the clinic. Lahey’s lawyer, Terence Lynam, said the scan-reading was entirely separate to the consulting agreements. But Luke Cadigan, for the Government, said the “illicit” relationship in regard to the scans “doesn’t really come into focus until you have a true understanding of Dr Brown’s relationship with Lahey”. Mr Cadigan said: “What you see here is Dr Brown, who has a financial incentive; he’s tied to Lahey. He’s working to increase reimbursement rates for him and benefit Lahey. He’s working against pre-certification or other things that would limit the amount of scanning. He is using all of this as a vehicle to get more revenue for himself and for Lahey.” Mr Cadigan claimed correspondence between Dr Brown and doctors who referred patients to his two clinics for diagnostic scanning showed he was “inducing” the physicians to order the scans. “Some people were scanned repeatedly,” he alleged. “One person was scanned 20-plus times. You’re going to see, I’m sure, some situations where it was simply not necessary for the treatment. So, you know, those are the types of things I think we’re going to see based upon the kickbacks that Dr Brown was paying to his doctors in order to get these scans done.” Mr Cadigan said the rate of CT scans tripled over a two-year period and MRI scans doubled in little more than four years. He claimed the hospital was guilty of fraud for reading scans that were medically unnecessary — an allegation rebutted by Mr Lynam, who said any fraud would have been committed by the person ordering the medically unnecessary scan. Ms Justice Talwani reserved judgment on Lahey’s motion to dismiss. Dr Brown told The Royal Gazette in September 2016 that every study ordered at Bermuda Healthcare Services and his other clinic, Brown-Darrell, was screened by experts at Lahey in Massachusetts to ensure it was necessary. The Royal Gazette asked the Bermuda Medical Council in March last year if it was investigating the allegations made against Dr Brown and other unnamed local physicians in the Government’s lawsuit. Chief Medical Officer Cheryl Peek-Ball said no complaint had been made to the regulatory body. Dr Brown declined to comment on the case when contacted last night.
February 14. The Progressive Labour Party may have enjoyed a landslide victory only seven months ago, but according to Christopher Famous, it should still aim to broaden its base. Mr Famous called on his party to reach out to white people who have traditionally not voted for the PLP, telling The Royal Gazette: “The onus is on us to knock on every door.” The Devonshire East MP, who cited tireless canvassing as the reason for his shock victory over Bob Richards at last July’s General Election, noted the importance of making all Bermudians feel welcome in the PLP. Mr Famous said: “We need to broaden our reach — our base is black Bermudians but this election proved that there are white Bermudians who will support the PLP. You are bringing forth proposals and legislation that are better for all. If our messaging is to all Bermudians, then all Bermudians start to feel included. The average white person will say the PLP doesn’t come knocking on their door. Berkeley was the top academic school and white people didn’t send their children there. St Paul’s is a black church that white people don’t attend. The fact that whites aren’t in the party in numbers is a reflection of what’s going on in the community. We as a party have to knock on every door. We have a racial issue in this country — we are going to do our part to reach out to all Bermudians, but it is up to them to come through the door. The initial onus is on us to knock on every door.” Mr Famous was talking ahead of the PLP’s 54th Founders’ Day Banquet, at which he will be the keynote speaker on Sunday. That event will honour the formation of the party by Albert Peter Smith, Wilfred “Mose” Allen, Austin Wilson, Edward DeJean, Dilton Cann, Walter Robinson and Hugh Roy Richardson, out of Mr Richardson’s garage. Mr Famous said the PLP would stay relevant by diversifying, while staying true to its founding principles. He said the PLP must also communicate and engage with the electorate. “As a party and as a government, we need to have proactive communications with the people. Part of that is having a healthy relationship with the media. The media is the fourth estate — part and parcel of their responsibility is for them to hold the government to account. Don’t view the media as the enemy. A lot of times we put forward legislation on a Friday without explaining to the people prior why we are doing it to ask, how does this benefit you? We live in the information age.” He said the party must also consider how the message gets out to the next generation. “Be imaginative — go to a PechaKucha Night and inform people on policy. You are dealing with a new generation of people who are not going to sit down and read the newspaper — they want it in seconds. We have to reform how we communicate and increase our communication.” Mr Famous said he was “stunned” when he was invited to be this year’s keynote speaker. He said he wished to honour the party’s foundations focusing on “where we have been, where we are and where we need to go”. He said: “The foundation of the PLP was not built on it being a black party or being an elitist party — the foundation was about moving forward persons who were deemed the underclass hence the word progressive. We need to be not simply a party looking to get re-elected but to actually progress Bermuda. Another part of it would be to emphasize that we are a labour party and that doesn’t mean just blue-collar labour — it means all workers. We have to remember that we didn’t win this election simply because we all showed up to Parliament every Friday — we won it because we knocked on the door and we met with people who expressed their concerns to us. No matter if we are in Opposition or in Government, we have to remember we have to keep knocking.” The 54th Founders’ Day Banquet takes place on Sunday at the Willowbank Conference Centre, in Sandys, from 2pm to 5pm.
February 14. Two environmental groups have expressed concern after complaints about a controversial plan for commercial quad bike tours were dismissed by the Minister of Public Works. The Bermuda National Trust said it was disappointed with Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch’s comment that anyone living east of White Hill will have no say on the issue. Jonathan Starling, executive director with Greenrock, added that it was “unfortunate” that Colonel Burch “seems to be coming out in a combative manner” and taking the issue personally. However, support for Colonel Burch came from former One Bermuda Alliance minister Sylvan Richards, who was in favour of the proposal while in Cabinet. More than 600 people, including 500 from east of White Hill, have registered concerns over the proposal for all-terrain vehicles on the Railway Trail and protected reserves in Sandys. However, on Monday, Colonel Burch said he was sick of Bermuda being the “country of no” and that only the views of those living near the area would be considered. Reacting yesterday, a National Trust spokesman said people from across the island deserved a say in how the Railway Trail and protected areas in the West End were used. The spokesman explained: “These are national parks and it would not be natural justice to exclude any members of the public from answering the request for consultation on this important matter.” Mr Starling said Mr Burch’s comments were “not conducive to discourse around this matter. It seems more likely to polarize than to encourage constructive dialogue.” Mr Starling said that residents who could be directly impacted by the plan “have unique concerns due to their proximity, and these should be weighted accordingly. However, the impact of this decision is not limited just to those concerns. The Railway Trail and our national parks are collective, national treasures and what happens with them affects us all. We all use and benefit from them, and decisions affecting them affect us all.” Mr Richards, MP for Hamilton South, said he shared Colonel Burch’s sentiments. He explained: “All too often, some Bermudians tend to automatically default to a ‘no’ position without contemplating or considering possible compromises that may be available that all parties can agree to and live with. Bermuda is competing with other tourist destinations in the Caribbean that offer similar tour excursions. We, as Bermudians, have to decide whether we want to continue to be competitive in the tourism business or not by offering amenities that appeal to this younger visitor demographic.” Mr Richards, the former environment and planning minister, said the quad bike proposal had been “subject to a campaign of misinformation and unnecessary hysteria by those opposed. A misrepresentation had been perpetuated through pictures posted on social media showing persons abroad operating high-powered 600cc ATVs in a reckless manner, as if this is what is being proposed for Bermuda. It is not.” Mr Richards said he met last year with Rudolph “Buddy” Hollis and his son, the pair behind the quad bike tour proposal. He said he looked at the plan to promote Bermuda tourism “from an eco-tourism, cultural and historical perspective”. Mr Richards said the proposal also fit with the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s desire to offer activities targeted at younger visitors. He described of the plan: “The pitch was for a two-hour, low-speed, guided tour occurring twice a day, except Sundays along designated portions of the Railway Trail.” Mr Richards said that he was told that the proposal had been given the support of the Parks Commission “to operate on parts of the Railway Trail which were not considered environmentally sensitive in nature” in October of 2015. He added: “I gave my conditional approval for the proposal, subject to certain conditions being met.” Mr Richards said the conditions were that meetings be held to get feedback from the public in the West End, and that the operators get all necessary permissions to legally operate the tours, including licensing from TCD. A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said that it was “unfortunate” that facts related to the proposal were not previously available to the public. She added that Mr Richards’s assertion that there had been a ‘campaign of misinformation and unnecessary hysteria’ by those against the plan was a “self-serving exaggeration”. The spokeswoman added: “There are legislative requirements that appear to have been intentionally bypassed and should not have been.” Mr Starling said it was unfair to suggest that the public was falling for misinformation. He explained: “The Government has had the ability to provide that information all along and help make sure the public can make an informed decision of support or opposition.” Mr Richards said he stood by the decision he made about the proposal while minister. He added: “I wish the operators success in their future endeavors.”
February 14. Utilico Emerging Markets Limited, a closed-ended investment company, is to re-domicile to the United Kingdom from Bermuda. In a statement, the company said the proposed move was in its “best interests” but did not elaborate. The news follows an announcement in November when the company, which has investments in infrastructure, utility and related sectors, said it was considering options for a possible change in its domicile. The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange, and has a market capitalization of £461 million ($642 million), with assets of £570 million ($788 million). In today’s statement the company said: “Following a review, the board has concluded that it would be in the company’s best interests to re--domicile to the United Kingdom.” The proposed change will be conditional to the approval of shareholders and being sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Bermuda. The re-domiciliation is to be effected under the Companies Act 1981 of Bermuda. The move will result in the creation of a closed-ended investment trust in the UK, which will be known as Utilico Emerging Markets Trust plc. The company’s statement said the board will not be proposing any changes to the investment management arrangements as a result of the re-domicile and, “other than JP Morgan Chase Bank NA, London Branch who will act as administrator, it is planned that the principal service providers to Utilico Emerging Markets Trust plc will remain the same”.
February 14. Teachers are buying basic school necessities out of their own pockets, according to the Bermuda Union of Teachers. President Shannon James called for more help in the Progressive Labour Party’s first Budget since it returned to power, which will be delivered by David Burt, the Premier and finance minister, this Friday. Mr James said: “There are many teachers using their own money to buy things like reading books, science supplies, and many other basics, from the preschool level right through to high school. This, by any standard, cannot be deemed acceptable and has gone on for too long. Many teachers will come out of pocket to add extras, and that is their choice, but they should not be cornered to feel that the basic supplies needed to deliver the curriculum should come out of pocket.” Mr James said the BUT was also gravely concerned about the lack of investment in providing the manpower needed to deliver, maintain and support proper instruction as dictated by the needs of the system. “There are too many empty positions, key positions which are needed to support the various initiatives set out by the Ministry and the Department. We do not have the required compliment of education officers, content specialists, attendance officers, mentors and Para educators needed to support optimal learning at all levels. We are still concerned about the state of our buildings. Three schools had to close last year for urgent maintenance and that causes major disruption for the students. That cannot be allowed to happen again, and adequate resources must be directed to the timely maintenance of our schools.” In addition, the BUT believes that Government must position students to compete globally and that access to modern technology and systems of thinking are imperative to the success of a 21st century learner. Mr James said: “The Premier and finance minister, David Burt, is a self-confessed ‘techie’ who has been pushing the use of technologies like blockchain and the establishment of a tech hub in Bermuda, but what use are these if our students don’t have access to the necessary technology tools that will enable them to take advantages of future opportunities? Money must be made available to ensure: an adequate ratio of students to working technology devices; a termly assessment and repair of all interactive devices; a sufficient number of trained technology leaders in each school, and an adequate number of technicians to service the upkeep of equipment and software. We have been promised Wi-Fi access in every public school which is a start, but it is pointless if we do not have the proper hardware to access this Wi-Fi. More needs to be done to make sure that our students are not disadvantaged when they enter the workforce and find themselves behind their peers in terms of their exposure to technology. Technology has the potential to completely disrupt industries. This will have a massive impact on the types and numbers of jobs available and we must have the resources available to make sure our students are properly equipped with the necessary tools that allow them to succeed. The BUT is fully aware that everyone wants a larger share of the pie and people are competing for money for different projects they all believe will benefit Bermuda in some way, but there is no greater benefit to Bermuda than well-educated children. Education is the building block for any successful country.”
February 14. A man accused of smuggling the controlled drug fentanyl to Bermuda was found not guilty last night. Craig Lawrence was also cleared by a Supreme Court jury of possessing the synthetic opiate with intent to supply. The Canadian national from Markham, Ontario, had always denied importing the drugs sometime between an unknown date and December 15, 2016, and possessing the drug on December 20, 2016. The jury sent a series of notes to the court during several hours of deliberations. In response, Judge Charles-Etta Simmons told the jury that Mr Lawrence could be found guilty of the charges before them only if he knew the drug imported was fentanyl. During the trial, the court heard evidence from Jacqueline Robinson that Mr Lawrence had invited her on an all-expenses-paid holiday shortly after they had started a relationship in Canada. The jury heard that the couple spent the night before they were due to fly to Bermuda with friends of Mr Lawrence in a hotel. Ms Robinson said that the next morning Mr Lawrence and another woman showed her a stash of drug pellets in the hotel bathroom and told her to swallow them. She testified that Mr Lawrence told her the pellets contained cannabis, and that if she did not swallow them, she would never go home again. Mr Lawrence and Robinson arrived in Bermuda on December 15, 2016, and the pair went to the Hamilton Princess Hotel and Beach Club, where she threw up 44 of the 45 pellets. She then gave the pellets to Mr Lawrence, who put them in the hotel safe. Robinson then fell ill, and was rushed to hospital. According to prosecutors, the pellets contained fentanyl rather than cannabis, and a ruptured pellet caused her illness. Robinson admitted her involvement in the plot to smuggle drugs into Bermuda at Supreme Court and had been jailed for seven years.
February 13. The Chinese takeover of Aecon — the company overseeing the construction of Bermuda’s new airport terminal — is being delayed after the Canadian Government ordered a full national security review of the deal. State-owned CCCC International Holding Ltd wants to buy Toronto-based Aecon for $1.5 billion in a deal approved by the Canadian construction company’s shareholders in December last year. Aecon said last October on the announcement of the deal that the takeover would make no difference to the airport project, nor the guarantee in place from the Canadian Commercial Corporation, and that the new terminal will be completed in 2020, as planned. Yesterday Aecon’s shares fell 1.8 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the extended national security review was revealed. Aecon said the planned date for completing the takeover plan with CCCCI had been pushed back to March 30 from the original date of February 23. “Both companies remain committed to working with the Investment Review Division to obtain approval of the transaction,” Aecon said. Aecon said it had received notice from the Canadian Government that the federal cabinet had ordered a continuation of the national security review under section 25.3 of the Investment Canada Act. That section allows the Government to order a review if the minister “considers that the investment could be injurious to national security”. CCCI has attracted controversy before. The World Bank banned the firm from bidding on construction projects for eight years until January 2017 due to a bid-rigging scandal in the Philippines. Chris Murray, of AltaCorp Capital, believes Ottawa’s primary concern may be Aecon’s telecom infrastructure group, which builds significant core communications networks for several major Canadian carriers. “While we remain positive about the closure of the transaction, we are cognizant that at this juncture, this is now a political process, which adds layers of complexity and uncertainty,” Mr Murray wrote in a report. And he added that he believes the transaction may be a “bargaining chip in Canada-China” trade discussions. Federal Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains ordered the review on the recommendation of Canadian security agencies. Mr Bains’ press secretary, Karl Sasseville, told the Globe and Mail newspaper: “We follow the advice of those who actually have the information and intelligence necessary to make these determinations: our national-security agencies. We will continue to do our diligence to review the potential national-security ?implications, as we have been doing since day one. We never have and we never will compromise on national security.”
February 13. Garbage will be collected once a week starting next Monday, the Minister of Public Works said yesterday — and the piles of uncollected trash will be off the streets and sidewalks by tomorrow. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch made the announcements during a press conference at Global House. Colonel Burch said that, effective from next week, trash collection would be done once a week for a ten-week period. He explained: “This time will allow us to conduct a full assessment of the trucks that are serviceable, conduct extensive repairs, complete the TCD relicensing process and return a larger number into the operational fleet.” He said information on the new collection days would be forthcoming. Colonel Burch said that an “island-wide blitz” tomorrow would “clear all the garbage from every neighborhood”. He added that every truck in the ministry would be used, with assistance provided by the Hustle Truck workers. Colonel Burch said that a work-to-rule taken by garbage collectors had ended last week and that employees were back to working overtime to try and keep pace with pick-ups. He added: “The net result of that is still an unsatisfactory state of affairs as we are unable to fully complete designated collection in any one day.” Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, previously said the industrial action was taken amid worker concerns about the lack of staffing and trash trucks. Colonel Burch dismissed the suggestion that the action was taken by workers over the failure to be paid for overtime. He said: “There’s no truth to that at all, as far as I am aware. If they are not being paid for overtime I’d like to know where the money’s going, because I sign on a regular basis to via money from unfilled posts to overtime.” Colonel Burch described the garbage collectors as “dedicated and committed workers” who took pride in their jobs under some “very trying circumstances”. He added: “They do a good job and I will not tolerate any abuse directed at them.” Colonel Burch added that interviews were being conducted today for five additional waste collectors — hires that were approved last year but never made. He expected the positions to be filled before February 23. He said that knuckles had been “rapped” over the failure to fill the posts. He added: “Internally, within the ministry, I have voiced my displeasure to those people who did not bring it to my attention that three months in, they’re still waiting from approval from somewhere else. I think it’s fair to say that I don’t think that will be happening again.” Colonel Burch announced that five new trash vehicles would also be bought. He said that a team including a truck driver and a trash collector would travel overseas before the end of the month to select the next batch of trucks. To be clear, though, there is a lengthy lead time involved, so it will likely be November before they arrive on island.” He said the trucks would cost about $90,000 each. Colonel Burch also used the press conference to highlight steps that members of the public could take to make trash collection easier, including not overfilling bags and cutting back trees along private roads. He also asked residents to be respectful of their neighbors and workers by not putting out garbage before collection day. Colonel Burch said: “If that does not work then we shall resort to enforcement and prosecution of those who refuse to follow the law.”
February 13. The views of residents outside Sandys will have no bearing on the Government’s decision on a controversial plan for quad bike commercial tours. More than 600 people registered concerns over the proposal, including hundreds from outside the West End parish. However, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, Minister of Public Works, said that these views would not be considered. Colonel Burch told a press conference: “If you live east of White Hill, you don’t get a say in this.” The public were canvassed for their views on the use of all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, on the Railway Trail and protected reserves in Sandys last year. The proposal came under fire from residents, farmers and environmental groups. Colonel Burch said that the objections of the “500 people” east of White Hill were the same as the “160-odd” people who lived to the west. He added: “So their objections will be considered. They just won’t have the weight of having objected to it having any bearing on the decision that is going to be made.” He said that he was sick of Bermuda being the “country of no”. Colonel Burch explained: “We say ‘no’ to everything, and then we ask ‘Now what’s the question?’” He said that those not living in the neighborhood would not be affected by the proposed business. Colonel Burch added: “You don’t live in the west, so you’re not going to hear the bikes. It’s astounding to me how all these people who live nowhere near the issue object to it.” He said that a final decision on whether the tours would be permitted had not been made. He added of the decision: “I did announce publicly that it would be by the 15th of February, but that’s likely to be delayed.” Concerned residents posted comments on Facebook last week after quad bikes were spotted in the old bus terminal on Beacon Hill Road and on the Railway Trail. Colonel Burch said he took “some particular offence” to people that “see things and jump right to the conclusion that they have been misled or lied to”. He said the ATVs were brought out last week at his request as part of his “due diligence” to see the bikes and how they operate first-hand. Colonel Burch said he and transport minister Walter Roban viewed and rode the vehicles last Thursday. He added: “Just to be clear, I was quite impressed that the proprietors actually went to TCD and got a one-day licence.” Colonel Burch said he also took offence to a letter he had received over the weekend from a group that said it hoped he would consider their objections to the proposal for commercial tours. He explained: “If I said I’m going to do it, I’m actually going to do it. And so when you say you hope, what you’re saying is that you don’t believe me.”
February 13. The Loren has put up for sale four villas that are under construction with asking prices starting from $3.8 million. Two of the four-bedroom, 4½-bathroom units will be completed by the second quarter of this year, while the other two are scheduled to be ready by the first quarter of 2019. They range in price from $3.8 million to $3.975 million. The move comes as three smaller villas at the hotel and residences complex have been taken off the market and incorporated into the hotel’s inventory. Penny MacIntyre, a partner with realtor Rego Sotheby’s International Realty and exclusive agent for the residences at The Loren, said strong demand for the three-bedroom, 3½-bathroom units from hotel guests, meant they were no longer available to buyers. The Loren, the island’s first new hotel in 45 years, is coming off a strong first year in business and has attracted positive press in publications such as Condé Nast Traveler, The Telegraph, New York Post, Forbes, CNN Travel and Vogue. Ms MacIntyre said the four-bedroom units offered a bit extra for buyers than the three-bedroom villas that were previously up for sale with a$4.2 million price tag. “These are the last four available and I think the price point is more compelling, because they have an additional bedroom and bathroom, and 238 square feet extra, or 3,793 square feet in total,” she said. The villas come with a “lock-off” option that allows owners to put part or all of the property into the hotel inventory to generate income from hotel guests staying in one the en suite rooms. Each villa has a balcony, a private pool, an outdoor dining area on the pool deck, a garage, and a kitchen as well as resort amenities including restaurants, spa, gym and private beach.
February 13. An intrepid traveler has hitchhiked on a sailboat to the island from Britain in an attempt to promote a more sustainable lifestyle. Charlotte Jones had already changed most aspects in her life to be more environmentally friendly, from giving up her car and growing her own food to campaigning on green issues. She decided to take things a step further while planning a visit to see her Bermudian grandparents, Pamela Darrell and Owen Darrell. Ms Jones considered the potential impact of environmentally damaging air travel. After a little research online, she discovered the world of sailboat hitchhiking, where people travel with voyaging ships as volunteers or crew members. Ms Jones will be sharing her experiences from two transatlantic crossings to the island at the upcoming PechaKucha Bermuda night at the Spinning Wheel. She told The Royal Gazette: “During my first trip in 2008, I managed to travel all the way from the UK by sail to visit my grandparents. My mother is Bermudian but she moved to the UK to go to university and stayed there. I ended up on five different boats to get there and it took seven months. This time I set off in mid-September. We stopped in Portugal and the Canary Islands before a four-week crossing down the coast of Africa and ‘hung a right’ to travel up to the BVI. The plan was to get off and look for another boat but this time I had to fly the last bit because of the damage from the hurricanes. There wasn’t much sailing going on. I had learnt a lot about climate change, I was doing a lot of campaigning and education about sustainable living.” On her decision to avoid flying, Ms Jones said: “I was trying to live as sustainably as possible in every other way — I wasn’t driving and was growing my own food it was a pleasure. But not being able to fly was difficult because of my grandparents living in a completely inaccessible place. I was feeling bad about not visiting them and so I decided to look into how else you can get there. I heard about a few people who hitched their way across the Atlantic so I did it.” Ms Jones has worked and volunteered in education for sustainable development, farming, community development, street design and political campaigning. She advised there are more convenient options for sustainable travel on the horizon. “Hitching is not for everyone but if you want the adventure, you don’t need much experience. Once you get to know some of the routes that the yachts go, you find boats going to wherever you want to go. There are tricky sides — you don’t always necessarily get on with everyone but you learn a lot along the way. It sounds a bit cheesy but it does give you lots of faith in humanity — the number of people I put my life into their hands. The whole reason I sailed is to choose a more sustainable way to travel and so I want to promote that. There are some organisations that are looking at how sailing could replace flying — there is one project called VoyageVert.org which is looking into providing passenger travel on a larger boats.” PechaKucha Bermuda Vol 22 takes place at The Spinning Wheel, Court Street, Hamilton, on February 22. Other speakers include hypnotherapist Maryellen Jackson and wordsmith Matthew Arnold. Doors open at 6pm and presentations begin at 7pm.
February 13. A man accused of a plot to import fentanyl was cleared of charges yesterday. A jury found Maurice Martin not guilty of conspiring to import a controlled drug on the instructions of Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. She told the jury: “As a result of one application that was made and a ruling I made on the law, I’m going to direct you to deliver a verdict of not guilty in respect of Mr Martin.” Mr Martin’s co-defendant, Craig Lawrence, remains on trial. He has denied charges of conspiring to import a controlled drug and conspiracy to supply a controlled drug. Earlier in the trial, the court heard evidence from Jacqueline Robinson that Mr Lawrence ordered her to swallow dozens of pellets before traveling to Bermuda. She testified she was told the pellets contained cannabis. But the court heard they contained fentanyl, a synthetic opiate related to heroin. Ms Robinson arrived in Bermuda on December 15, 2016, and threw up 44 of the 45 pellets. Prosecutors said the remaining pellet ruptured, causing Ms Robinson to fall ill. Ms Robinson confirmed that she had earlier admitted her involvement in the plot to smuggle drugs into Bermuda at Supreme Court and had been jailed for seven years. The trial is expected to conclude this week.
February 13. The Bermuda Government may roll back steep cuts made to medical imaging fees which were blamed last month for the closure of a private scanning clinic. However, last night the Opposition hit back at claims that the One Bermuda Alliance administration had “ignored” technical advice and singled out diagnostic imaging for sharper fee cuts than those suggested. The reductions, recommended by the Bermuda Health Council, were decried last month by Ewart Brown, the former premier, who runs two private clinics offering medical scans. The CT scan unit at his Brown-Darrell clinic in Smith’s, which provided computer-processed X-ray imaging, was shut on January 31 after Dr Brown said the cuts left the business unsustainable. The possibility of fee cuts being partially reversed emerged in Friday’s House of Assembly, when OBA MP Trevor Moniz asked Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, whether there was “any intention of changing the fees going forward”. In response, Ms Wilson said that three independent reviews before June 2017 had suggested relative value methodology as a technique for calculating medical fees. She added: “That’s the internally accepted methodology used in the US, Canada, Europe, the UK. It places a logical, rational and transparent fee structure on healthcare to assist in containing the cost.” She said the OBA administration had disregarded recommendations from the Bermuda Health Council, telling the House: “The former government ignored that technical advice and decided to apply fees that were much lower than what was being provided for, with respect to the relative value units provided by the technical officers of the Bermuda Health Council. I can say that this government is committed to reducing healthcare costs. We will be applying the relative values going forward, starting with the Bermuda Hospitals Board.” MPs also heard that the BHB, along with Dr Brown’s clinics, have each received payments directly from Ministry of Health funds, to compensate them for their lost earnings. Ms Wilson said that after an agreement was reached on December 8, 2017, a payment of $120,000 had been settled for Brown-Darrell Clinic, and $480,000 for Dr Brown’s other business, Bermuda Healthcare Services. The BHB’s payment is still being calculated based on levels of use, and Ms Wilson said she would not know that amount until the end of March. Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden responded last night: “Ms Wilson’s statement is misleading. The previous administration did not ignore technical advice from the Bermuda Health Council. The council’s diagnostic imaging fee schedule used the relative value methodology with a conversion factor of 83.8.” Every type of diagnostic imaging service comes with a specific code, with a conversion factor used to calculate the dollar value of a fee. The same conversion factor was applied to all diagnostic imaging services, Ms Atherden said. The former health minister added: “It was that fee schedule that was suggested to the minister, accepted, and passed by the legislature.” Ms Wilson was unavailable for comment yesterday — but Mr Moniz said he had asked the question in Parliament because “I just want these things to be out in the open”. He said he had asked the minister whether the Progressive Labour Party administration had been threatened with legal action. Ms Wilson responded: “Prior to this agreement being settled on December 8, 2017, there were discussions taking place between the Government and the Attorney-General.” Speaking to The Royal Gazette, Mr Moniz said: “The public is entitled to more information about what discussions took place, and how these numbers were arrived at, and why they’re paying this amount of money. Either they negotiated and arrived at an agreement or they didn’t. What I would like to know is, did [Dr Brown] have leverage on them?” Contacted last night for comment, Dr Brown responded: “There were absolutely no negotiations between myself and the Government concerning the fees. The Government told us exactly what the minister told the House.” Asked if he had been informed of any potential raising of imaging fees, and whether that might salvage his CT unit, Dr Brown said: “No, I have not.”
February 12. An amendment to legislation governing development at Rosewood Tucker’s Point was approved by MPs on Friday. The special development order related to the construction of homes at the resort and was tabled by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown said: “This is one of, I hope, the least contentious matters that I have to be presenting to this Parliament. This order seeks to provide more flexibility to persons purchasing lots at Tucker’s Point, intending to develop their properties, by removing restrictions that were both rigid and prescriptive, without compromising the very important environmental controls necessary.” Changes include a clause to ensure native species of plants are used in landscaping rather than invasive species. Other clauses require conservation management plans for some lots which must be included with planning applications. Mr Brown said that environmental groups the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, the Bermuda National Trust, and the Bermuda Audubon Society were consulted on the amendments. He added that the Department of Planning had worked closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on finalizing the amendments. The legislation was tabled by Mr Brown last December and it was the only item up for debate as Parliament resumed after the Christmas break. Cole Simons, One Bermuda Alliance MP, said the item had the support of the Opposition. Mr Simons said: “Any investment in the resort will also improve Bermuda’s product.” But he added that he had some concerns about how the removal of the word “applicant” from the legislation would affect the ability to hold developers accountable. !To leave it out, as far as I am concerned, is irresponsible.” Jamahl Simmons, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said Rosewood was in safe hands with developer Gencom. He added: “We are very impressed with the vision that they have. I think Bermuda’s going to be very pleased with the contribution to the property and the work that will be done on the property.” Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, said the inclusion of clauses about environmental protection in the legislation was “really significant. The mere fact that there is what I call the prevention idea rather than the cure idea is very important. We obviously support the concept, and are very pleased that it is putting in place the type of protection Bermuda needs.”
February 12. MP Derrick Burgess has claimed the “evidence was quite clear” that cuts to fees paid for medical services had targeted Dr Ewart Brown, the former premier. Mr Burgess said: “Their intent was to shut down Dr Brown.” The comment came during the motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly on Friday. Lawrence Scott, Progressive Labour Party MP for Warwick South East, raised the subject in his speech made prior to Mr Burgess’s address. Mr Burgess, a PLP MP and Deputy Speaker of the House, said that changes made to the fees paid for some medical services were “certainly targeted at Dr Brown and Bermuda Healthcare Services”. He pointed to notification of the impending cut sent by the Bermuda Health Council last February to a number of insurance providers and the Bermuda Hospitals Board. He said: “The only person, the only organisation, that these rates affected so much was Dr Brown.” Mr Burgess said Dr Brown was not notified at the same time. He added: “In fact, he was notified two weeks before this went into place.” The comments drew a point of order from Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, who said that Mr Burgess was misleading the House. Ms Atherden said: “The normal practice for the health council would be to notify anybody that is affected by their change.” Mr Burgess said that the only two services that were “really affected” by the fee cuts were dialyses and diagnostic imaging. He added: “It was only the hospital and Dr Brown that does both of these services. So it was targeted at him.” The statements drew another point of order from Ms Atherden who again accused Mr Burgess of misleading the House. She said: “At the same time the diagnostic imaging fees were adjusted, so were the lab fees. And there are many other providers out there who have lab services. So it wasn’t a target for the individual that he is referring to.” Mr Burgess said plans for a new private medical centre in Hamilton were scrapped after the fee changes were announced. He explained: “They cannot afford to operate at that price.” Mr Burgess said that Dr Brown had been at the “forefront” in a campaign to cut healthcare costs in Bermuda. The Brown-Darrell clinic in Smith’s closed the doors on its CT scanning services last month. Dr Brown blamed the closure on “severe reductions in payments”.
February 12. American International Group says it expects its new Bermuda-based run-off company to bring jobs to the island. The new entity, known as DSA Reinsurance Company, will manage four-fifths of AIG’s legacy business and will be backed by $40 billion of invested assets. DSA Re will manage the group’s life, as well as property and casualty run-off business, with total reserves of about $37 billion. Asked about the potential for new jobs, an AIG spokesman told The Royal Gazette: “As the functional build-out of DSA Re continues, there will be an increase in the number of employees based in Bermuda.” New York-based AIG has had a presence in Bermuda for 70 years and is based in the American International Building on Richmond Road. Last month, the company announced it agreed a $5.6 billion all-cash deal to buy Bermudian reinsurer Validus Holdings, which operates out of the neighboring building, and will further increase the group’s Bermudian interests. AIG has been led since May last year by Bermudian-born chief executive officer Brian Duperreault, who has spent a large part of his career in the Bermuda insurance market, with Ace Group and later with Hamilton Insurance Group, a company he founded and led. After AIG spent most of the past decade shedding assets and paying off a massive US government bailout that saved it from collapse after the 2008 global financial crisis, Mr Duperreault has vowed to bring back growth. An AIG spokesman said DSA Re would be managed in line with the Bermuda head office requirements. He added: “The Bermuda-based insurance businesses of AIG each have distinct business models, and AIG believes it will derive better value from those businesses by allowing them to operate largely independently of each other, to compete with their respective peers and focus on their respective markets. Over time, there may be some sharing of back-office resources and facilities in Bermuda where it makes economic and strategic sense.” He added that AIG’s Legacy Team, established in 2016, and their support functions would be responsible for managing DSA Re. Selection of Bermuda as the domicile for DSA Re came after AIG had reviewed various potential jurisdictions and structures, the spokesman said. Bermuda, he added, had emerged as a logical choice for several reasons:
The news of DSA Re’s formation came in AIG’s earnings statement for the fourth quarter of last year, which showed a loss of $6.7 billion. However, the net loss was roughly equivalent to a one-off charge related to US tax changes, while the underwriting loss at AIG’s North American business narrowed 94 per cent to $316 million. AIG reported $762 million in catastrophe losses during the fourth quarter and a record $4.2 billion for the whole of 2017. Sid Sankaran, AIG’s chief financial officer, said in a conference call with analysts last Friday: “We formed a Bermuda-domiciled legal entity, named DSA Reinsurance Company Ltd, to reinsure our legacy life and non-life run-off lines. By combining these run-off lines into a single well-capitalized legal entity, we were able to achieve operating synergies and strong diversification in assets. Legacy remains non-core and will be managed by a team with extensive run-off expertise.”
February 12. Arch Capital Group beat forecasts and finished the year strongly with net income of $203.5 million, or $1.46 per share, for the fourth quarter. That compares to a profit of $63.4 million for the same period in 2016. While it suffered pre-tax catastrophe losses of $68.5 million from the California wildfires, and $1.5 million from other events, it benefited from $69.1 million of reductions from the third-quarter hurricane events. This resulted in pre-tax catastrophe losses, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums, of $800,000. Arch Capital’s profit for the fourth quarter, adjusted for non-recurring gains, was $1.34 per share, which beat the expectations of analysts who had forecast $1.13 per share. Its combined ratio, excluding catastrophic activity and related adjustments was 87 per cent, down from 90.7 per cent, while the underwriting combined ratio for the quarter was 86.3 per cent, and for the year was 82.5 per cent. There was a $50.9 million favorable development in prior year loss reserves. During the quarter, Arch took a $21.5 million charge related to the re-evaluation of its net deferred tax assets as a result of the lower US corporate income tax rate that began this year. After-tax operating income for the period was $187.4 million, or $1.34 per share, compared to $141.5 million, or $1.13 per share a year ago. Gross premiums written for the quarter were up 25.7 per cent to $1.452 billion. For the full year the Bermudian-based company’s net income was $556.5 million, down from $664.6 million.
February 12. A helium balloon targeted at tourists has been cleared for take-off. Planning officials have approved View Bermuda Ltd’s project to install a tethered balloon in Southampton, which will take visitors hundreds of feet into the air for a bird’s-eye view of Bermuda. The planning assessment for the project said: “The proposed tethered HiFlyer balloon will be a unique opportunity for the island and has been designed to make use of existing infrastructure with minimal work required to install It will affect people of the area and be marketed as another experience for tourists to enjoy during their stay in Bermuda.” According to planning documents, the balloon would be installed on a property on Sea Express Lane, next to the Rockaway Ferry stop. The balloon will have a diameter of 128ft and carry passengers in a 25ft basket. The altitude of the balloon will be controlled by a large winch on the landing platform. The application states that the balloon would go no higher than 400ft above sea level, carrying as many as 30 passengers. In order to build a landing pad, a retaining wall will have to be constructed, but the plans say the retaining wall will be hidden by hibiscus. The application also includes a snack shop and ticket office made out of a modified shipping container and an outdoor seating area. The site would include parking for six cars and 16 bikes, but the application suggested that any overflow could use the nearby Rockaway ferry stop for parking.
See above story
February 12. Retail sales volume fell for a third successive month in November — a key month for the industry with Black Friday sales and the run-up to Christmas. Retailers took $95.7 million at the till, 0.7 per cent less than the same month in 2016. After inflation was taken into account, volume fell 3.1 per cent. All sectors saw decreases and motor vehicle dealers saw the largest decrease in sales volume, with a 14.2 per cent dip, according to data released by the Department of Statistics today. Apparel stores suffered a 7.2 per cent decline, while building materials stores saw a 4.1 per cent fall, while food stores’ sales volume slipped 1.8 per cent, liquor stores 3.1 per cent and fuel sales volume at services stations was down 2.2 per cent. Returning residents declared overseas purchases valued at $6.4 million, 3.2 per cent higher than November 2016. This contributed to a combined local and overseas spending of $102.3 million. Excluding Sundays, there were 25 shopping days during the month, the same as in November 2016.
February 12. The mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle are to be explained at a new Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute exhibition. Bermuda Triangle: Unlock the Secrets is to open at the BUEI’s Ocean Discovery Centre on Thursday. Mel Ferson, BUEI director, said: “In the past, there wasn’t a single point where one could find out more about the infamous Bermuda Triangle, not even in Bermuda. That is not the case anymore. Now people can find answers to one of the biggest mysteries of all time. In the perfect myth, facts are always mixed with fiction. BUEI has done historical and scientific research to separate the two.” Lana Leksina, the exhibit project manager, said: “The exhibit offers something for all audiences — from skeptics to true enthusiasts of the paranormal. It is the ultimate destination for all things Triangle-related. Regardless of the reasons behind the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon, this hugely popular myth is strongly embedded in international folklore. What better place to discover the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle than in the country that shares its name?” The exhibit includes:
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will include John Rankin, the Governor, Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, and Nancy Gosling, of main sponsor Gosling’s. BUEI’s education department will offer free guided tours of the exhibit to schools. Pupils will be invited to investigate disappearances and phenomena. The exhibit was designed by Ms Leksina and Canadian exhibit design firm 3DS/Three Dimensional Services, who also built the exhibit and oversaw its installation with local company Allset. It was also sponsored by Butterfield & Vallis, Elisabeth and Anne Kast Charitable Trust, Kurt and Jennifer Eve and Edmund Gibbons Ltd.
February 11, Sunday.
February 10. Bermuda’s population is ageing with those aged 65 and over now representing the third most populated group in Bermuda, according to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. Highlights from the report were presented in Parliament yesterday by Lovitta Foggo, the Minister of Cabinet Office with Responsibility of Government Reform. It showed the age group now represents 17 per cent of the population, shifting from the least populated group in 2010 to the third, while the median age increased from 41 to 44. Preliminary report analysis excludes 711 persons in institutions, 138 non-sheltered or homeless persons and 4,637 overseas visitors. According to the figures, the island’s non-institutional population is 63,779 — 30,690 male and 33,389 female. In terms of racial make-up 33,339 of those are black, 19,466 white, 5,780 mixed racial groups, 2,592 Asians and the remainder were not stated. The number of black people in the community dropped by 2 per cent from 2010 when the last report was published. According to the report, there was an increase in the population’s highest level of academic qualifications attained since 2010. The proportion of those 16 years or older with no formal certificates declined to 14 per cent, while the proportion of degree holders increased to 29 per cent. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7 per cent. The number of dwelling units increased to 28,192 units and the average household size was 2.26 persons per household. Out of the 27,418 private households, 48 per cent were owner-occupied. As of March 31, 2017, about $575,000 of the $1.7 million budgeted for the 2016 Census had been spent. Ms Foggo said it equated to 34 per cent of the budget. “The budget accounted for a higher percentage of data collection being completed by more costly field interviewing than actually materialized,” she explained. Ms Foggo said the report had presented a “plethora of challenges”. Some 827 households were not completed and data was imputed for these households as well as those partially completed. The 2016 Census results will be released in two publications. The first was released on January 29, focusing on a summary analyses of the most basic characteristics of Bermuda’s population and housing. The second report is expected to be completed by the end of next month. This final report will cover detailed analyses on the Census topics.
February 10. Nearly 1,000 people are registered to gain national certification in a variety of trades, the Minister of Education and Workforce Development told the House of Assembly yesterday morning. Diallo Rabain said a total of 964 tradespeople, 576 Bermudians and 388 work-permit holders, fall under the “designated occupations” covered by the certification scheme. Occupations included are landscape gardener, vehicle mechanic, electrician and welder. Mr Rabain said: “National certification is directly aligned with workforce development initiatives and is meant to create a level playing field and build a competitive advantage for all Bermudian trades professionals. This process is instrumental to providing enhanced work opportunities for Bermudians and was designed to ensure an outcome of potential growth, increased confidence and improved quality and efficiency of our workforce.” Mr Rabain added that welders had completed a practical training assessment and electricians had undergone training courses over the past few months. He added that seven vehicle mechanics and two electricians won national certification last month. Mr Rabain said the National Training Board had also approved apprenticeship contracts for four young Bermudians entering the workforce, with three to train as electricians and one as a landscape gardener. In addition, the Department of Workforce Development has teamed up with the Department of Financial Assistance and the Bermuda Hospitality Institute to train people as housemen and chambermaids for the hotel industry. The Fairmont Southampton has agreed to carry out the practical training for the candidates and the first group of 25 will start a two-week course this month. Another 25 are expected to take the course in March.
February 10. The owner of an upmarket specialist gay travel firm has called on cruise lines to haul down the Bermuda flag on their ships and register their vessels elsewhere. Darren Burn, founder of UK-based LGBTQ travel firm OutOfOffice.com, said: “We had customers interested in marrying at sea and now they won’t be able to. We’ll be sending them to other, more welcoming destinations.” He added: “We’ve also encouraged cruise ships to remove their business from Bermuda. We are calling on cruise lines to make a stand and re-register their ships. Mr Burn said: “It will send a very powerful message that equality cannot be repealed.” Mr Burn was speaking only days after John Rankin, the Governor, gave Royal Assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which repealed gay marriage and replaced it with civil unions. But Mr Burn warned that the decision would damage the island’s economy. “This a massive step back in the fight for equality. Bermuda had been seen as progressive, but by withdrawing the recognition and protection for same-sex couples, the country will be vilified as one of the most backward. As more and more countries enact legislation to ensure equality, this decision will have a significant impact. Not only will cruise lines like P&O and Cunard no longer be able to conduct same-sex weddings at sea because they are registered in Bermuda, but it sets a very dangerous precedent and is likely to see other similarly homophobic nations follow.” Mr Burn said Bermuda had seen a growth in popularity as a holiday destination since a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May last year, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda. The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island and the first gay couple exchanged vows at the Registrar-General’s office less than a month later. But Mr Burn added that customers would likely rethink their travel plans because of the decision to reverse same-sex marriages. Mr Burn added: “LGBT travelers have 23 per cent more disposable income than heterosexual travelers on average and so it’s a shame Bermuda has done this as it will undoubtedly suffer and lose revenue. The Government of Bermuda must realize that they benefit hugely from having ships registered here and that their economy depends on such trade. We will be making our views known to the Bermuda tourist board and to our colleagues at affected cruise lines.” Paul Scope, chairman of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority, said yesterday that it was “too early to properly gauge how the new law may affect our shipping sector, but Bermuda remains one of the world’s most attractive and welcoming ports. Our registry is a Class 1 member of the prestigious Red Ensign Group, and our ships and yachts therefore will continue to enjoy the benefits of that top-tier membership. For now, we’re assessing the legislative situation, and will provide more information when we have it.” A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs added: “The reasons for registering ships on the Bermuda Shipping Registry extend far beyond the ability to perform marriages at sea. While there may be other Flags which allow marriages at sea, ship owners have typically chosen Bermuda for a number of professional reasons, not the least of which is its high-quality reputation. Currently, the UK does not allow marriages to be performed on their ships.”
February 9. Legislators will return to Parliament today with a single item up for debate. MPs will discuss a special development order for homes at the Rosewood Tucker’s Point resort, which was tabled last December by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown will also table a draft agreement between the Corporation of Hamilton and HSBC Bank Bermuda Ltd. Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, will bring the 2015-16 audited financial report for the Regulatory Authority. Ministerial statements include the 2016 Census preliminary report, brought by government reform minister Lovitta Foggo, and an update on the cost of living commission, which will be given by David Burt, the Premier. Parliamentary questions include requests for details on personal staff hired by Mr Burt since taking office, and the final cost for the Census, as well as the numbers and costs for the government employees from 2012 to 2017. The controversy over new fees for medical diagnostic imaging may come up for discussion in responses from health minister Kim Wilson to Susan Jackson, the shadow minister, on supplementary payments to service providers affected by reduced fees. Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, is scheduled to address media reports on the Casino Gaming Commission. Today’s session will open with a moment of silence for Ernest DeCouto, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, and former minister Quinton Edness.
February 9. A pressure group that campaigned against the controversial airport redevelopment deal said it would remain opposed to the plan — irrespective of the findings of a new review. A spokesman for Move Bermuda said that “for so many reasons our position could not change about this deal. But that’s another conversation.” Move said the deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and construction firm Aecon to redevelop LF Wade International Airport had provoked “great angst, civil unrest and many restless nights”. The spokesman added: “We believe that the Government that negotiated the deal gave away much to our detriment and could have gotten a better deal elsewhere through the bargaining process.” Move was asked what the impact would be if the review was to find the deal a benefit to Bermuda. He said: “There are many variables associated with whether the full review would be deemed beneficial to Bermuda and the only one we can think of is that a modern terminal would be built. However, if it were found to be beneficial through the report then the idea would have to be accepted.” The spokesman said that the group was confident that the review ordered by the Government, conducted by the Bermuda Airport Authority and American-based consultant firm LeighFisher, would be made public. He added that Move expected the findings of the BAA review would “have a different conclusion” to the review completed by the Blue Ribbon Panel under the former One Bermuda Alliance government “based upon the knowledge of the contract and the financial information now available”. The spokesman said: “The review by the Blue Ribbon Panel was viewed as an expected outcome as there was nothing to compare the negotiated deal with.” A spokesman for the transport ministry confirmed this week that the final draft of a report on the review had been received, but that it would “undergo Cabinet consideration before it is made public”. Denis Pitcher, an independent political commentator, said both the report and the review itself should be made available to the public. Move and the People’s Campaign opposed the redevelopment deal in the lead-up to last July’s General Election. A protest against the redevelopment in December 2016 turned violent when police officers clashed with demonstrators who blocked entry to the House of Assembly. Officers used pepper spray on the crowd outside Sessions House. David Burt, the Premier who was then Opposition leader, Derrick Burgess, Lovitta Foggo and Michael Scott were among the Progressive Labour Party MPs who showed up to picket Parliament. At least 26 complaints were made to the Police Complaints Authority by members of the public in the wake of the demonstration. The Bermuda Police Service said 14 of their officers were assaulted.
February 9. A pressure group set up to fight same-sex marriage has welcomed news that the Governor had signed an Act to outlaw gay weddings. But OutBermuda, a gay rights group, said that it was only a matter of time before same-sex marriages were reintroduced. Melvyn Bassett, chairman of Preserve Marriage Bermuda, said the group was “thankful” that Bermuda had backtracked on a legal decision last May that paved the way for same-sex marriages and introduce civil partnerships instead, which will also be open to straight couples. Dr Bassett said: “Although Preserve Marriage does not condone any legal union which may provide legal footing for same-sex marriage, we do wish to commend the Government on being the first and only government in the world to reverse the laws on same-sex marriage.’ Preserve Marriage broke its silence on the row two days after John Rankin gave Royal Assent to the controversial Act, which sparked an international backlash and calls for a boycott of Bermuda. Dr Bassett said that the European Court of Human Rights did not impose obligations on countries to introduce equal access to marriage, but did expect states to recognize same-sex relationships — which was fulfilled by the Domestic Partnership Act signed by Mr Rankin. Dr Bassett added: Preserve Marriage will continue to educate the public as to the importance and benefits of traditional marriage to the society. “We are also committed to ensuring that the definition of marriage between a man and a woman remains in this country. Our aim is to continue to support families by working with other community groups that support healthy marriages and healthy families. To that end, Preserve Marriage has begun efforts to change its legal name to Preserve Marriage and Family.” A spokesman for OutBermuda said: “OutBermuda recognizes that our country is on a journey towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ people and families. This is not the first time a legislature has intervened to overturn a court ruling which supports marriage equality. It happened previously in Hawaii and in California. We believe lasting change on the issue of marriage equality requires us to work within the broader community to change hearts and minds, to reverse the perception that marriage equality is somehow detrimental to our island. This can and will be done.” The spokesman added: “We are encouraged by expressions of support both locally and internationally for Bermuda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people, and extend our tremendous gratitude on behalf of the community here. Marriage equality is a goal, but it is not the only goal. We encourage our allies to reach out as we continue to promote and support the well-being, health, dignity, security, safety and protection of the LGBTQ community in Bermuda. While we are disappointed, we are not powerless.”
February 9. American International Group’s takeover of Bermudian reinsurer Validus Holdings could be a sign of further deals in the industry this year. That is the view of Fitch Ratings, which says the effects of US tax reform and catastrophe losses last year is leading to speculation of more mergers and acquisitions among re/insurers in 2018 — especially in the Bermuda market. Increasing scale and diversification resulting from mergers could increase the resilience of firms to market challenges, including intense price competition and low investment yields, Fitch said. However, merger execution and integration risks could pose risks to profitability. “AIG’s $5.6 billion acquisition of Validus, announced in January, could foreshadow additional re/insurer acquisitions for 2018,” Fitch stated. Bloomberg News’s reported this week that German insurer Allianz had interest in acquiring Bermudian firm XL Group, while Swiss Re confirmed that it was discussing a potential deal for SoftBank to invest a minority stake in the company. Fitch added: “Notably, several recent deals have involved international firms buying into Bermuda or London, providing the benefit of growth outside home markets. The AIG-Validus acquisition is a case in point, with AIG gaining access to a Bermuda re/insurance operation and London platform. The sale of several typically smaller and less diversified re/insurers in recent years has largely been in response to a prolonged highly competitive market that has inhibited profitable capital deployment.” Last year’s catastrophe losses has exposed weakening reinsurance earnings fundamentals, while the growth of alternative capital in the reinsurance market helped limit price increases at the January 2018 renewals. Fitch’s global reinsurance sector outlook remains negative due to pricing concerns and constraining effects of low investment yields on profitability. “In addition, recently enacted US tax reforms reduced the tax advantage that Bermuda and some other international re/insurers have over their US counterparts,” Fitch said. “This may encourage firms to move more business to the US or enhance their geographic scope and competitive position through M&A. Conversely, opportunities for better revenue growth and rate adequacy could reduce sellers’ interest in finding a merger partner. A near-term shift towards property re/insurance rate increases in response to 2017 catastrophe losses and pricing stabilization in some other market segments will likely enable premium growth and modest underlying profit improvement in 2018. “Stronger global economic growth is also leading to expansion in insured exposures and demand for coverage.”
February 9. Bermuda-domiciled mortgage insurer Essent Group Ltd’s profits for the fourth quarter of last year received an $85.1 million boost from US tax reform. Essent said today it made net income of $162.6 million, or $1.65 per share, during the last three months of last year. The one-time impact of the reduced US corporate income tax rate on the company’s net deferred tax liability position contributed 86 cents per share to the results. Essent said net income for the full year 2017 was $379.7 million, or $3.99 per share. The company reported that two of last year’s hurricanes had contributed to an increase in defaults among the mortgages it insures. Mark Casale, chairman and chief executive officer, said Essent had continued to a high credit quality and profitable mortgage insurance portfolio during 2017. “During the year, we continued growing our earnings and generating strong returns,” Mr Casale said. “As we head into our ninth year of writing mortgage insurance, our outlook for 2018 on our business and housing remains positive.” Loans in default at December 31, 2017 were 4,783 compared to 2,153 as of September 30, 2017 and 1,757 as of December 31, 2016. Total loans in default increased by 2,630 in the quarter, including 2,288 defaults that we have identified as related to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The percentage of loans in default as of December 31, 2017 was 0.96 per cent, compared to 0.46 per cent as of September 30, 2017 and 0.47 per cent as of December 31, 2016. Essent said its insurance in force as of December 31, 2017 was $110.5 billion, up from $103.9 billion three months earlier and $83.3 billion from a year earlier. New insurance written for the fourth quarter was $11.2 billion and $43.9 billion for the full year. Net premiums earned for the fourth quarter were $148 million, compared to $116.8 million in 2016. For the full year 2017, net premiums earned were $530.1 million, compared to $422.7 million for 2016. The expense ratio for the fourth quarter was 24.7 per cent, compared to 29.8 per cent a year earlier. For the full year 2017, the expense ratio was 27.5 per cent, down from 30.9 per cent in 2016. Essent’s combined ratio for the fourth quarter, reflecting the proportion of premium dollars paid out on claims and expenses, was 36.4 per cent, compared to 33.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
February 9. A scholarship for university students has been renamed to honour the late CEO of one of Bermuda’s largest domestic insurance companies. Alan Peacock, the chief executive officer of Colonial Group International, died suddenly last year after suffering a suspected heart attack while traveling on business. The firm has decided to pay tribute to Mr Peacock by changing the name of an annual $25,000 scholarship it funds to the BFIS Alan Peacock Colonial Group Scholarship. It is awarded to a junior- or senior-year university student pursuing an undergraduate degree at an accredited university who intends to pursue a career in insurance. Grant Gibbons, CGI chairman, said: “Alan shunned publicity but he did a lot for Bermuda’s young people, primarily through sport. He also gave many young people their first jobs and helped to nurture their careers. We felt it was only fitting to rename the scholarship as a tribute to Alan’s legacy.” Last June, CGI announced that Mr Peacock, who joined the company in the 1970s, was due to retire this year and that Naz Farrow, the firm’s chief operating officer — health, had been appointed as CEO designate. “We lost a good boss, colleague and friend when Alan passed,” Ms Farrow said. “We are all still struggling to come to terms with the loss. He was a big part of Colonial and had a strong influence on the values and ethics of the company and employees. We hope the scholarship will continue to help young people embark on a career in insurance, and contribute to adding value to an industry that is a strong part of the Bermudian business world. I am sure that would please Alan immensely.” The scholarship is administered for Colonial by the Bermuda Foundation for Insurance Studies and a spokesperson said: “Renaming a scholarship that has helped several young people since its inception in 2006 is a very fitting and lasting tribute to Alan. There is no doubt that students will continue to take advantage of it and benefit from it in future years.”
February 9. A new health business that studies heavy metal concentration in people’s bodies to help gauge their health has started in Bermuda. Clare Pemberton has set up Life and Thrive after studying for two years at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, which she says, is “at the forefront of a new movement of health optimization rather than simply working on disease prevention”. Mrs Pemberton said: “Life and Thrive will help people to strengthen the health of their cells deep within their body. This is done through vitamin, mineral and heavy metal testing, guided heavy metal cellular-level detoxes and knowledge and guidance on how to live in such a way for both optimal health and a great, thriving, life.” She added that her business worked with a laboratory and a specialist nutritionist in the UK for its tests. "This is not about deprivation, but is about positive, permanent changes. People will not fail this programme.” Originally an accountant, Mrs Pemberton said she first got interested in health deep within the cells of the body before she conceived her first child. “The driving force for me was maximizing the health of my child before he was even conceived,” she said. “The health of the individual starts before they are even conceived with the healthiest egg and sperm possible. Through this I have learnt the importance of health deep within your cells for all conditions and diseases and for the optimization of your health.” She retrained in 2016 and 2017 with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. “The new science and research is showing that better nutrition, improved sleep, reduced levels of stress and the detoxification of heavy metals and toxicity are dramatically improving people’s health deep within their bodies. This, in turn, can lead to less fatigue, brain fog and autoimmune conditions and better health and happiness now. This can have a profound reduction on the likelihood of getting some of the common, scary diseases as well as reducing the severity of ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and autism.” Life and Thrive is based on the second floor of The Colonial Building, Gorham Road, Hamilton.
February 9. Repairs to a seawall in Hamilton Harbour will start on Monday. Work on the east-facing wall by the Hamilton Ferry Terminal and at the Flagpole area on Front Street is expected to be completed by April 20. A spokeswoman for the City of Hamilton said: “The repair work is not expected to have an impact on the public ferries, and alternate docking for the Dockyard-to-Hamilton cruise passenger tenders will be secured.” The spokeswoman said tour-boat operators and the boating public that use these areas must make other docking arrangements. She added: “Alternate locations may include Albuoy’s Point, Barr’s Bay Park and No 1 Dock. Boat operators using the alternate docking locations are reminded that there is a one-hour maximum time limit for loading and unloading vessels.” The spokeswoman said repairs would be carried out from a barge as well as on land. She added: “The City thanks the public for their patience and advises to exercise caution in this high-traffic area while the repairs are carried out. Signage will be in place.”
February 9. A pair of Bermudian performers will treat residents to an exclusive insight into their Hollywood experience on Monday. Hannah Eggen and Gianluca Gibbons, both part of the Heritage band and based in Los Angeles, will showcase some of their unreleased work and share their inside scoop on show business. The Bermudians in Hollywood event will also feature a sneak peek at upcoming film Romancery, starring Mr Gibbons, as well as comedian Nadanja Bailey. Mr Gibbons said: “It will be an intimate setting giving an exclusive insight into our journey in Hollywood, unreleased content, music, comedy and more.” He added: “We are very excited to use this event as a platform to continue to inspire other Bermudian creatives to strive for their dreams. We are even shooting videos while on the island to showcase how amazing Bermuda is for creating art.” Ms Eggen, who will perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas next month, said: “I can’t express how excited I am to share all we’ve been working on with our beautiful Bermudian family.” There will also be special screenings of unreleased music videos at the event at Speciality Cinema in Hamilton. The duo will also perform live with Ms Eggen on guitar and vocals, and Mr Gibbons on saxophone. Both Bermudians have spent the last few years in Los Angeles, but have performed around the world. They have shared the stage with acts including Carlos Santana, Wyclef Jean, The Madden Brothers, Wayne Wonder, Nico & Vinz, and Natasha Bedingfield. They have also made leaps into film, dance and motivational speaking. Tickets cost $15. The event will run from 6.30pm to 8pm.
February 9. A footbridge over Flatts Inlet has won approval from planners. The project, championed by the Friends of the Bermuda Railway Trail, is one of three designed to link long-separated sections of the historic former rail track. The plan will include one bridge over the inlet, one over North Shore Road and a third over a private driveway. A planning assessment said: “The bridges will allow for further connecting of the historic Bermuda Railway Trail to be achieved, which will benefit members of the public and visitors alike. “It will enhance the existing experience for users of the trail and encourage further use while also allowing visitors another glimpse into the historic railway and beautiful vistas which would have been afforded to users of the railway at the time.” The FBRT earlier worked to install new bridges at Store Hill and Bailey’s Bay as well as providing a raft of upgrades to the trail across the island. The planning application said the bridge over Flatts Inlet would use the same pillars as the original railway, although additional piers will be added. The bridge would stretch 730ft and stand 22ft above the low-tide mark. The planning documents said the bridge would be high enough to allow tour boats and all but one of the boats moored in the inlet to pass underneath. The owner of the remaining boat said she would move the boat to another mooring before work started. A second bridge section would stretch 220ft, and pass 16.5ft above North Shore Road. The final section of bridge would cross 16ft over a nearby private driveway. All of the bridges will be designed to withstand hurricane conditions. A public meeting about the proposal was held last May, and a computer-generated video was released online showing what the proposed bridge would look like. The proposal attracted four objections, including one from the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce. The environmental charity said: “The proposal encompasses numerous conservation or protection areas and as such we believe that it’s essential that an environmental impact assessment be required to identify and avoid any as-yet unknown threats.” The three other objections came from residents who voiced concerns about the visual impact of the bridge over the inlet. The project also received a letter of support from another area resident. The planning assessment says that all of the objectors received letters of response and were notified when the final plans were submitted, but no further comments were received.
February. 9. The introduction of roadside breath tests could face legal and constitutional hurdles. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said the use of a breathalyzer programme would need to be regulated. He said: “If there is going to be roadside testing, there have got to be very strict criteria under which cars are going to be randomly selected. There will also have to be a very fair campaign. You have to have the records to say it is truly a random selection. The devil is in the details, and it’s all about the implementation, but at the front end there has to be a very clear educational piece to say what it is and a constant monitoring of the process, procedures and police operations to make sure it is fair.” Mr Wolffe explained police need to have reasonable grounds to stop a motorist. Introducing random stops could raise questions about discrimination unless they were handled with care. He said: “It’s similar to the arguments that were made over stop and search. A lot of provisional arguments were made that it was being used to profile and being used to predominantly stop one demographic. The question would be, would this legislation do the exact same thing?” Mr Wolffe added police would need to be able to prove stops are random, and the location of checkpoints would also have to be selected with care to avoid the appearance of discrimination. He said: “Setting up on East Broadway, stopping every tenth car, might be fine, but if you go and set up on Court Street, where you have a large percentage of people of a certain racial background, people are going to start wondering why you are there and when you were last set up in Tucker’s Town.” Mr Wolffe added that speed cameras could also cause legal problems as prosecutors would have to prove who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence. You may have the car, but in Bermuda people borrow cars all the time. How do you say, from a legal standpoint, that a certain person was driving the car? Legislative changes could be introduced to make the owner of the car responsible for the person driving the vehicle, but that could also cause problems. If your car was stolen, you can say it was stolen, but the burden now falls on you to say you were not driving. The law, under the Constitution, says you are innocent until proven guilty and it is the prosecution that has to prove the case against you. You should not at any time have to prove your innocence. It could happen. It has happened in other jurisdictions, but the legislation would have to be in place, and I would expect you would rightfully get some opposition from the Defence Bar, who might say their clients are being denied due process and are having to prove their innocence.” Mr Wolffe said enforcing the 35km/h speed limit might also cause problems. He added: “The difficulty I have, from a legal standpoint, is that although the speed limit is 35, people have a legitimate expectation that they won’t be stopped for 36. To some degree it would be unfair to the public to say we have been allowing you for all these years to go to 50, but now we are going to backtrack you almost 20km/h. It would be kind of unfair, and may even seem to be an injustice for us to do a complete reduction. I don’t think that’s something we should visit on the people.” Mr Wolffe said that an increase in the legal speed limit to 50km/h would need strict enforcement to prevent drivers and riders traveling at even higher speeds. We have to make sure if you raise it that the police and the courts are very clear that if you exceed the speed limit you will be ticketed and appropriately sentenced. We have to be very careful. Traffic enforcement is key and that police could deter crime through high visibility. If you see police parked outside of the bars on Front Street in the early morning, that’s a deterrent. That’s sending a very clear message, but you don’t see that as much any more. Just the presence of police officers can go a long way. Driving along Kindley Field Road in the morning, I know when a police officer is stopped there because no one is overtaking me. The mere presence of a police officer may deter some of the incidents.”
February 9. Royal Gazette Editorial. "It is not unreasonable to conclude that had Parliament not reconvened until February 9, 2019 rather than this morning, John Rankin would still be giving “careful consideration” to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017. Since the Senate gave its approval by a conclusive 8-3 margin, with all three independents siding with the “ayes”, the issue of same-sex marriage in Bermuda has been the topic of debate from as far away as Britain. There the House of Commons set aside a half-hour at adjournment time last week so that two openly gay men could debate whether Britain’s oldest overseas territory needed to have its knuckles rapped by Big Brother. Chris Bryant, a Labour MP living in a civil partnership, making the case to intervene; Sir Alan Duncan, a government minister living in a civil partnership, arguing that Britain leaves Bermuda to its own devices. Some irony, that. We may never know if Sir Alan, the Minister of State, or Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, had any influence on the Governor’s decision or if, with a resigned shrug of the shoulders given the United Kingdom’s inability to get Northern Ireland onside, they basically said: “We’re screwed. Over to you, John.” Having waited for the best part of two months for Royal Assent, the pithy, 22-word statement that came out of Government House told of a man who was backed into a corner, forced into signing off on something that goes against his sense of right and human dignity. There are many others who feel that way in Bermuda after the roundabout way in which we have dealt with an issue that has such meaning to an albeit very small LGBTQ community but swelling support base. The inability of both political parties to negotiate their way through uncomfortable waters means an Act that would have been seen nine months ago as a fantastic step forward, and setting the example for our Caribbean neighbors, is now viewed as backward. Which is a shame and particularly hard on someone such as home affairs minister Walton Brown, who has devoted so much of his life to fighting for human rights to the extent of being seen as an outlier within his own party. Brown’s Act has elicited a sensational reaction, with many incensed Bermudians falling into line behind movements to boycott the island — the hashtag #BoycottBermuda making enough of an inglorious return in Twittersphere to give Kevin Dallas and the Bermuda Tourism Authority heart palpitations so soon after the announcement of a record visitor intake in 2017. And in pincer-like movement, the international media have pounced, Royal Assent confirming that we have indeed become the first country to allow same-sex marriage — if not in parliamentary-approved legislation — and then repeal it. Albeit that domestic partnerships are everything but marriage in name — and we mean everything — any hindrance to progression can be argued as regression. While it is too soon to know if the island will take an economic hit, how long Bermuda remains in the international news spotlight in alignment with same-sex marriage could be a factor. With David Burt, the Premier, set to deliver his first Budget Statement as finance minister a week today, when he is expected to plot a path towards continued economic revival, the timing could hardly be worse. Operating at glacial pace where it pertains to social change is part of the “Bermudian culture”. This culture, which includes the infamous double-negative that is treated like the Queen’s English and which remains on a homicidal pace on our roads despite the horrendous results revealed by A Piece of the Rock, is resistant to criticism of any form — constructive or otherwise — if it is coming from the wrong side of the fence. So seeing gays as people, too, in every sense, will take time. At the crux of this country coming to terms with the need to treat its brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community as brothers and sisters is education. And if in 2018 we still cannot appreciate the illiteracy of “I ain’t going nowhere”, brazenly passing it down to our children, generation after generation, the chances of a truly collective epiphany attended dually by empathy and grace are remote. Without wanting to reprise the worst of Patricia Gordon-Pamplin’s “You Will Die” speech, we will get there. We are just waiting for the right generation to come for that penny to finally drop. It was only in 2013 that sexual orientation was added to the Human Rights Act. And it was only 19 years earlier that the Stubbs Bill led to the removal of buggery from our books as a crime. Poor Walton Brown. A year ago, this assent could have led to him being draped in the rainbow colors and paraded around the City of Hamilton. Now, for those who might have anointed, it is a crown of thorns and a cross the weight of the world on his back that are better suited. Alas, Easter and the Resurrection are just around the corner.
February 8. Michael Weeks has been appointed as the new Minister of Social Development and Sport. Mr Weeks, Government Whip since the Progressive Labour Party won the General Election in July 2017, assumes the role which was made vacant by the resignation of Zane DeSilva. Premier David Burt, who made the announcement at Government House, said Mr Weeks is “no stranger to Cabinet and no stranger to the very important ministry of social development and sports”. The Premier added that Mr Weeks has a “deep passion” for the community and for sport. Mr Burt said: “As someone who has worked in community service for a very long time, I have every confidence that he will be able to demonstrate the passion for the job, executing the Government’s wishes on the very important matters of financial assistance reform, community club regeneration and the very important matters of making sure our social fabric and our culture continues to be highlighted.” Mr Weeks pledged to continue Mr DeSilva’s work to help community and sports clubs. He added: “The time has long been overdue for us to acknowledge and bring our community and sporting clubs into the 21st century. I have always said that if we get social development and sports right, that is the glue of our community. I firmly believe that if we get social development and sports right, we will address a lot of the issues.” Mr Weeks said he also aimed to help with financial assistance reform but said he wanted to meet the permanent secretary at the ministry and others before he made any further statements. He added: “As the Premier said, I come with a list of accomplishments that I have done in that ministry. But as we know, it not just on what you’ve done, so I pledge to work hard. I pledge to be the best that I can be. I tell the people of Bermuda that my decisions as minister may not always be what you want to hear, but trust that Michael Weeks will always make a decision that is fair and honest.” Mr Weeks, who became a Cabinet minister without portfolio in 2010 under the former PLP government, was announced as the Minister of Community Development in June 2011. He became Minister of Public Works later that year, a post he held until the One Bermuda Alliance won the General Election in 2012. He became the Shadow Minister of Community and Cultural Development in 2012 and later held the position of Shadow Minister of Social Development and Sport. Mr DeSilva, who became the Minister of Social Development and Sport in July last year, quit his post last month because of a “conflict” over changes to fees for MRI and CT medical scans. He earlier stood by Ewart Brown, a former PLP premier, at a press conference in which Dr Brown blamed government fee cuts for the closure of the CT scan service at his Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s. Government reform minister Lovitta Foggo filled in as acting minister until a replacement was identified. Owen Darrell, the PLP chairman, said yesterday that a new Government Whip would be voted on at a caucus meeting last night.
February 8. The battle for same-sex marriage could end up in Europe’s highest courts, lawyer Mark Pettingill said last night. Mr Pettingill said that Royal Assent for a law designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships meant that any further legal action would need to be heard in higher courts. The former attorney-general, who fought the May 2017 Supreme Court case that paved the way for same-sex marriage, added: “This is now something that would necessarily invite consideration beyond our shores. There is potential for a challenge going all the way to the European courts.” Mr Pettingill was speaking after John Rankin, the Governor, rubber-stamped the Domestic Partnership Act, which was drawn up to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships for both gay and straight couples. Mr Pettingill and his team represented Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, in their successful landmark case against the Bermuda Government after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns. He said: “I take the view, as do a number of other lawyers, that there is a case to be heard on the basis of the rights enshrined in our Constitution. The question becomes, are there any relevant parties that are prepared to take up that fight? I feel that potential is there. Unfortunately, there are the risks of losing, which would probably incur substantial legal costs. These things are not cheap to run. Anybody who decided to take up that challenge as a litigant would have to think very carefully about the possibility that they could lose, and the risks involved.” Mr Pettingill explained that a challenge to the Domestic Partnership Act would represent “a very different case, although of course it related to the same legal issues”. He said: “It is a fundamentally different position to argue in law. We are dealing with same-sex marriage, with something that became legal on the basis of human rights issues and is now being effectively taken away by an Act of Parliament. To challenge that clearly is embarking on new legal ground as it relates to the issues and facts associated. It presents a far tougher case and a far longer and potentially more drawn-out battle.” Mr Pettingill said would-be challengers had already approached him to weigh up the merits of further legal action in an international arena. He added: “We will have to see. I am obviously deeply disappointed, as is a whole segment of right-minded people who feel the same way on human rights issues. I cannot say I am startled or surprised. It was given full consideration by the Governor. The question now becomes, is there a constitutional legal issue that can bring a challenge in relation to this assent?” Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, said the Act represented “a compromise piece of legislation which does not bring any high level of satisfaction to any side” in the island’s long-running row over same-sex marriage. Mr Brown, speaking from London, added the provisions of the Act were “the only position that could be taken at this point. This difficult piece of legislation was developed in such a way as to ensure that it fully complies with our Constitution. Clearly anyone has the right to challenge anything they want, but it must be a challenge with merit.” Mr Brown questioned the delay between the Act’s backing by Parliament and Mr Rankin’s decision to give it Royal Assent. He said that the constitutional implications of the Domestic Partnership Act had already been “assessed in great detail” by the Attorney-General’s chambers. Mr Brown added: “All I will say is that I have never seen any piece of legislation attract this much attention in terms of the timing of the Governor’s signature. It has been duly passed by both Houses of Parliament. It passed with a large majority in the House of Assembly, and it was passed by five government and three independent senators, representing the will of the people. After this very important piece of legislation, we will move to develop others to help put Bermuda into a better place.” Mr Godwin said he and his husband were “deeply saddened. “It’s a sad day for Bermuda. It’s a sad day for human rights. The Governor was placed between a rock and a hard place with this poorly planned and rushed Bill.” But he told the island’s LGBTQ people: “While Greg and I were the face of this case, we represented every single one of you and helped to give a voice to those that didn’t have one. Because of you, we were able to make a difference in the lives of eight couples and that’s something that shouldn’t be understated or forgotten. You are all loved and are worthy of love.” The Governor’s decision attracted fast condemnation from overseas. Chris Bryant, the Opposition Labour MP who called for the House of Commons debate, tweeted last night: “So Boris Johnson has granted permission to Bermuda to abolish same-sex marriage. This totally undermines UK efforts to advance LGBT rights.” Ty Cobb, director at Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Global, called the move a “deplorable action. Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first territory in the world to repeal marriage equality. This decision strips loving same-sex couples of the right to marry and jeopardizes Bermuda’s international reputation and economy. Despite this deplorable action, the fight for marriage equality in Bermuda will continue until the day when every Bermudian is afforded the right to marry the person they love.” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of New York’s Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, added: “LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news. Love can never be rolled back.” Clare O’Connor, a Bermudian journalist living overseas, promised not to send any business towards her homeland. “I will be encouraging my LGBTQ friends to spend their money elsewhere,” said Ms O’Connor, formerly of Forbes magazine, who has almost 22,000 followers on Twitter. “This is despicable and I hope the Progressive Labour Party and Governor understand the damage they’ve done.” Rainbow Alliance Bermuda and OutBermuda did not respond to requests for comment by press time. Preserve Marriage Bermuda, which campaigned against same-sex marriage, also did not respond to a request for comment.
February 8. The ratings of some insurance and reinsurance groups could be affected by the impact of the reform of US tax law. AM Best said that anticipated structural changes to certain reinsurance arrangements between affiliated insurance or reinsurance companies, particularly those domiciled in the US, could impact the rating agency’s assessment of group rating affiliations. The agency said its “rating unit” concept in evaluating insurance group members recognizes that the financial fortunes of certain members may be so intertwined that they are most appropriately analyzed with their group as a whole. Several Bermuda insurance groups have American-based insurance subsidiaries and cede a proportion of that business to a Bermudian-based affiliate in the form of quota share reinsurance. According to a new Best’s Briefing, titled Impact of US Tax Reform on Group Rating Affiliations, AM Best expects its rated American-domiciled insurers and reinsurers to make significant changes to material financial arrangements, such as quota share, excess of loss or stop-loss reinsurance agreements with foreign affiliates, in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s base erosion and anti-abuse tax measure. The agency said material changes to a reinsurance agreement, or outright non-renewal, for any reason, could affect AM Best’s assessment of whether a parent is willing and able to provide explicit support to an affiliate. However, it also said explicit support is one of ten qualitative and quantitative factors used to assess group rating affiliation eligibility, and it will consider all of these, “including all forms of explicit support, on a situational basis”. AM Best expects tax reform to be a net positive for the financial position of US property/casualty insurance companies and American-parented global insurers and reinsurers. The agency said the largest benefit will be the reduction in the corporate tax rate; however, other tax reform provisions may limit the benefit of the reduction. AM Best noted that foreign-parented global re/insurers have publicly stated that the impact of tax reform will not be material, presumably as a result of the multiple platforms in which they can transact business.
February 8. Axis Capital Holdings made a loss of $38 million, or 46 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, down from a profit of $131 million, or $1.48 per share, a year ago. The combined ratio for the quarter rose to 100.7 per cent, compared to 96.7 per cent, for the same period in 2016. Pre-tax catastrophe and weather-related losses, net of reinsurance and reinstatement premiums, were $133 million. Albert Benchimol, president and CEO of Axis Capital, said the fourth quarter brought “significant catastrophe activity, higher attritional property losses, the ongoing effects of the Ogden rate change in the UK, and the cumulative impact of several years of intense competition”. For the full year, Axis made a loss of $416 million, or $4.94 per share, compared to a profit of $465 million in 2016. Mr Benchimol said: “Although our loss for the year is clearly disappointing, we operate in an industry that experiences occasional high-severity events. To balance against this, we manage our risks to ensure we remain strong and able to provide the seamless, high-quality protection our clients and partners in distribution have come to expect of us. The actions we have taken over recent quarters to reduce earnings volatility have helped to temper the impact to our financial results in a period where industry catastrophe losses were in excess of $100 billion.” Noting the 7.5 per cent decrease in diluted book value per share of $53.88 at the end of the year, he said that was not unreasonable when compared to the scale of market losses observed during the period. “Notwithstanding the industry backdrop, it was a very successful quarter and year from an organizational development perspective, as we closed on the acquisition of Novae and made further progress on strategic initiatives, all of which have contributed to the delivery of a much stronger platform with differentiated positioning and leadership positions in key markets. This was the first quarter in which we included Novae in our financial reporting and, as such, there are a number of moving parts in our results. We remain pleased with the progress we have made thus far in integrating this business into Axis and laying the groundwork to realize significant value from the transaction. Our experience to date indicates the strategic and financial benefits from the acquisition of Novae will exceed our initial expectations.” Mr Benchimol added: “As we look ahead, our stronger industry positioning and increased relevance in our core markets have allowed us to take advantage of improving market conditions at recent renewals, and establish positive momentum as we move past the 1/1 renewals and deeper into 2018, to deliver enhanced profitability.” During the fourth quarter, Axis’s net premiums written increased to $729 million, up 57 per cent, while for the full year net premiums were $4 billion, a rise of 7 per cent. For the year, the company’s combined ratio rose from 95.9 per cent to 113.1 per cent.
February 8. Two men accused of laundering nearly $1.8 million stolen from the Bermuda Government have been cleared by a jury in Wales. Paul Charity, 52 and Joel Ismail, 42, both from Leicester, were found not guilty following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court. Charity, a financial adviser, was convicted of hiding information from police investigating the theft. He admitted to police that he had deleted e-mails that sounded incriminating. The court heard that one deleted e-mail included the phrase: “No more money-laundering department.” Charity will be sentenced with Jeffrey Bevan, 50, from Cwmbran, who earlier admitted his involvement in the case. Bevan, an accountant, pleaded guilty to three counts of transferring criminal property and ten counts of converting criminal property. Charity and Mr Ismail were charged with assisting in the money laundering, but claimed they did not know the money was stolen. Mr Ismail testified that he had known Bevan for a long time and had invested in homes in Swansea with him. He also said Bevan had sent him e-mails from Bermuda with the false claim that he had won a promotion and a pay raise. Bevan worked in the Accountant-General’s Office for nearly three years before he returned to Wales. He made 52 payments totaling $2.45 million into his and his wife’s personal accounts over that time. An investigation launched after Bevan left Bermuda revealed the series of bogus payments. These included a $71,000 transfer that appeared to have gone to a care home and another of $89,000 in the name of management services consultancy Chevron International. Investigators found Bevan had spent more than $400,000 of the stolen funds in Bermuda. He then laundered almost $1.8 million of the money. He used the cash to buy several homes, a Mercedes car and to fund his gambling habit. Sentencing will take place on February 16.
February 8. Tougher penalties and more sentencing options are needed to tackle traffic offences. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said legislation to give the bench more powers would help the courts to do their part in the battle against dangerous driving. “Magistrates’ hands are tied in the sense that we can only do what the law tells us we can do. The law says one thing, and we have to stick by it,” Mr Wolffe said. “For us to do anything more, there has to be legislative change and changes to the sentencing tariffs of certain offences. There may need to be some revision to make sentences harsher not just for speeding offences but for driving under the influence, dangerous driving and careless driving.” Mr Wolffe was speaking during the second week of The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, which is designed to cut the grim toll of death and injury on the island’s roads. He said that the demerit point system, introduced in 2005 to discourage repeat offences, has not worked. Under the scheme, people convicted of traffic offences are given demerit points in addition to other penalties. Mr Wolffe said: “If you have more than 12 points, the magistrate has the discretion to take you off the road for six months, but people can speed two or three times before they reach that 12 points, so our hands are tied. We need to wait until they reach 12 points. There was a time when you could be disqualified for driving any vehicles at a speed of 65km/h. Now, with the demerit point system, persons can go as high as 85km/h, receive demerit points and not be disqualified from driving. The speeds seem to be going up.” Mr Wolffe said that in addition to bigger penalties, he would like to see magistrates get sentencing options beyond fines, points and driving bans. “Stopping someone from getting their car licensed if they commit these types of offences might be effective, or perhaps stopping them from traveling by saying that we will not take them off the road, but we will take their passport. I think for most Bermudians taking their passport away will be more devastating than taking away their licence.” The senior magistrate said education was vital to improve road safety, and the Magistrates’ Court wanted to help. “We are embarking on a public educational outreach programme. We have done it here and there over the past few years but what we would like to do is get children who are reaching riding age and bring them into the courtroom so they can see some of the offences that are being committed, what the penalties are for it and the devastation some of these offences are causing. Maybe in some way that will help dictate their riding behavior. We do it every now and then but I don’t think we do enough of it. This year we are going to be reaching out to various schools to see if we can have a more structured programme.” Mr Wolffe added the Bermuda Police Service, the courts and schools all had the same road safety goals, but that they could work together better. “We operate, particularly government departments, in our own little silos. We are here trying to do our thing, police are trying to do their thing, the schools are doing their thing, but never do the three meet. We need to get together and decide how we are going to tackle this problem, because it’s not getting any better. In fact it’s probably getting worse. If we don’t address this problem, we will have a huge swath of people who are committing these offences, killing others and injuring themselves and who have no future. It’s really difficult not to sound melodramatic, but it really is that serious.”
February 8. A golf club that removed the colour bar in the sport has been honored by the Governor. John Rankin presented the Ocean View Golf Club with the memoirs of former governor Sir Julian Gascoigne, who presented the club with the Governor’s Cup in 1964 to help in its battle to overturn the island’s racial segregation. Cheryl-Lynne Thompson, president of Ocean View, said it was “the first golf club on the island that allowed black Bermudians and those of Portuguese descent to play”. She said: “At a time of need, it was supported by Sir Julian, as Governor of Bermuda, including through the holding of a meeting at Government House, to which members of the House of Assembly were invited. Ocean View then played a key role in bringing about the desegregation of golf in Bermuda.” Ms Thompson added that the club will celebrate its 64th anniversary on Sunday and mark the journey in which black members worked hard to create a golf course from overgrown farmland. She added club members had “a lot of financial worries hanging over their heads” during its history and it had been twice hit by arson. The Government bought the land in Devonshire in 1961, but two surviving members of Ocean View’s original executive board can trace its roots back decades beyond that. The Reverend Vernon Lowe, Ocean View’s first president, joined past executive member Harrison Simons to talk about the club’s past. Mr Lowe said A.B. Place, editor of the Bermuda Recorder, asked the land-rich Gibbons family for help to create a proper golf course. Mr Lowe said: “They developed a nine-hole golf course named Ocean View. Mr Place was the first president in the organisation of the golf course, and I was the first president in the operation. My brothers, and others who were interested in golf, used to get down on their hands and knees and pull up the sage bushes so we would have a fairway to play golf until it was constructed and then we, with pride, decided to formulate a golf organisation and here we are.” Mr Lowe added the drive to develop Ocean View went back to “the late 1930s, early 1940s. It’s because of the capability of golfers that we had as colored people. We were complaining at not being able to play the other courses without going down there first thing in the morning, 5am, to play. After we got organized and started playing here, I wrote a column for the Recorder called ‘Up and Down the Fairway’.” The column caught the attention of Sir Alexander Hood, Governor from 1949 to 1955, who invited Mr Lowe, now 91, to have tea at Government House, where they discussed the issue of “bringing together the races”. Mr Lowe said: “I informed him that Bermuda was too small to have such a division of the races.” The cause was taken up by Sir Julian, Governor from 1959 to 1964, who gave the club “a huge cup, still being played for”, to help unite a racially fragmented community. Mr Lowe added: “It did help in some aspects. Ocean View played Mid Ocean on this course, and they went also to play at Mid Ocean. It did bring about some change in the environment of the Bermuda Golf Association.” Mr Simons, 80, looked back on getting involved in the mid-1960s when Ocean View was “really not a golf course, it was run by the British garrison until they left”. He said a group of 25 men formed Ocean View’s first executive group. Mr Simons added: “When the former president approached the Governor about us having this golf course, Bermuda was in a very segregated place.” He said the Government allowed the land to be used on condition it would be “for all people, meaning brown, yellow, black and white”. Mr Simons added: “The response was yes. Hence this golf course, known as the garrison golf course, was given to Ocean View.” Farm animals still roamed the Devonshire land overlooking North Shore when the club took over. The course was nicknamed “the cow pasture” as a result. Mr Simons said: “But since that time, we stood with it, we worked hard, and when the Governor agreed to give us this golf course, we all came in many times on a Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning and prepared greens so that anybody could play. We have produced some of the best golfers in Bermuda. We stand by our record 100 per cent.” Mr Simons said he hoped to erect a plaque to the three founders of Ocean View, the Reverend Erskine Simons, Bill Pitt Sr, and George Lowe. The memorial would mark the site of the first club house, which was built of wood. Mr Simons said: “One day the wind was in the right place, and somebody set fire to it. We lost all the golf clubs, the pounds, shillings and pence. It all went up in a blaze. We stood with it, and were able to bounce back, and come up with this facility.” Brian Morris, head golf professional at Ocean View, said it was important to keep the memory of the club’s past alive: “It’s important for me. It’s my obligation, not just for my job, but to the club. I started golfing here when I was 7 or 8. I’m from Devonshire and my first tournament was here. These days there is a lot of excitement around the club, and a lot of the old traits are coming back. It’s always been social. We just need to get the great golfers back. These guys were sharp in their day.”
February 8. A former teacher on the island appeared in Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with sexual assault on a teenager after he was extradited from the United States. The 47-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl in May 2007. Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo remanded the man in custody. He is next due to appear in court on Monday.
February 7. Same-sex marriage in Bermuda was outlawed yesterday after the Governor gave Royal Assent to an Act designed to replace it with civil partnerships. John Rankin signed the legislation 61 days after it was backed in the House of Assembly and 56 days in the wake of its approval by Senate. Mr Rankin said the Domestic Partnership Act was signed into law “after careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the Constitution”. The move ended weeks of speculation over whether Britain would allow the legislation, and dashed the hopes of activists in Bermuda and overseas who had asked Mr Rankin to reject the new law. Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, speaking from London last night said that he was pleased the green light had been given to domestic partnerships, which will be available to both gay and heterosexual couples. He added: “The Act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female, while recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.” Mr Brown said that same-sex couples already married under Bermuda law will continue to be recognized as married. He added that “any overseas same-sex marriages taking place before and during the transitional period will also be capable of recognition as marriages in Bermuda”. The island came under the international spotlight over the controversy and it was branded the first country to outlaw same-sex marriage after it was backed by the courts. But Mr Brown said the introduction of the legislation made Bermuda, an associate member of the Caribbean organisation Caricom, “among the first English-speaking Caribbean islands to introduce and pass a law that provides legal recognition to same-sex couples”. He added the partnerships will give same-sex couples rights “equivalent to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples — rights that were not guaranteed before the passage of this Act”. Mr Brown said guaranteed rights include “the right to inherit in the case of no will, the right to a partner’s pensions, access to property rights, the right to make medical decisions on behalf of one’s partner and the right to live and work in Bermuda as the domestic partner of a Bermudian”. Bermuda’s same-sex marriage row went as far as the UK House of Commons. Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said during a debate on the subject last month that Britain was “disappointed” by Bermuda’s decision to reverse marriage equality. The controversial legislation was introduced in November 2017 by Mr Brown in the wake of a bitter national debate over allowing same-sex couples to wed. It followed a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2017, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda. The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island and the first gay couple exchanged vows at the Registrar-General’s office less than a month later. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said the Act gives rights and benefits to domestic partnerships that were “almost exactly the same as the rights and benefits of marriage”. She said: “Clause 50 states that where the words specified in the table, which include marriage, spouse, husband, wife, widow and widower, are mentioned throughout Bermuda legislation, these are to be read in the case of a person in a domestic partnership as the corresponding word specified, that is domestic partnership, domestic partner or surviving domestic partner. Clause 50 also provides that references to next of kin and relative include a domestic partner.” Same-sex marriage and civil unions were voted on in a non-binding referendum in June 2016. The referendum failed to attract the 50 per cent minimum of registered voters needed to rule that questions were “answered”. But those who did vote rejected both same-sex marriage and civil unions by a margin of more than two to one. Mr Brown said last night the referendum showed that the majority of Bermudians did not support same-sex marriage. He added it was the Government’s belief that “this Act addresses this position while also complying with the European courts by ensuring that recognition and protection for same-sex couples are put in place. “Bermuda will continue to live up to its well-earned reputation as a friendly and welcoming place, where all visitors, including LGBT visitors, will continue to enjoy our beauty, our warm hospitality and inclusive culture.”
February 7. Former Premier Michael Dunkley questioned last night if a parliamentary committee established to inquire into a clash between protesters and police outside the House of Assembly had been properly set up. The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee was designed to investigate a clash between police and demonstrators who blocked Parliament in December 2016. Protesters were pepper-sprayed, and several officers reported they were assaulted after the demonstrators stopped MPs from entering the House of Assembly for a key debate over legislation for the controversial redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport. The seven-member group, chaired by Progressive Labour Party MP Kim Swan, began meeting last month. In a letter sent on Monday to Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, Mr Dunkley wrote that “it is my understanding that a resolution to establish this Joint Select Committee has not yet been passed by each House of the Legislature” in accordance with the Parliament Act. Mr Dunkley said he would be “more than willing” to appear before the committee, and that a January 30 letter from Mr Swan had requested a statement of his actions at the time of the protest, when he was premier. He added that standing orders of the House allowed for a Joint Select Committee to be appointed at the request of either Parliament or the Senate with the approval of the other House. Mr Dunkley said that “to the best of my knowledge this has not been done. Thus, in my view, it is not properly constituted and, until it is, it has no jurisdiction or authority to commence any proceedings with the result that no work should be done”. The One Bermuda Alliance MP added in the letter that he was “most concerned that certain members of the PJSC will not be able to conduct themselves in an unbiased way having regard to the comments made by them during this debate”. Along with Mr Swan, the committee members selected by Mr Lister were Joan Dillas-Wright, Senate president, PLP MPs Tinée Furbert, Michael Scott and Neville Tyrrell, OBA MP Ben Smith and OBA senator Andrew Simons. Mr Swan declined to comment on Mr Dunkley’s letter yesterday and said the committee’s work was a matter for the Speaker. Mr Lister said he had not yet seen Mr Dunkley’s letter. He added: “We are on the eve of starting the next parliamentary session. This whole country knows that my approach is to be fair to every member, no matter which side of the political spectrum they sit upon.” Mr Lister added: “If Mr Dunkley wants to address this properly, I will arrange for us to sit and have this discussion.” Mr Dunkley said that he had “the greatest respect for the Speaker”, and that Mr Swan’s letter had asked him to reply by this Friday, when MPs return to the House. He added: “December 2 was a very serious matter and I want to make sure I do everything I can to comply with a duly constituted PJSC.”
February 7. Bermuda was home to 739 active captive insurance companies as of the end of last year, according to financial-services regulator, the Bermuda Monetary Authority. The BMA said 17 new captives were registered in 2017, up from 13 in 2016. Jeremy Cox, the BMA’s chief executive officer, said: “The majority of the new captives originated in the US but they also came from Europe, Canada, Australia and Latin America. “Both Latin America and Canada have benefited from the business development efforts of the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) and we have accordingly seen heightened interest from those regions.” New 2017 captives covered a diverse range of risks, particularly among the Class 1 captives — those underwriting only the risks of their own parent companies and affiliates — which saw significant growth — 12 new Class 1s were registered in 2017 compared to four in 2016. The new Class 1s covered a diverse range of risks, from Canadian conglomerates writing general liability and workers’ compensation, to US healthcare captives insuring nursing homes and medical stop loss cover for employees. “The BMA takes the role of gatekeeper to Bermuda’s re/insurance market very seriously and every application undergoes intense scrutiny,” Mr Cox said. “As supervisor, it is our job to ensure that Bermuda’s outstanding reputation as a financial services centre remains intact. Bermuda remains the world’s leader for captive formations, it’s not about the number of captives on the Bermuda register; it’s about the quality of the business being conducted here. That’s the Bermuda brand and the BMA will continue to apply the regulation needed to protect it.” Net premiums written by Bermuda’s captives amounted to $54.7 billion, down from $55.3 billion in 2016. Bermuda’s captive register as at December 31, 2017, included:
February 7. Malcolm Butterfield is the new chief executive officer of the Bermuda Insurance Institute. The institute has also relocated to new offices within O’Hara House, home of XL Catlin, on Bermudiana Road. Mr Butterfield has insurance and reinsurance experience to the BII, having held the office of Registrar of Companies for five years, and serving 19 years as managing partner leading the Advisory Practice at KPMG. He has expressed his gratitude to BII members and volunteers for their support and commitment to Bermuda’s insurance and reinsurance industry. “The board, advisory council, various working committees and the leadership team of the BII have all made considerable contributions to this organisation,” said Mr Butterfield. “Today we wish to thank these various individuals and groups for directing and developing the BII to become an integral part of the Bermuda insurance and reinsurance industry.” Regarding the move to its new offices on the ground floor in Tower 2 at O’Hara House, Mr Butterfield said: “The BII is proud of its new office and we are grateful to be welcomed into this prestigious location by the leadership team of XL Catlin. Various XL Catlin staff have worked diligently with us over the past month to ensure an efficient and seamless transition from our previous location.” The BII also has a new site for its accredited testing and examination centre, which is now located on the ground floor of the Chubb building. “The BII is equally grateful to the leadership team of Chubb for their efforts in making our move to our new testing and examination centre a reality. Many support staff of Chubb worked with us to achieve this move and provided us invaluable support with the installation of our new computer equipment. We have been administering tests and exams from this centre for the past few weeks, and the response to our new location has been positive on all fronts,” said Mr Butterfield. For this year and beyond, the BII is focused on developing a forward-thinking vision and plan that will address and place emphasis on the following areas:
“Clearly, I have high aspirations and expectations for the BII,” said Mr Butterfield. “Our vision and plan for the organisation will evolve, and I am confident that our success will be based on our location, experience and strategic use of our many volunteers who have supported us over the years.”
February 7. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe has warned that the endless stream of roads offences is clogging up the court system. Mr Wolffe said that the courts deal with at least 650 traffic offences every month. He added: “That’s not a small number. In some cases, it is more than 800. We dealt with more than 7,700 cases in 2017. The year before that was in the region of 8,000. That’s not an insignificant amount. In 2016, there were a few months in which we were dealing with more than 1,000 cases per month. That’s a large number for a population of 64,000 people. It keeps us busy every week. Every Tuesday and Thursday at traffic court, we are there for the full two hours. Every time we are filled with people. There is something wrong with that.” Mr Wolffe was speaking during the second week of The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, which is designed to highlight the carnage on the island’s roads and cut the grim toll of death and injury. Mr Wolffe said offences once committed mostly by people on motorcycles are now also committed by people in cars. These included overtaking long lines of traffic and dangerous driving. He added: “It’s an issue because a car is a 3,000lb bullet. It can do a whole lot more damage to an individual, and that’s rather scary. Another trend is that there was a time when most defendants coming before the courts were male. Now we have more females who are engaged in bad driving.” Mr Wolffe said that there was a perception that teenagers caused problems on the roads, but he added that statistics showed that adults were involved in the majority of cases that come before the courts. He said: “One would think teenagers would be the ones with the lack of discernment and lack of responsibility, but we see primarily adults. When you look at the fatalities, a lot are people over 25. It seems to me that the young children are probably abiding by the rules. It’s older persons who find themselves coming into contact with the law and one would think they would know a bit better.” Mr Wolffe added that the impact of traffic crashes went beyond the tragedy of fatalities as serious injuries often damaged entire families. “What we don’t talk about are the people who are injured and can’t work. That has a knock-on effect on their family. There is a lot of carnage on the roads and there are some very real social consequences to it. Bermuda is an expensive place. People have to work. In the family courts, we see people coming in saying they can’t pay their child support because they were involved in an accident months ago and have been unable to work. The effect of that is the child is not being cared for financially and not being fed or clothed appropriately because of the bad behavior of someone else.” Mr Wolffe said there was a large number of road users driving or riding without insurance. He added: “People don’t recognize how serious an offence that is. People will literally get a ticket for not having insurance and get in the same car and drive it the next day without getting it insured. It’s obvious why it’s important. A lot of people getting involved in these accidents, the victims, are not getting compensated. They have to pay their own hospital costs. I have people who come to my civil court who owe hospital bills. They tell me they were involved in an accident and either they were not insured at the time or the person that hit them was not insured. So now they are faced with $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 of hospital bills that they cannot pay. Not only can they not work, they can’t pay their hospital bills. This is something we need to have no tolerance for. If there’s any offence that should lead to someone being taken off the road, it’s that. The consequences of doing that is serious, and I see it all the time.”
February 7. Opinion, by Khalid Wasi. "I don’t think there is much glamour in having the job of Premier of Bermuda any more; even if we were to take into account the transitional years of Sir Henry Tucker, who was climbing through the wall of segregation. At least for him, there was the old guard, internationally respected, albeit during a dark era. There was, like always, a shortage of money, but the country was far from being broke. The big issue for leaders such as him and many subsequent leaders was largely social and how to weave inclusion into the fabric of the economy. History will show that only partial success was made; we did have an economic boom, but that came with an increasing disparity of wealth. As for the society, well, it fell apart. David Burt has inherited a broken economy, a society in turmoil and a political apparatus whose root design was meant to perpetuate a structural division. If you are trying to calm down the chickens, you don’t use a fox, but that is precisely what our political construct does. It never started from the premise of what is best for governance or how we effectively engage everyone in a process that invites all to respect each other’s right to participate and further a design that fosters openness, equality and a motivation towards reason. The principle modus operandi is denigrating the opponent by any means possible to gain power. Try that when you need unity and all hands on deck to save the ship. Instead, the Premier has to work with not only a divided country polarized by race, but also divided factions within the political processes from where he would hope to gain support. Some will argue this is the very nature of politics and we need only to look a few hundred miles to our west to see today’s greatest example of factionalism and a process divided against itself. One big difference between us and the United States is they can print dollars up against all their mistakes and hide them for a generation as they kick the ball down the road. Our premier cannot mint money. Instead, he has to manufacture any likelihood of prosperity. In so doing, he must at times rely on the very instruments and personalities that will bury him when given half a chance. Yet the art is not merely about survival; it’s more about causing a diverse array of people to see their own self-interest and goals wrapped in a tapestry, rather than a “dog eat dog” or “survival of the fittest” scheme. The old rifts need to continue to melt away and, having Wayne Furbert — the author of the 2018-19 Budget as the Junior Minister of Finance — handling perhaps the most important ministry after that of the Premier is a great indicator. The Progressive Labour Party and its leader should see nothing else except that he is a chartered accountant holding a master’s degree in physics, was from Bermuda’s prestigious Bermuda Technical Institute and is known to the business world. That form of assimilation, which unites Bermuda’s black middle class, is healthy. It is not healthy simply on the basis of black unity, but is partly the road to total unity of the whole of Bermuda, which has been for too long predicated on black disunity. We will become as one Bermudian people only when our divisions are based solely on ideas and not the colour of one’s skin or socioeconomic background. It is to be hoped one day soon that our elections will be based on the different roads towards an ideal. The unenviable task of this premier is to see beyond the limitations and constructs before him. He must reach for a new horizon or be pulled by the quicksand that surrounds him. Being young has its advantages and, in this case, it may be fortuitous where the circumstances lead the Premier to cut a new path — in fact, his own path — and redefine the role based on the imperatives of our times."
February 7. Review, by Mike Jones. " Lisa Fischer has a huge vocal range and she did a great job of showcasing it in her performance at the Fairmont Southampton last week. The Grammy Award winner and her band Grand Baton, took to the stage at the Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre on Friday for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts. Fischer’s voice, in all its astonishing range — from male bass to female operatic soprano — sometimes blended into or punctuated the music and then soared over the other instruments, generating its own atmospherics. Backed by guitarist and bouzouki player Jean-Christophe Maillard, percussionist Thierry Arpino and Aidan Carroll on bass, Fischer was most at home in the gospel and jazz tradition. At the same time, her voice was reminiscent of Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba or Cleo Laine in its range and technical pyrotechnics. The Amy Grant song Breath of Heaven combined deep faith and optimism in extreme adversity and included an urgent drum accompaniment by Arpino, full of rapid rim shots and snare sounds. The song must hold special meaning for Fischer, because it speaks to the story of her birth and upbringing in Brooklyn. In Cooley and Blackwell’s Fever, Fischer gave full rein to her technical skills while Maillard’s guitar solo masterfully combined flamenco and Spanish classical with Caribbean phrasing and Hendrix-like blues riffs to make a brilliant accompaniment. Fischer’s main song of the evening, her 1991 Grammy Award-winning song How Can I Ease the Pain, was delivered with huge tenderness and almost inexpressibly deep feeling, reaching nearly beyond the range of the human voice. Fischer appeared most comfortable while jamming with her trio — sometimes doubling with Maillard on vocals while he played the bouzouki, which has a slightly jangly, Middle Eastern sound. The overall effect of Fischer and Maillard was that of a modern jazz duo, each musician building on the other’s musical phrases to extend a unique dialogue. The evening finished with a brilliant tribute to Bermuda, a Gombey snare solo by Arpino with Maillard expertly dancing. The night was opened by the 14-strong Wall Street Band under the direction of Robert Edwards. On keyboards, he played a high-energy set, which included Lil’ Mo’s Superwoman, Prince’s Purple Rain and Lionel Richie’s Endless Love. The selection enabled the entire band to show off their considerable instrumental skills, tight discipline and teamwork. This was a terrific concert by world-class talent. My only criticism is that the echo could have been used less."
February 6. A report on a review into the controversial deal to rebuild Bermuda’s airport is complete, but the Government has declined to say when it will be made public. A spokesman for the transport ministry confirmed the final draft of the report by the Bermuda Airport Authority and the American-based consultant LeighFisher had been received, but he added: “It will undergo Cabinet consideration before it is made public.” Denis Pitcher, an independent political commentator, said the review and the report should be released, while the delay suggested “that the results of the review are not compelling enough to rush to complete and publicize it. The airport deal served as a major wedge of division among our people. We were assured that the One Bermuda Alliance had sold us out while the OBA lined up a significant number of its own reviews at considerable cost due to public opposition. To pay for yet another review and not publicize the results would seem like a terrible waste of money we don’t have the luxury of wasting. The review as well as the report absolutely should be published.” Walter Roban, the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, said a month ago that the review of the public-private partnership deal to rebuild LF Wade International Airport had been “concluded at the end of the year in accordance with our commitment”. At the time he said the report on the review was “nearing completion”. The review was one of the Progressive Labour Party’s election platform pledges for its first 100 days in power. Mr Roban refused last week to answer a series of questions on the review and the Government’s report on its findings. These included when the BAA report was received by the Government and if he thought it was too late to change the contract if it was found to be a bad deal for Bermuda. Mr Roban said in a ministerial statement last October: “As Opposition, we expressed our dissatisfaction with this arrangement and as government that dissatisfaction remains.” He added: “Despite the public opposition, shameful events which saw Members of Parliament sneaking into the House of Assembly under darkness, police officers surrounding the Sessions House and the pepper spraying of peaceful citizens, the former government did not pause to reflect on the wisdom of entering into this agreement. Government believed that the country cannot afford what the former government signed us up for and that it remained confident” it could achieve a better deal for Bermuda”. Mr Pitcher said that if the review was to back the deal struck with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and developers Aecon, it would damage the Government. He explained: “It would reflect poorly and raise the question for many swing voters whether perhaps the party were willing to put themselves first rather than Bermudians.” Mr Pitcher added that if the PLP Government had left it too late to renegotiate the deal, it would also dent its image. "We were promised that there was a better deal to be had and that it would be a top priority for the new government from day one. It would suggest they squandered the time they had to ensure they got us the better deal we were promised.” Bob Richards, former OBA Minister of Finance, said: “I remain confident that the deal my team negotiated was the best deal available to us at the time, given our financial circumstances, and I am very pleased with the conduct of Bermuda Skyport Corp Ltd and the progress of the project.” He added he had a “very keen interest” in the progress of the airport redevelopment. He said: “But the matter is now in the hands of the new government. It is up to them to decide what options there may or may not be available to them.” The airport redevelopment deal was opposed by pressure groups the People’s Campaign and Move in the lead up to last July’s General Election. Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, and Reverend Nicholas Tweed, leaders of the People’s Campaign, did not respond to questions on the airport review. Move also failed to reply to questions. A protest against the redevelopment in December 2016 turned violent when police officers clashed with demonstrators who blocked entry to the House of Assembly. Officers used pepper spray on the crowd outside Sessions House. David Burt, the Premier and then Opposition leader, Derrick Burgess, Lovitta Foggo and Michael Scott were among the PLP MPs who showed up to picket Parliament. At least 26 complaints were made to the Police Complaints Authority by members of the public in the wake of the demonstration. The Bermuda Police Service said 14 of its officers were assaulted.
February 6. Opinion, by Michael Fahy, former Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, and Junior Minister of Finance under the previous One Bermuda Alliance government. "A few weeks ago I undertook to proffer an opinion on the place the One Bermuda Alliance inhabits on the political spectrum. You will recall I remarked that the Progressive Labour Party leadership is definitely not a strict labor political personality and is more of a populist party with ideas cobbled together based on the loudest voice; the loudest voice, which changes with the direction of the wind. I also argued that its social stances are far closer to a political party on the side farther to the Right than a centre-right party — perhaps closer to the nationalistic Republican Tea Party? Meanwhile, its economic stances have many times amounted to economic liberalism rather than typical labor economic policy. So, what of the OBA? Like the PLP, the OBA also lacks an absolute, political, ideological conviction. But at least the name “Alliance” gives an excuse for such lack of clarity. The OBA’s overall political ideology is similar to conservatives in a liberal style, perhaps like conservative US Democrats or the liberal-conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany led by Angela Merkel. I say this since the OBA generally espouses a limited intervention in the economy, a smaller central government, business-friendly policies through immigration liberalization, encouragement of direct foreign-capital investment and increased entrepreneurship through reduced government expenditure, which ultimately aims to balance the budget. It is difficult to call the OBA a strict conservative party because of immigration-friendly desires, support for publicly funded education, relatively centralized healthcare — see the latest blame on the OBA for lowering healthcare costs — and public services generally; albeit not in as dogmatic a fashion as the PLP. A true conservative party is typically far less interested in centralized healthcare, is generally anti-immigration, and a central tenant of its economic policy would be to slash the civil and public service. Despite PLP howls that the OBA did the latter while in government, the record shows that Civil Service reductions occurred because of hiring freezes and attrition. Not layoffs. For example, how can a supposedly conservative party offer massive incentives for tourism projects by way of the Tourism Investment Act, a conservative economic policy ultimately endorsed and passed by the PLP, while at the same time pass legislation to reduce entrepreneurship in the medical sector, thereby centralizing certain medical services at the hospital — a typical labor-type economic policy? How can a conservative party encourage liberalization of immigration while investing heavily in a regulatory authority to regulate consumer prices in certain sectors? As a matter of strict political philosophy, these policies are diametrically opposed in that some are certainly far more left of centre and some are more right of centre. In other words, it would be difficult genuinely to say that the OBA is just a “business party”. Rather, it is closer to a true centrist party without being tied to a specific political ideology at all times. Perhaps the central tenet of the OBA is that it avoids extremist points of view. The downside, however, of lacking a specific and identifiable ideology at all times is that it leads to governing by consensus, trying to please the Left and the Right, which ultimately pleases no one. This has always been part of the OBA’s problem. The OBA does not suffer from multiple political personality disorder like the PLP; rather, the OBA suffers from political inertia disorder caused by the need to please all and sundry — an inability to make the toughest of decisions at all times because of the necessity to build a consensus on absolutely everything. So where does that leave Bermuda in respect of being served politically? Ultimately, it leaves us in a very bleak place. Of the two political parties, the PLP is a populist party with protectionist ideals borne out of socialist roots and the OBA is a centrist party with a number of underlying conservative ideals. Nevertheless, both entities are still relatively close together on the political ideological spectrum. Since there is often little between each party — demonstrated by most legislation being agreed to — the OBA and PLP are forced to differentiate between each other by playing to the most basic emotions, including fear, and this is where the PLP is without a doubt superior. While the OBA as an entity is a party that governs and leads by consensus, the PLP does nothing of the sort. It leads by demonizing anyone who dares to speak up or stand up against its policies. It leads using Trump-like methodologies. Facts are ignored and hypocrisy is rife. The base of the PLP, many of whom actually are from the Left side of the political spectrum, are deployed to shout down the naysayers — online, on the radio, and at rallies and marches. The left-wing loyalists are given just enough of a carrot to keep them on board, despite many of the PLP initiatives not being in their ultimate best interest. It is a masterful bit of political magic — a case of look at my left hand while my right hand does the very things we spoke so vehemently against while in Opposition. The OBA is incapable of this political zeal. It is incapable of holding mass rallies. OBA supporters are in many instances afraid of being identified and are frightened of commenting online. Many are terrified of being vilified by friends and family. Many are closet supporters and would not dream of being seen to openly support the OBA. Overall, the OBA does have a more positive political philosophy and certainly should, at least on paper, appeal to socially progressive but economically conservative Bermudian voters. The PLP should, on paper, appeal to working-class, socially conservative Bermudians with a more left-of-centre economic mindset. Let’s face it, if we engaged in politics on a typically ideological level, it is patently absurd that any successful business person should support the PLP and it is equally absurd that a working-class person should support the OBA. In other words, true conservative versus true labor. The only way to change this unhappy situation is to remove the “fear”-based racial prejudices from the political equation. Only then will real political progress be made in Bermuda. Easier said than done, I’m afraid. But one can dream."
February 6. Blue Capital Reinsurance Holdings Ltd said it saw double-digit percentage rate increases during January renewals. Mike McGuire, the Bermuda-based company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said: “Following the significant industry losses experienced in 2017, we are pleased to report improved market conditions during the January renewal period. On average, loss affected business benefited from renewing rate increases of 15 per cent to 20 per cent while non-loss affected agreements benefited from rate increases of 3 per cent to 5 per cent, in each case compared to 2017 and net of expenses. The company anticipates generating an 8 per cent increase of fully converted book value per common share on a mean loss basis and 13 per cent on a median loss basis, inclusive of dividends paid in 2018.” As of January 2018, Blue Capital bound indemnity reinsurance contracts with expected total annual premiums of $27.8 million. Blue Capital offers collateralized reinsurance in the property-catastrophe market and invests in various insurance-linked securities.
February 6. Doctors from a top US hospital have helped island practitioners to keep up with the latest developments in heart and kidney treatment. The team from New York-Presbyterian Hospital held a seminar organized by the Bermuda Heart Foundation and sponsored by Colonial Insurance. Christopher Irobunda, a cardiologist at the New York hospital, said: “It’s about bringing up to date their awareness of cardiovascular disease and its impact on society. “That is one of the main reasons why we are here to support the Bermuda Heart Foundation and the Core Health Centre.” Dr Irobunda said one of the main reasons for the event was to highlight advances in the identification of cardiovascular disease. He said: “It’s about identifying these risks and educating the public. With advances in identification of risks comes the opportunity to treat. We have a lot of things that can be offered at New York-Presbyterian for the management of cardiovascular disease. In all those areas, there have been a lot of advances, both in the classic way to do it and the more recent, more minimally invasive ways to do it.” Dr Irobunda added that his hospital was happy to work with the BHF and the Core Health Centre. He said: “What’s exciting about us being here with Core is that it is a place that has the opportunity to identify these patients, offer them a way to follow up, and from there identify patients that have had cardiovascular disease and serve as a rehab place for them.” Simone Barton, executive director of the BHF, said it was important to highlight heart disease prevention. She said: “The world is affected by many diseases that are incurable, that you can’t do anything about. Heart disease is not one of them. One of the greatest benefits you can have in managing heart disease is getting out in front of it. If we can get out of disease before it happens, and we have partnerships with insurers like Colonial and experts like NYP at our side, we can prevent so many diseases from happening. We can stop heart attacks from happening.” Devid Serur, a US kidney specialist, said his focus for the seminar was on treatment options for end-stage renal failure. Dr Serur said: “Kidney disease often goes along with cardiovascular disease, often goes with diabetes and high blood pressure and kidney disease is on the rise. Because diabetes is more rampant than it used to be, hypertension is more rampant, and the population is ageing, these things combine to give you a higher rate of kidney disease. Some kidney patients don’t know that there are good treatments for the end stage of renal disease.” He said advances have been made in live-donor kidney transplants to make donor recovery easier and make transplants more available. “When you want to donate a kidney but are not compatible, we now have a kidney-pairing system where we can criss-cross pairs. We recently started another advance where people can donate a kidney to a loved one in advance of the loved one requiring it. We had a case of a grandfather who wanted to donate a kidney to his grandchild — the grandson does not require a kidney yet but he will in the future based on their kidney disease. The grandfather, feeling he might be too old to donate a kidney in ten years, donates a kidney now to someone else and ten years from now a voucher will be redeemed on behalf of that kid.”
February 6. Bermuda-based technology start-up Trunomi has raised $3.5 million from investors to fund its expansion. CloudScale Capital Partners, a venture capital firm based in California’s Silicon Valley, said today that it participated in Trunomi’s latest round of financing. Trunomi, a provider of customer consent and data rights and privacy software solutions, will use the financing to help manage the rapid increase in demand for its technologies and to continue its global expansion. “Customer data rights and privacy are quickly becoming major issues of concern for companies, especially financial institutions, due to new regulations such as EU GDPR, UK Open Banking and marketing opportunities,” said Kim Perdikou, CloudScale partner. Trunomi enables businesses to comply with these new regulations by demonstrating compliance and accountability in customer data use and immutably proving the legal basis of processing. With Trunomi, businesses can empower their customers with control and transparency in how their data is used and turn regulation from a burden into a competitive advantage.” Stuart Lacey, Trunomi’s CEO, said: “We are thrilled that CloudScale Capital Partners are part of this financing. CloudScale brings significant strength to our investor base, and its partners bring with them a wealth of industry connections with the largest players in the global customer and data markets.” Trunomi was one of the winners at the Global Fintech Hackcelerator event in Singapore last November.
February 6. A Bermudian man and woman have been arrested at LF Wade International Airport on suspicion of drugs importation. An investigation is under way by specialist police officers with help from Customs officers. The two, aged 54 and 47 respectively, were arrested on Sunday. They remain in custody.
February 5. A speciality court could be introduced to focus on drink drivers. Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said he wants to tackle Bermuda’s crippling culture of drink driving and break the cycle of repeat offending. It would mean offenders go through intense counselling to supplement the fines and bans that Mr Wolffe believes are not working as a deterrent on their own. Impaired driving is the most significant cause of death and injury on Bermuda’s roads, with 75 per cent of crashes involving alcohol or drugs. Mr Wolffe told The Royal Gazette: “A Driving Under the Influence Court would go a long way in addressing a deep-seated culture of not just drinking, but drinking and driving. “It would be a way of allowing people to keep their licences, but at the same time go through a rigorous counselling programme to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We have got to stop the cycle. Clearly, taking them off the road and fining them isn’t doing enough. The cycle is continuing.” The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign, launched last week, aims to improve safety after 118 people have lost their lives on Bermuda’s roads in the past ten years. For each death, another 200 people were injured. Drive for Change is calling for the introduction of non-selective roadside sobriety testing among a string of road-safety measures. Mr Wolffe said the courts regularly ban drivers from the road and issue heavy fines, but new cases come before the court every week. He said: “It doesn’t seem as if there is the desired deterrent effect. People know they can be taken off the road for 18 months. People know that they can still be fined heavily. People know the penalties, but they still go out and commit these rather serious offences. We are seeing people with multiple driving-while-impaired offences. They are coming in for their second, third or even fourth offence.” Mr Wolffe said a DUI Court, structured similarly to the Drug Treatment Court and Mental Health Court programmes, would also greater empower magistrates. He said the offence of driving while under the influence carries a mandatory period of disqualification from the road. However, in some cases such a penalty can have undesired consequences according to Mr Wolffe. He said: “The difficulty we have is disqualifying someone from driving many times has a knock-on effect. If a taxi driver comes into the courtroom, taking their licence is something that can reduce their income substantially. If they don’t have any income, how are they going to pay their bills? How are they going to care for their children? There is a balancing act we have to play.” The DUI Court programme could also ensure those who need help receive it. Mr Wolffe said there is already a programme that allows those disqualified from driving to return to the road sooner if they pass a course. He added: “Not many people are taking us up on that offer. People would rather do their entire time than go through a programme. Some of them don’t feel they have a problem with drinking and driving, or they think if they go through a programme it’s an acknowledgement that they are an alcoholic or they have a problem.” As well as roadside sobriety testing, Drive for Change is calling for the effective use of speed camera technology and the introduction of a mandatory graduated licensing programme for all of Bermuda’s road users. It is also aiming to raise awareness of road safety and encourage a grassroots, community-wide effort to effect change.
February 5. Barbican Insurance Group has launched a new underwriting unit in Bermuda. The company will focus on the US property market and will write exclusively on behalf of Barbican Syndicate 1955. Barbican Bermuda will underwrite a direct and facultative portfolio of business on an excess and surplus lines basis. Barbican said today the new Hamilton-based company would seek to build a balanced book that spans both commercial and industrial risks, and that the team would concentrate on Fortune 1000 corporations as well as middle-market organisations. All business written will be US-domiciled and will include nationwide, regional and single state/location accounts. Nik Lucking will lead the operation as head of direct and facultative. He will report to David Slade, divisional head of property at Barbican. Mr Lucking has experience in the Bermuda re/insurance market, having previously headed the US direct and facultative property at Axis/Novae. Before that, Mr Lucking was senior vice-president and head of individual risks at Montpelier Re Bermuda, having joined Montpelier Re in 2007. He was also an executive director at Willis, heading-up the firm’s US property team in Bermuda and middle-market team in London. Mr Lucking said: “Through Barbican Bermuda, we are able to extend the reach of Barbican’s property division in London and strengthen our US direct and facultative market proposition. From Bermuda, we are able to bring the security of the Lloyd’s market to an even broader spectrum of organisations, introduce greater diversity into our property portfolio and benefit from the stability that this brings.” Mr Slade added: “We see this as an opportune time to establish ourselves in Bermuda. We believe that Bermuda offers significant opportunities for profitable, sustainable growth in the US direct and facultative arena and Nik brings an exceptional level of underwriting insight and leadership to the operation.”
Sunday, February 4. A plane carrying more than 200 people — including supermodel Joan Smalls — was forced to make an emergency landing in Bermuda early this morning. The American Airlines flight from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Brazil was suspected to have a fire in the cargo hole, and touched down at L.F. Wade International Airport shortly after 12.40am. Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service helped carry out an evacuation and a search of the plane, but confirmed tonight that no fire had actually taken place. Skyport has confirmed nobody was injured. Ms Smalls, of Puerto Rico, who was the eighth highest paid model in the world in 2013 according to Forbes magazine, documented her experience in a series of posts on Instagram last night and this morning. She told her 2.6 million Instagram followers: “Just emergency landed in Bermuda.” This afternoon, a family of four from Rio de Janeiro shared their experience aboard the flight with The Royal Gazette. Isabela Elizabeth, 23, said that she began to hear “weird noises” less than two hours into the nine-hour flight. She added: “The plane started to shake a little bit.” Shortly after, the pilot came over the intercom to advise that there was a problem with a sensor and that an emergency landing was needed. Ms Elizabeth said the pilot was “calm”. She added: “He emphasized many times it would be a safe landing.” Ms Elizabeth said that a slight burning smell was evident in the aircraft shortly after the announcement was made. She said the flight staff had “worried expressions” but that they “were dealing with situation calmly” as they inspected the plane’s emergency exits. Ms Elizabeth described the landing as “very calm”. She said the burning smell was much stronger as her family and the other passengers descended onto the tarmac through the rear cargo hole. Ms Elizabeth, who was speaking to the Gazette at the airport, was aboard the flight with her parents Murilo and Maria, and her brother Lucas. They were greeted on the ground by ten fire vehicles and 12 firefighters from the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service. The plane had 156,000lb of fuel on board. Ms Elizabeth said there was lots of confusion inside the airport, and that there was only one American Airlines employee on scene. She said that it was not until a few hours later — at about 4am — that they learnt another plane would not be coming. Most passengers remained at the airport overnight and were rebooked on American Airlines scheduled flights to JFK and Miami this morning, although some chose to book into hotels and remain on the island while alternative flight arrangements were made. Ms Elizabeth said they were given the option of going to a hotel for a couple of hours or waiting at the airport. The family opted to stay put. As of 1pm, they were preparing to take a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta. Despite the delays, both mother and daughter were able to find some positives about their unexpected stopover in Bermuda. Isabela said: “At least we have a wonderful beach here — because if we didn’t I would probably freak out. The water is so blue.” Maria added: “We know where we are coming for the next vacation.”
February 3. Public works permanent secretary Francis Richardson is to be the new chief executive of the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority. The Government said an acting permanent secretary will take over Mr Richardson’s duties until an appointment is made. Mr Richardson, a former Merchant Navy marine engineer, said: “Having previously worked in the maritime industry for many years, I’m thrilled and excited to be coming back to an area I am passionate about. “I look forward to joining the team and working collectively to grow the Bermuda shipping registry and fulfil the objectives of the group.” Mr Richardson has served in a number of high-ranking government roles over 25 years. He will start his new job in April and will also sit on the new authority’s board of directors. BSMA chairman Paul Scope said: “Mr Richardson has all the credentials for the position and we’re delighted to have hired a Bermudian after an extensive search, both locally and overseas. Succession-planning was one of our top priorities, and we have now fulfilled this important goal.” The news means a further shake-up for the Civil Service. Derrick Binns is to step down as Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service as the job is to be split. Dr Binns will be Head of the Civil Service. A new Secretary to the Cabinet has yet to been named. A public works spokeswoman said yesterday: “The standard public service recruitment process will apply regarding the appointment of a permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Works. It is expected that once Mr Richardson officially starts his post at the BSMA, an acting permanent secretary will assume the PS duties at the ministry until an official appointment is made.” BSMA was launched in 2016 as a semi-autonomous unit to replace the government Department of Maritime Administration. It employs a team of 15 professionals in London and Bermuda. Mr Richardson has held the posts of Dockyard superintendent, Director of Marine and Ports, and permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport, as well as permanent secretary at public works. He earlier spent more than eight years traveling the world as a marine engineer in the Merchant Navy. BSMA’s Captain Pat Nawaratne was acting CEO for the past 15 months since the unit’s launch. He will continue as BSMA’s chief maritime surveyor. Mr Scope said: “We’d also like to send our appreciation to the Bermuda Business Development Agency, which has worked closely with us during this period of transition to promote Bermuda’s shipping industry and our world-class shipping registry. The BDA has been representing Bermuda shipping with industry stakeholders throughout this period, and we look forward to now developing that presence overseas under the BSMA banner. Since coming out of government, and forming the authority, we’ve had numerous tasks to address, such as finding appropriate office premises, changing accounting systems, and handling other operational issues as we converted from a government department to a public-private entity. With the new leadership in place, we’re looking forward to moving forward and growing Bermuda’s all-important registry, as well as complying with all the regulatory standards and conventions that are required.”
February 3. Six new jobs will be created through a restructure at the island’s tourism authority. Kevin Dallas, chief executive at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said he hoped all the roles will be filled by Bermudians. He said a director role as well as a couple of assistant manager positions are available, while some specialist appointments will also be made. Mr Dallas said those specialist roles were “great opportunities” for people with a few years of experience who are interested in Bermuda tourism. He added: “Our aspiration is that 100 per cent of those jobs should be filled by Bermudians.” Mr Dallas said that two business development executive positions and two sports tourism posts were axed as part of last week’s restructure, but that “only three were permanent BTA employees”. A source told The Royal Gazette this week that the BTA would get a human resources audit after the restructure. Mr Dallas said that announcement was not a surprise. He added: “It’s not news. It was announced on September 24 last year.” Mr Dallas said: “The minister announced that Corey Butterfield had been retained as a special consultant by the ministry and that he would work with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation and BTA on, among other things, making sure that our approach to hiring, development and promotion and advancement for Bermudians was as good as it possibly could be.” He declined to comment on whether Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, knew about the restructuring exercise in advance. Mr Dallas said: “You would have to ask the minister”. He added Mr Simmons had been kept “abreast” of progress at the BTA since the changes. He said Mr Simmons and David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, had been “abundantly clear” that results were expected of the quango and the BTA’s relationship with Mr Simmons and his ministry was strong. He said: “I think it’s encouraging that our new government clearly recognizes tourism is an important pillar of the economy and an opportunity for growth — particularly for entrepreneurial growth. One way that Bermudians will have a bigger share of the pie is by becoming entrepreneurs in tourism.” News reports last week claimed a source at the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism said Mr Simmons was opposed to the BTA changes. Mr Simmons warned last November that legislation governing the BTA could be amended if a “mutually respectful relationship based on trust” between the agency and the Government was lost. Mr Dallas said that he was not worried about possible changes to the law. He explained: “I think it would be kind of strange if an independent authority, like ours, that receives government support didn’t strive for a productive and mutually respectful relationship with the ministry we’re attached to.” Mr Dallas said the restructure was "about efficiency, not about individuals. It’s about having a modern structure focused on the highest return on investment and to be talking about more jobs, and more Bermudian jobs feels like a good outcome to me and one which is very aligned with what we hear from both the Premier and the minister.”
February 3. Opinion. By Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders with multinational families and international connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Contact: email@example.com. The following question has been a familiar recurring topic over the 18 years of Moneywise. A reader wrote: “Many Bermudians have — or are considering buying — homes in the United States even though they are not US citizens nor individuals who are normally required to file a US tax return. The question is: what is the definitive and specific answer to the amount of time a person can spend in the US after which the person must file a US tax return. The answers seem to vary with each person you talk to and their understanding of US Internal Revenue Service tax code. Some think it is the number of days in each year, others say it is a rolling average. Also, the ability to stay in the US (if you are not a citizen) is at the prerogative of US Customs where permission may be granted for longer stays, however, those answers never seem clear cut either.” This reader is correct. There is never a simple answer to these questions, folks. The determination to understand what legal rights an individual has relative to residence in a country, how an individual can be considered subject to taxation, along with immigration/citizenship regulations creates substantive confusion. Who you are, where you are, and what these rights and responsibilities mean must be clearly understood whenever an individual or family is crossing borders on a routine basis. Readers who don’t want to bother wading through the following discourse should consult internationally qualified professionals and/or the US consulate in Bermuda for clarity in order to avoid running into jurisdictional financial, legal, and immigration mishaps. Things to consider include:
US immigration law relative to entrance into the United States. US citizens, no matter where they live outside the US, can return to US soil anytime for as long as wanted without needing a visa. Generally, in most circumstances, this right applies to US green card holders (lawful permanent residents), although time constraints and exceptions can cause a right to residency to be lost or revoked. A topic for another day. Foreign nationals (non-US persons) entering the United States are generally issued a US visa — there are numerous categories — or are eligible for a visa waiver or exception. These documents define the permissible amount of time the individual is legally allowed in the US, ie 90 days, 180 days or possibly longer. For more details see the US Department of State link at https://goo.gl/cXxZob That is the US Homeland Security position on visiting the United States. US Internal Revenue Service’s tax position is very different, nor do the two agencies usually correlate their respective positions.
US residency for tax purposes. In international taxation, a physical presence test is a rule used to determine tax residence of a natural person, an individual, or legal person (meaning a place of business in a jurisdiction). The physical presence for individuals is the main test, where meeting (or not) the 183-day rule (the so-called substantial presence test in the United States).
Determining a fail or pass in the US substantial presence test. According to US IRS direct, a foreign individual will be considered a US resident for tax purposes if they meet the substantial presence test for the calendar year. To meet this test, you must be physically present in the US on at least:
As an example, you were physically present in the US on 120 days in each of the years 2014, 2015, and 2016. To determine if you meet the substantial presence test for 2016, count the full 120 days of presence in 2016, 40 days in 2015 (1/3rd of 120), and 20 days in 2014 (1/6th of 120). Since the total for the three-year period is 180 days, you are not considered a resident under the substantial presence test for 2016.If you pass this test (183 days), you are now considered a US resident for US tax purposes with US income tax reporting and filing responsibilities for that year; I recommend you anticipate your status each year by running additional various day count scenarios. And, of course, there are exceptions to this test. You just knew that! Watch for that magic number of 120 days. Stay tuned for part two next week, which will give more details. Caveat. The recent immigration policy initiatives of the Trump Administration are ever-evolving at date of this publication. This information is not intended to be relied upon as your personal legal, financial, immigration, or tax advice. Bermuda residents (or any foreign person) thinking of visits or temporary residence in the US should seriously consider significant financial planning prior to any such intention in order to effect as smooth a transition to another country as possible. Be forewarned. Tax regime regulation, which Bermuda does not have, are always complicated, complex financial traps for the uninformed. Trust me, I know this fact."
February 3. Record-breaking commercial fisherman David Soares is celebrating another big catch after landing a 471lb tuna. Mr Soares was fishing alone near Challenger Banks at about 10am yesterday when he hooked the massive bluefin tuna. He said: “I knew it was big right away. It took about 400 yards of line off the reel right away. It took about a half an hour to land.” The third-generation fisherman said he was not surprised by the size of the fish when it was pulled in. I have caught bigger fish before. Last year I set the record when I landed one that weighed 1,004lbs. You get these type of fish once a year or once every other year.” The 1,004lb giant bluefin tuna Mr Soares landed last year was the heaviest recorded in the island’s history, beating the previous record — also set by himself. Asked if he had any secrets behind his big catches, he said: “I don’t have any secrets. Just put your time in.” He said the fish was sold to the MEF group of restaurants, although he declined to say how much he made off the tuna.
February 3. Bermuda’s seafarers gathered at the weekend to mark the annual Sea Sunday Service. Fishermen, sailors, commercial operators and Department of Marine and Ports employees attended the memorial service at the Chapel of Ease in St David’s, which commemorates those who have lost their lives at sea. The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, Bishop of Bermuda, presided over the event and formally introduced the new minister, the Reverend Tom Slawson, to his first Sea Sunday Service. Merle Battersbee and Annette Pitcher laid a wreath at the base of the Lost at Sea Memorial in St David’s after the event. The memorial was created by Bermudian artist Bill Mussy Ming in 2005.
February 3. Bermudian Marvin Ford has joined the touring cast of a musical written by rock star Sting. Mr Ford said he was surprised to have landed his first professional role in The Last Ship. He said: “My first thought was that they were joking. I was shocked.” Mr Ford, a regular on the Bermuda stage, left the island several years ago to pursue a career as a horse trainer. He was lured back on stage by his wife, who signed him up to appear as an “unexpected star” on Michael McIntyre’s Big Show in December, but it was his work in Bermuda that landed him an audition for The Last Ship. Mr Ford said: “The musical director for the show, Richard John, was actually the musical director for The Full Monty when we performed it in Bermuda. They were looking for someone to do the part. Richard suggested that they look for a singer and go from there. I got a call at 8am on a Wednesday and I had my audition on Thursday.” He said having Mr John there made the audition more comfortable, but he didn’t feel he had sung his best. Mr Ford added: “I don’t know what they saw, but I got the call the next day saying I had the part.” The Last Ship tells the story of the return of Gideon Fletcher to the Tyneside shipbuilding town of Wallsend after 15 years to find the community facing an uncertain future. The story is based on the life of Sting, who is from the town, and features some of his popular songs including Island of Souls, All This Time and When We Dance. The show enjoyed a brief run on Broadway and won two Tony Award nominations. The touring production will be the first performances in Britain. Mr Ford said rehearsals for the show begin in London on Monday and the actors will move to Newcastle before the show’s opening on March 12. The production will spend four weeks in Newcastle before embarking on a tour of the British Isles, with performances in Liverpool, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh and York. The show is directed by Lorne Campbell and features set design by the Tony Award-winning 59 Productions, the team behind the video design for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
February 2. Opinion, by John Wight, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. " Every Bermuda Government budget is consequential to our fate, but none is as potentially critical as the 2018-19 Budget Statement soon to be presented by the Minister of Finance. Why? Because Bermuda finds itself at a critical fiscal crossroads. And the steps we choose to take this year could have monumental repercussions for the island. The Government’s Pre-Budget Report does a good job of clearly outlining the issues. Let’s start with a brief overview. For seven of the past nine years, Bermuda’s economy has contracted. The debt that Bermuda owes to its creditors stands at about $2.5 billion. An additional $1.3 billion is owed in unfunded medical and pension obligations for government and Civil Service employees. These figures will rise again in 2018-19, as Bermuda continues to pay more in expenses than it earns in revenues. Add into the mix United States tax reform, the risk of Bermuda being put on the European Union blacklist, and any potential adverse consequences of the 2018 Caribbean Financial Action Task Force review, and 2018 looks to be a year unlike any we have ever experienced. The good news? This ship can be turned around, but only with all hands on deck. This requires everyone hearing and understanding the issues and priorities. No one wants to pay more taxes and no business wants more competition. But if we continue to think “me” before “us”, we will not bring about the progress that we need. The key priorities are as follows:
February 2. A former premier reaffirmed his support yesterday for the Bermuda Government’s legal action against Lahey Clinic to be dropped. Alex Scott, Progressive Labour Party premier from 2003 to 2006, said he was “still of the same mind that I was when I put my name to the document”, which he signed with ten other past and present members of the island’s legislature last May. His view was backed by Progressive Labour Party MPs Kim Swan and Zane DeSilva, who also signed the document, as well as by former independent MP Mark Pettingill. They commented after a judge in Boston reserved judgment on an application by Lahey to have the case dismissed. The Government complaint named former PLP premier Ewart Brown as a “co-conspirator” and claimed he conducted “excessive, medically unnecessary and frankly dangerous scans” at his two private clinics in Bermuda for his own “enrichment” and gave Lahey a cut of the fees he collected from insurers. Lahey filed its motion to have the case dismissed in April, supported the next month by a legal brief drawn up by Dr Brown’s lawyers and signed by David Burt, the Premier, when he was Opposition leader. Judge Indira Talwani heard a motion for dismissal filed by the hospital at a hearing in Massachusetts District Court on Wednesday afternoon. A court document provided to The Royal Gazette showed the motion was “argued and taken under advisement”, with no decision yet on whether the proceedings will be allowed to continue. The Government filed its lawsuit against Lahey, a Massachusetts-based teaching hospital, in February last year, when the One Bermuda Alliance was in power. It alleged that Dr Brown and the hospital conspired on a “wildly successful” and “unlawful” enterprise that profited both “at the expense of the Bermudian government and people” — claims that the former PLP leader and Lahey strenuously deny. No date was set on Wednesday for Ms Talwani to issue her ruling on whether the lawsuit would go ahead, but court documents showed that the judge also denied leave for the brief from local supporters to be filed. Mr Scott said: “While I do not have the judge’s decision in front of me, I am not moved by the ruling. I have been a patient of both Lahey and Dr Brown’s Bermuda Healthcare Clinic for probably 20 years. I have absolutely no question or hesitation about the medical attention and care at both facilities.” Mr Scott added he had no idea why the Government had continued with the case. I honestly don’t know; the Attorney-General would be the one to give enlightenment on the status or rationale for it. It may all come back on the Bermudian taxpayer.” Mr Swan said yesterday that his views were unchanged and added: “What I signed, I stand by. It’s self-explanatory.” Mr Pettingill added: “Of course, my position remains the same”. Mr DeSilva also signaled his support and said he “wouldn’t sign something if I didn’t agree with it and didn’t believe it”. Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, is understood to have traveled to Boston with Acting Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois for Wednesday’s civil hearing. A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s Chambers referred The Royal Gazette yesterday to a statement from Ms Simmons last week. The Government Senate Leader said then: “In accordance with professional protocol, the Attorney-General’s Chambers will not comment on any active matter that is before the courts. However, where it is appropriate and in the public interest, upon conclusion of any matter, including the ... Lahey case, details of the actions taken will be provided.” The Royal Gazette asked Lahey for comment, but did not receive a response by press time. Giselle Joffre, the attorney who obtained the 11 signatures on behalf of Dr Brown, said that Ms Talwani had indicated that she would make a fast decision on the Lahey application for dismissal. Ms Joffre added that Ms Talwani “plans to decide it fairly quickly — I can’t say what that means in this context, but she did say she would resolve it quickly”. The 11 are known as amici curiae or “friends of the court”. Ms Joffre said the filing of an amici brief at the dismissal stage was “unique and novel — we undertook to do it because we view the case as unique and novel”. She added: “In that way, the denial by the judge is not entirely unexpected. It was a procedural denial because procedurally she didn’t think it appropriate to consider the argument at this stage.” She added that the same points could be brought back to the court with a different brief later in the case. Ms Joffre said: “One reason we took this novel approach is that we thought it was important that some of the Bermudian context was necessary for her to understand the allegations.”
February 2. A reason given by tourism minister Jamahl Simmons for why he had to take control of the island’s independent gaming commission has come in for renewed criticism in the wake of a public access to information disclosure. Mr Simmons told Parliament that the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission had failed to participate in a national risk analysis carried out by the National Anti-Money-Laundering Committee in the run-up to an assessment this year by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force. He made the claim on November 10 last year, but information released in response to a Pati request has shown the commission had no statutory duty to complete assignments for the NAMLC or participate in its meetings until November 3. Richard Schuetz, the former executive director of the commission, questioned how the BCGC could be said to have failed in the space of a week. He said the Pati disclosure showed “the minister needed to justify his actions and he grabbed at this”. Mr Schuetz added: “The problem is, the facts just don’t meet the narrative and to use NAMLC in this way — that is, to politicize it — is contrary to the whole point of NAMLC.” Mr Simmons highlighted the commission’s alleged failures in relation to the NAMLC as a key reason why he needed to table an amendment to the Casino Gaming Act to give himself the power to sack commission members without cause. He added that he had been unable to oust Alan Dunch as chairman, despite three requests for him to resign. He criticized Mr Dunch in the House of Assembly on November 10 and suggested to MPs that the commission chairman was unable to accept the Progressive Labour Party’s landslide General Election win in July. The minister said: “That attitude may perhaps be further seen in the recent non-participation by the gaming commission in the National Anti-Money-Laundering Committee’s national risk analysis, failure to provide the requested presentation for the related workshops, and failure to provide the analysis and conclusions of the working group that this commission was chairing.” Mr Simmons discussed the NAMLC “situation” with Bernews.com on November 20. He said: “When you have a body of that magnitude that needs to be able to get responsiveness from parts of government and they were not getting that level of responsiveness, I was not in power to say ‘could you please provide this information’ and so that flagged something that could be a problem down the road and would need to be addressed.” The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Finance for records of which agencies attended NAMLC meetings, and which completed assignments for the advisory body and indicated an interest in the gaming commission’s participation. An information official said: “By law, BCGC did not become a member of NAMLC until November 3, 2017, when the Proceeds of Crime Act was amended to include them. Therefore, prior to that date, any attendance of the BCGC at NAMLC meetings was by invitation, not by requirement.” The official added: “Given the fact that BCGC was not a statutory member of NAMLC until last month [November], producing those records prior to that would not by themselves paint a true picture because if the records show them to have been absent at a meeting prior to November 3, this would suggest that they weren’t participating, rather than indicating that they might not have been invited to attend.” Mr Simmons said last night: “We stand by the reasons articulated for seeking change and are moving forward to execute the people’s business.” He added: “The successful completion of the national risk assessment tracking document under the new leadership at the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission demonstrates their commitment to working with the Government to meet our international obligations and protect our economy. Despite this, much work remains in this area. I am confident, however, that under the current leadership the excellent staff at the BCGC will deliver.” Cheryl-Ann Mapp, appointed by Mr Simmons to replace Mr Dunch as commission chairman after he resigned, said: “Under the previous administration, the commission did not complete the national risk assessment tracking document to meet the NAMLC deadline. Under the new leadership, this work is now complete.” Ms Mapp would not reveal the date on which the tracking document was submitted to the NAMLC or comment on whether the commission’s relationship with the committee was voluntary before November 3. Commission lawyer Deborah Blakeney said: “The commission has no further comment.” Mr Schuetz believes Mr Simmons owed commission staff an apology. He said: “I am upset by the suggestions that we were not actively engaged in the NAMLC process. Myself, Julie Grant, Deborah Blakeney, [commissioner] Derek Ramm and other members of the commission started attending meetings long before they were required and this involved a great many meetings. I had numerous conversations with NAMLC representatives and asked for them to clearly communicate with me if we were ever not holding up our end of things. None ever communicated that there was a problem with the commission.” Mr Schuetz said it was true the commission was late completing the voluntary tracking document from the NAMLC in October 2017. But he added the reasons for the delay — the medical absence of a key executive and a heavy workload related to the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club’s application for a provisional casino licence — were explained to the committee. “If there were issues with the commission’s performance with NAMLC, they were my problems and not that of Alan Dunch,” Mr Schuetz said. "Moreover, for the minister to make this claim is a serious slight to the many hours the commission staff put into this effort. He should apologize.” Mr Schuetz added: “Since July 18, 2017, the Government or the minister never said one word about our anti-money-laundering efforts or our participation in NAMLC. Then, when the minister cannot get away with illegally firing Alan, he suggests that he needs to change the law — becoming a gambling tsar — and in his speech he discusses that the commission has not completed some tasks for NAMLC. This is a totally inappropriate use of NAMLC.” The former executive director, who quit his post last July, said the commission’s involvement in the national risk analysis was not critical as the CFATF assessment will cover a period when the money-laundering risk in Bermuda’s casino industry was zero because it had yet to be launched. Mr Dunch said he never received any communication from the NAMLC or the tourism ministry about a BCGC failure in its duties in relation to the NAMLC or the national risk analysis. He said he did not want to comment on anything else about the commission. Ms Mapp said: “The gaming commission acknowledges the concerns expressed by the Government in relation to participation on these committees. The commission is working diligently to ensure that our legislative framework will also meet the timeline set by NAMLC. We are moving forward in collaboration with NAMLC and other participants. As the new commission chairman, I have met with all of our stakeholders, including the chairman of NAMLC, and have advised her of our commitment to the preparations for the upcoming CFATF assessment. We have agreed to work towards meeting all of the required deadlines.”
February 2. The Bermuda Tourism Authority has been ordered to release more information about the salaries of its top-earning executives. The quango has until February 22 to disclose staff salary bands in increments of no more than $10,000, as well as the names of employees who receive discretionary financial benefits — and the amounts involved. The disclosure order was made by Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez and is the first of its kind since the Public Access to Information Act came into force in 2015. Karla Lacey, BTA’s chief operations officer, said yesterday: “The BTA is a leader among its peers in the area of transparency, releasing compensation information before it was legislatively mandated and we are happy to comply with this request.” Ms Gutierrez’s decision was made after TV’s ZBM News submitted a Pati request for salary and bonus information to the publicly funded quango in July 2015, which was denied. Bill Hanbury, the authority’s chief executive at the time, earlier revealed — before Pati was in force — that he earned $295,000 a year, plus a $75,000 annual housing allowance. He also disclosed that the BTA’s senior executive team of Pat Phillip-Fairn, Ms Lacey, Victoria Isley and Roland Andy Burrows received annual salaries of between $175,000 and $275,000. Ms Gutierrez said in her decision that the BTA did not have to provide the exact salaries of individuals, as this would be an “unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees”. She added the salary bands disclosed earlier were “too wide” and needed to be narrower to allow the public to “get a true picture of the effectiveness of its public spending”. Ms Gutierrez ruled that the tourism authority had to reveal the names of employees who receive “discretionary financial benefits” and the amounts of the benefits. She also ordered the release of “actual maximum incentive percentages for chiefs in bands of a maximum of 5 per cent and actual performance incentive payments for chiefs in bands of a maximum of $10,000”. The tourism authority highlighted several exemptions in the Pati Act to avoid detailed disclosure, but the legislation says records should be released if it is in the public interest to do so. The commissioner said in considering the public interest test, she weighed “the substantial privacy interest of individuals who are BTA employees” against the “strong interests in accountability and transparency for public expenditures and the need for better understanding of BTA’s compensation process”. The Pati Act requires the title and salary range of every public official, those employed directly by the Government of Bermuda, to be published in January each year. Employees of quangos do not fall inside the legal definition of public official and the BTA is one of the few quangos to have made salary information public on its employees. Ms Gutierrez’s decision suggests other quangos will now be unable to withhold salary information about their employees. She praised the “extensive public disclosures BTA has already made to facilitate accountability and transparency in its public expenditure”. The commissioner said: “BTA’s openness is commendable and goes far to satisfy these public interests.” Ms Lacey said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority acknowledges the Information Commissioner’s ruling. We are satisfied on the basis that it upheld our position that the 2015 Pati request would have resulted in an ‘unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees at BTA. And since the information being sought by the submitter had already been made public, the request required no further action on the part of the BTA. However, the Information Commissioner has asked the BTA to refine the previously released information and present it in a different way. This task is under way and when completed the information will be placed on our website.” Ms Lacey said the BTA appreciated the feedback from Ms Gutierrez about its openness and its “ongoing co-operation, understanding and engagement” during one of the first reviews conducted by the Information Commissioner’s office. The Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed the $444,230 salary of its chief executive officer, but has given only a salary band of $142,300 to $470,000 a year for its other executives. The hospitals board denied a Pati request from The Royal Gazette for more detailed records and that case is also under review by Ms Gutierrez.
February 2. The Commissioner of Corrections has been seconded to serve as project manager for the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee. The Ministry of National Security said Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Lamb would hold the new post for nine months. Assistant Commissioner of Corrections Keeva Joell-Benjamin will be acting head of the prison service while Colonel Lamb is seconded. A spokeswoman for the committee said that Colonel Lamb would carry out a “critical role” in ensuring that NAMLC’s programmes went “smoothly, efficiently and within the targeted deadlines”. She added that Colonel Lamb’s “enthusiasm for this project, his discipline and boundless desire to serve his country will be great assets for the team”.
February 2. A packed hall of supporters has vowed to stand behind Ewart Brown, the former premier, the day after his Brown-Darrell clinic closed the doors on its CT medical scanning service. The computerized X-ray scanning service at the Smith’s facility was closed on Wednesday, after fee cuts regulated by the Ministry of Health reduced its diagnostic imaging charges by up to 87 per cent. Dr Brown told a crowd last night at St Paul AME Centennial Hall that since 2013 there had been a push to close down his business. “The perfect storm came together under the One Bermuda Alliance government,” he said. The clinic head said he had told the council that the best way to reduce the island’s healthcare costs would be to “cut everybody by 10 per cent, right across the board, one time, and save $70 million”. He added: “But if your objectives are different, then you will do something else.” Dr Brown said that cost reductions were so steep that the CT unit would have been impossible to keep running. Electricity alone for the MRI and CT units at his two clinics topped $20,000 a month, he said. Shutting down the CT unit had been “emotional for us”, he said, but he had vowed to keep the Brown-Darrell clinic, which is named after his parents, open for business. Several of those who spoke at the forum said that the lives of their loved ones had been saved through the high-tech care offered. One man, who said he had developed serious neurological complaints that doctors could not explain, told Dr Brown: “What Bermuda needs to do is believe in you and act.” Another said: “See these shoes? I am ready to march. We have got to do something for Dr Brown, bottom line.” Medical technician Quinton Butterfield, who opened Central Diagnostics Laboratories in the 1980s, said that he had been unfairly treated by insurers when he started his dream business. Mr Butterfield said: “They come for Dr Brown today — who do you think it is tomorrow?” Dr Brown responded: “He represents the target population of black businessmen in Bermuda.” He asked: “What is the limit that a black man can earn in Bermuda? Here is Quinton, who went to school with a vision and a dream, and had to have all kinds of discouraging things happen to him. Only black people have that experience in Bermuda. I believe there is an attempt, and has been for years, that when a black person reaches a certain achievement, a decision is made: take them out.” Dr Brown said he had been asked why he would have been singled out, adding: “First they come for the loud.” He added: “Just know that it’s not just me. This is the message that’s being sent to young black doctors: act up like him, and that’s what’s going to happen to you, too.”
February 2. The United States government has bought the property which has served as the official home for the Consul General. The US had leased Cedarhurst, on Wilkinson Avenue, Hamilton Parish, for the past nine years. Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig said: “I am delighted that this gracious and lovely Bermuda home will serve as the permanent residence for future Consuls General. Cedarhurst has served the US Government well over the past nine years.” The property was built in 1907. One of its early inhabitants was William Wilkinson, a crew member on-board the Eliza Barss that sailed from New York delivering cattle to British soldiers in Bermuda. Mr Wilkinson later became an American citizen and joined the US Coast Guard. Cedarhurst was secured under a trust before its purchase this week by the US. Its features include traditional Bermuda architecture including a cedar staircase in the front hall.
Cedarhurst, see above.
February 2. The Royal Gazette’s Drive for Change campaign is to launch a web page designed to highlight road safety in Bermuda. The site, which will go live on Wednesday, will provide up-to-date information on traffic incidents, developments in roads legislation and reports related to the Drive for Change campaign. The site will also detail the research that has gone into the establishment of the campaign objectives. The goals of Drive for Change include the introduction of non-selective roadside breath testing, speed cameras and a graduated licensing programme. The campaign objectives have been backed by other organisations including road safety pressure group and official partner A Piece of the Rock, as well as the Bermuda Police Service, the Bermuda Road Safety Council, anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, emergency doctors and Mets at the Bermuda Hospitals Board. The targets have also been supported by Joseph Froncioni, an orthopedic surgeon and road safety expert, who is also a former chairman of the BRSC. The website will act as a way for members of the public to join the movement for change. It will include a series of maps, produced by Drive for Change and A Piece of the Rock, collating all publicly available data involving roads deaths over the past ten years. The site will also have information on deaths in each constituency and details of how to contact MPs. There will also be a memorial map as a reminder of the 118 lives lost on the roads over the past decade. The public are invited to come on board and share their ideas on how to reduce the risk of traffic-related deaths and injuries. People can join the Drive for Change campaign at driveforchange.rg.bm from Wednesday.
February 2. Bermuda could address part of the problem of its high cost of living by creating a new watchdog to identify and clamp down on anti-competitive behavior. That is the view of economist Robert Stubbs, whose latest research suggests that “uncompetitive practices may well be widespread in Bermuda today”. Mr Stubbs believes that a competition authority — with powers to impose fines on offending businesses — could help to bring down costs that make Bermuda one of the world’s most expensive places to live. He cites evidence that Bermuda has suffered from a longstanding issue of uncompetitive pricing, which in turn has an outsize impact on lower earners, in a 20-page article, entitled Toward an understanding of competitive markets: just why is Bermuda the most expensive place on Earth? He points to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority as an example of an active body that investigates a wide variety of industries for evidence of collusion. Mr Stubbs also highlights Jersey, which as had a competition authority since 2005 and now runs it in conjunction with Guernsey, as a small jurisdiction with a similar watchdog. “The harm inflicted by anti-competitive practices is substantial,” Mr Stubbs wrote. “Estimates of price increases due to collusion typically fall between 20 per cent and 30 per cent. Not only does this have negative consequences for efficiency in harming productivity and growth in the economy as a whole, but income inequality is exacerbated as well as income is unjustly redistributed upwards. This occurs not only as the undue gains from collusion are usurped by owners of capital, but the industries most commonly afflicted by cartels are typically supplying the very goods occupying greater allocations of low-income household budgets.” His research points to four particular sectors — electricity and water, motor vehicles sales and maintenance, retail and transport (including the growing storage industry) — where competition does not appear to be working as it should. In these sectors, he noted that total employment income had fallen between 2009 and 2016, while profits climbed sharply. He suggests that the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the financial-services regulator, has staff with the right skills and qualifications to run a competition watchdog. The benefits of such a body would come not only through enforcement action, but also through deterrence, he argues. However, Mr Stubbs cautions that the island’s pricing problems are structural and go beyond what a competitive markets authority could resolve. He compares household spending data from 1974 to that of 2013, an exercise that shows how life has changed as much as it illustrates what has become more expensive. Housing, healthcare, education have all increased their shares of Bermuda’s household expenditure over that four-decade period, as has entertainment and recreation. Mr Stubbs, who used to work as head of research at Bank of Bermuda, has produced several insights into the local economy in recent months. Among his conclusions are that 23 per cent of the island’s population live in poverty and that Bermuda has suffered from an overemphasis on financial services in recent decades. The Progressive Labour Party government, which has changed the name of the Price Commission to the Cost of Living Commission, has declared its intention to reduce living costs. Mr Stubbs said he had shared his findings with senior government figures. “The work contains a lot of data and is a little longer than I would like as I thought it important to introduce people to the general methodology used in a competitive markets analysis and provide them with enough data from Bermuda’s markets for people to be able to make an independent assessment of my conclusions,” Mr Stubbs said. “I didn’t want to present the tentative conclusions reached in my work without the reader being able to make an independent assessment of their validity.”
February 2. Royal Gazette Editorial. " By his own admission, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch does not like talking to or being associated in any way with The Royal Gazette. So it had to take something of great significance to get the Colonel to assemble all media, including the “big bad RG” and Bermuda Broadcasting, No 2 on his personal hit list. Trash — and lots of it. “We as a people, all of us, must do better.” That clarion call to the nation on Wednesday served temporarily to get us off the “Naughty” column in his book stored to memory of those who have been naughty and nice. We hope it is a sign of things to come, for a working relationship with all Cabinet ministers is absolutely essential for transparency to be seen to be done and for the Government adequately to get its message of good governance across in the democratic manner it believes to be equitable for all. That’s not to say there cannot be mavericks. And who fits the bill as a maverick more than the “Minister of Bling”, he who tells it like it is and he who suffers no fools gladly? Notwithstanding that Burch’s relationship with 2 Par-la-Ville Road has been fractious at best, dating back to the days of the Progressive Labour Party first gaining and then retaining the government, the early signs six months in have been that he has been among the more effective in David Burt’s first Cabinet. Then someone forgot to collect the trash. The public works minister, whether he wishes to or not, comes across as the rock star of Cabinet, his exclusive interview a fortnight ago with veteran journalist Ceola Wilson of BermudaReal.com and TNN’s Trevor Lindsay — affectionately the media’s Bonnie and Clyde, if you will — catapulting his popularity among the common man and, possibly, a few more up the food chain. It was good watching: straight-talking, plain-talking, believable. And for those who are so inclined, he even got in a sly dig or two at the “big bad RG”. Had we published the latest, albeit unscientific, Royal Gazette poll earlier than today, there is no doubt that Burch’s popularity when measured against his peers might have usurped all but the Premier — it may yet do so still. But, then, someone forgot to collect the trash. Obviously, not as simplistic as that, but a perfect storm of scenarios has presented Burch his first brush with adversity, which has been laid bare for all to see — all over our streets, from east to west. The broken promises last week from one stumbling government brief after another have resulted only in feral cats having their way in an extended and island-wide open house. Then the minister himself manned up and took it on the chin. Beginning with a forthright apology, while not unexpected, was the right thing to do. This has been followed with transparently committed efforts to see the job through — by way of sorting out staffing issues and also expediting an agreement with the union over the work-to-rule with hands-on efficiency. Bermuda may resemble a cesspit for just a few days more, putting the Keep Bermuda Beautiful brigade on all-out alert, but the minister has now made up for a perceived slowness to react. Whatever misgivings some hold of Burch’s past ministerial life before Burt embossed his election success in Warwick North Central with a place in his first Cabinet, this version merits some benefit of the doubt. As long as he continues to wear his heart on his sleeves: straight-talking, plain-talking, believable. In words he can use."
February 2. Bermuda-based Sompo International Holdings Ltd has completed the full transfer of Sompo America’s business operations and staff into the Sompo International Insurance platform. Commercial property, casualty and specialty products for Japanese Interest Accounts will be managed by the Sompo Global Risk Solutions platform, under the oversight of Michael Chang, chief executive officer of Sompo Global Risk Solutions. Jack Kuhn, CEO of Global Insurance, said: “The integration and alignment of Sompo America marks a significant step towards the creation of a truly integrated global insurance platform. The combined organisation has the backing of Sompo’s strong balance sheet, while providing additional flexibility with respect to broad licensing, greater on-the-ground resources and a larger regional footprint in the US. I am extremely pleased that we are now able to offer additional products and services to our clients and trading partners.” Meanwhile, the transfer of Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Company of Europe Limited and their integration with SIH is planned for the second quarter of this year.
February 2. A Pembroke woman has denied trying to import more than $45,000 worth of cannabis and cannabis resin into the island. Sheneal Harris is accused of trying to smuggle the drugs into Bermuda on May 18 last year. She also faces a further two charges of possessing cannabis and cannabis resin with intent to supply. The 25-year-old, from Pembroke, pleaded not guilty to all the charges at Magistrates’ Court yesterday. She was released on bail for trial at Magistrates’ Court at a later date.
February 1. The Premier launched a new campaign yesterday to combat money laundering. Mr Burt, also the Minister of Finance, said the campaign would recruit the entire island in a bid to fight financial crime. The campaign, called “Just Good Business”, will highlight efforts to ensure Bermuda meets the highest anti-money-laundering standards. Mr Burt said: “It really is all about our ability to continue to be a robust and credible jurisdiction in which to do good business. This means having a strong framework to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and ensuring that we enforce the rules.” The campaign will also emphasize the importance of people and businesses submitting documents required to meet international standards. The Premier said: “We all don’t like filling in forms, but it is essential that we do it.” The campaign is also designed to make sure organisations understand their obligation to report suspicious activity. Mr Burt added: “We all need to do our part to draw attention to this behavior.” The campaign is funded by the Government and the private sector and will continue for rest of the year. A campaign website, goodbusiness.bm, has launched and an advertising campaign is also planned. The island will be reviewed by the Caribbean Financial Action Taskforce this year. Mr Burt said: “Bermuda is focused on strengthening its effectiveness in combating money laundering because it is vital for maintaining our sterling financial reputation. In order to keep that reputation, we must be in compliance.” Mr Burt was joined by representatives of a range of groups, including the National Anti-Money Laundering Committee, Bermuda Monetary Authority and Bermuda Business Development Agency. Cheryl-Ann Lister, chairwoman of the NAMLC, said: “A major part of Bermuda’s success as an international financial centre can be attributed to the strong commitment at all levels in the public and private sectors to ensuring our jurisdiction’s quality reputation is protected.” Meanwhile Ross Webber, BDA chief executive, said: “Bermuda has long been a centre of excellence for compliance and transparency — a positive differentiator. “We will continue to work collaboratively to maintain that world-class reputation.” To file a confidential suspicious activity report, contact the Financial Intelligence Agency at 292-3422.
February 1. Bermuda Tourism Authority has been ordered to release more information about the salaries of its top-earning executives. Information commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez said in a press release today she had reversed a decision by the publicly-funded quango to withhold the entire record in response to a public access for information request on employee compensation. The commissioner said BTA did not have to provide the exact salary of individuals as this would be an “unjustified intrusion into the personal information of employees”. But she ordered it to disclose staff salaries in bands of no more than $10,000, to allow the public to “get a true picture of the effectiveness of its public spending”. Ms Gutierrez said the tourism authority also had to reveal the names of employees who receive “discretionary financial benefits” and the dollar amounts of those benefits. The tourism authority cited several exemptions within the Public Access to Information Act to avoid disclosure but the legislation says records should be released if it is in the public interest to do so. The commissioner said in considering the public interest test, she weighed “the substantial privacy interest of individuals who are BTA employees” against the “strong interests in accountability and transparency for public expenditures and the need for better understanding of BTA’s compensation process”. In February 2015, former BTA chief executive officer Bill Hanbury revealed he earned $295,000 a year plus a $75,000 annual housing allowance. Mr Hanbury also disclosed that the BTA’s senior executive team of Pat Phillip-Fairn, Karla Lacey, Victoria Isley and Roland Andy Burrows received annual salaries of between $175,000 and $275,000. Ms Gutierrez said in her decision that those salary bands were “too wide” and narrower bands must be disclosed. She also ordered the release of “actual maximum incentive percentages for chiefs in bands of a maximum of five per cent and actual performance incentive payments for chiefs in bands of a maximum of $10,000”. The Pati Act requires the title and salary range of every public officer - those employed directly by the Government of Bermuda - to be published in January each year. Employees of quangos don’t fall within the legal definition of public officer and the BTA is one of the few quangos to have made salary information public on its employees since Pati came into effect in 2015. Ms Gutierrez said in her decision: “In weighing these legitimate public interest considerations in favour of and against disclosure, the information commissioner notes the extensive public disclosures BTA has already made to facilitate accountability and transparency in its public expenditure.” Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed the $444,230 salary of its chief executive officer but has only given a salary band of $142,300 to $470,000 a year for its other executives. The hospitals board denied a Pati request from The Royal Gazette for more detailed records and that case is under review by Ms Gutierrez.
February 1. MS Amlin was today announced as a title sponsor of the ITU World Triathlon Series in Bermuda.
The reinsurance firm said the move was a natural step as its parent company, MS&AD, is based in Tokyo, where the Olympic Games will be held in 2020. During the Bermuda event in April, athletes will win points on their long road to qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. Rob Wyatt, CEO of MS Amlin AG Bermuda Branch, said: “We are honoured to have been chosen as the title sponsor for the first ITU World Triathlon being held here in Bermuda. “As an active office keen on sport, we are delighted to be lending our support to such a fantastic event — particularly one that resonates with Bermudians thanks to the success of triathletes such as Flora Duffy. We hope the event again showcases Bermuda as a wonderful venue for top level sporting activities, inspiring those of all ages to swim, bike and run.” Phil Schmidt, local organising committee chairman of World Triathlon Bermuda, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with MS Amlin. MS Amlin stands for quality and fairness in the reinsurance industry, which are key values for any athlete.” Pat Phillip-Fairn of the Bermuda Tourism Authority said: “We look forward to welcoming the world’s top athletes and triathlon enthusiasts to experience all that Bermuda has to offer. The MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda will become a pinnacle event in the triathlon calendar. We are extremely grateful for the generous support of MS Amlin, and we thank them for their partnership, demonstrating their wider, ongoing support for Bermuda.” The event will be hosted in Hamilton on April 28. The day will comprise of the Elite race and the Age Group amateur race, which will attract hundreds of runners, including locals trying their first triathlon. A team of employees from MS Amlin will participate in the amateur Age Group triathlon race, while others in the MS Amlin family will volunteer at the event. Front Street will be the focus of all racing and MS Amlin’s Bermuda offices, which will also house the event office, is well positioned on the course. Sports enthusiasts of other disciplines are encouraged to register and train for the April event, which does not require a qualifying time.
February 1. A new weekly summer event could be in the works for the West End. The West End Development Corporation and Bermuda Tourism Authority have issued a request for proposal that seeks “an individual or company who specializes in event planning, production and management to provide comprehensive event production services within Royal Naval Dockyard”. The request added: “The successful proposer will be responsible for the production of the Royal Naval Dockyard’s weekly summer event.” Joanna Cranfield, Wedco’s business development manager, said many tenants had asked if Dockyard could host a regular event to attract more people to the area. She said: “We thought it was a good idea, so we have issued the RFP to see if it is possible.” Ms Cranfield added: “I want to stress that this will be complementary to the very popular Harbour Nights and our event will be on Mondays, which is a day when we have thousands of visitors with two cruise ships.” Ms Cranfield said Wedco was open-minded about the type of event, but that ideas submitted should “appeal to cruise ship passengers, air passenger visitors and residents, be family-friendly and incorporate as much of Bermuda’s rich culture as possible”. She added: “We think this will be an excellent addition to the events we have at Dockyard throughout the summer and will make the area a very special and fun place to visit for tourists and locals.” More details are available in the RFP package. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for inquiries is February 16 and firm proposals should be submitted by 4pm on February 23.
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February 19, 2018.
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