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Bermuda's History 2013

News and significant events in this calendar year

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us).

See end of this file for all of our many History files

2013. January 3. Bermuda could have another Premier in nine months when Craig Cannonier’s first term as Leader of the One Bermuda Alliance expires. Mr Cannonier was elected to serve a two-year term as leader of the Island’s newest political party in September 2011. The OBA constitution specifies that the term can be extended by a two-thirds majority vote of the party’s executive committee “to enable the Leader to stay in post in order to fight a general election.” That means, barring a decision to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate, the OBA will have to organize a leadership conference by mid-September this year. Mr Cannonier made history by being the first person to be elected leader of the Opposition who was not an MP. But the party’s Constitution, which came into effect after the 2011 leadership election, now restricts candidates for Leader to MPs. Early indications are that Mr Cannonier will not be challenged, come September. Finance Minister Bob Richards who had thrown his hat in the ring in 2011 — famously referring to Mr Cannonier as a “colt” — told this newspaper that he would not be doing so in September. “I’m not interested,” he said. “I’ve got a job and I don’t have time for foolishness.” Senator Michael Fahy, now Home Affairs Minister, said he does not expect Mr Cannonier to be challenged. “I would be very surprised if he was challenged,” Sen Fahy said. The Deputy Leader position, currently held by Michael Dunkley, as well as other party offices, will also be up for election in September. Should Mr Cannonier be challenged for his position, and loses, his tenure as Bermuda’s Premier would be the shortest in the country’s history — beating by about a year the current record holder, David Saul, who served from August 25, 1995 to March 27, 1997.

January 4. Statement from The Royal Gazette. "Today we are pleased to announce that The Royal Gazette is once again the Official Gazette. After an absence of more than ten years, we are now carrying the Government announcements — to see them go to pages 32 to 35. Acting Editor, Jeremy Deacon said: “We are very proud to have won the contract. At a time when everyone is looking to make savings, our tender offered considerable savings to the Government annually, while at the same time giving the Official Gazette the exposure it needs. “We are delighted that the Official Gazette has come home and we hope our readers are pleased with the extra service we are now able to provide.”

January. Bermuda Health Disparities Report published by Bermuda Health Council.

January 15.  George Wardman has broken his silence over fears for the future of the Coral Beach Club, said to be facing imminent receivership. In a letter to CBC’s some 1,100 members, he sought to reassure that the private beach and tennis club would continue to operate if it is put into receivership. “We think we should warn you that the Club is rumored to soon be mentioned in a ‘receivership action’,” Mr Wardman said in his letter Monday. I want to assure you that the property, the buildings, the courts, the beach and all the rights to them are still intact and not affected by this. This is intended to be the orderly handover from the earlier tenant (Brickman) to their lender (Swedbank).” New York-based Brickman has said it wants out of its lease, saying it’s no longer interested in developing the property as a five-star resort. CBC members rejected Brickman’s plan to sell them the resort’s facilities for $28 million, leading to concerns the club could close, be sold to another party, or handed back to mortgagee Swedbank. Officials from the Swedish bank flew to Bermuda last month to meet with Brickman and CBC staff. A group of concerned members and at least one New York-based firm are among potential buyers for the club. In his letter Monday, Mr Wardman further said: “It has been indeed a long while since we felt we should bother you about plans for the combined Horizons & Coral Beach Properties. There has been much confusion and uncertainty, you have been remarkably patient and I am afraid that the journey is not over yet. As the Chairman of an inactive Board of Governors but still charged with running the membership issues for the Club, we want to help explain. We think we should warn you that the Club is rumored to soon be mentioned in a ‘receivership action’. I want to assure you that the property, the buildings, the courts, the beach and all the rights to them are still intact and not affected by this. This is intended to be the orderly handover from the earlier tenant (Brickman) to their lender (Swedbank). Members of the Club have, all along, been protected by several provisions in the lease and the negotiating documents. These covenants still apply, to use $500 words. You will already know that there are a number of suitors who want to find a way to preserve the Club and its availability for your recreation. You can be the first to know that the Landlords, in particular the Wardman’s, are just as eager to find a sensible and realistic solution. Our favorite hope is that the Club will become part of a caring family who will nurture it into the future without thought of undue reward and with congenial enjoyment as its principal goal. This project has faced many challenges but you may be sure that the no one has given up. At the end of the day we are certain there will be a Coral Beach Club to withstand the test of another 65 years. Indeed, your Board of Governors will meet soon to consider recent new applications, a positive portent.” The current lease payments are for annual rental payments of $1 million for the Horizon lease and $1 million for the CBC lease for the next 45 years of the lease, and thereafter drop to $125,000 for each property for the next 150 years of the original 200-year leases which commenced in 2008.

January 24. Young educated Bermudians have been leaving the Island in droves to seek employment in other countries, according to the Department of Statistics. The Island’s political parties, the civil servants union and the business community have all expressed concern at the news — with the Opposition Progressive Labour Party pledging to cooperate with the Government in getting Bermudians to return or stay home to develop their careers. In a first of a kind analytical brief, the Department reports that 1,121 persons emigrated from Bermuda between 2000 and 2010. Seventy percent of the emigrants were Bermudian, while 27 percent were non-Bermudian and employment was the main reason cited as to why they were leaving the Island. Nearly half of the Bermudians (47 percent) leaving left for reasons of employment. But “family” was cited by 25 percent of the emigrants as a reason for leaving, and another 18 percent of respondents indicated that a range of other factors which prompted their departure, including affordability, retirement, “to exercise the right of free establishment”, and crime. With a median age of 28 the emigrants were also a fairly young group. Fifty-three percent of the Bermudian emigrants were degree holders, 83 percent of whom were under the age of 35. The analysis was based on data collected during the 2010 Census. The US and the UK were destinations of choice for the emigrants. About a third of the emigrants were professionals, while another 19 percent were service and sales workers. The data also shows that the emigration, at 41 percent, was highest between 2007 and 2009. But a greater proportion of non-Bermudians (55 percent) left the Island during this period than Bermudians (36 percent). “The brief also highlights the impact of the loss of skilled human resources or ‘the brain drain’, as a result of persons leaving the island to reside overseas,” a Department of Statistics release stated this afternoon. “This is the first time a census has collected information on Bermuda’s former residents who have emigrated abroad.” The brief concludes: “The data shows that emigrants 16 years and older were most likely to have degrees, resulting in brain drain.” A Government spokesperson said that the statistics “reinforces the Premier’s concerns regarding the amount of people who have left the Island, which is why one of the main objectives of this government is job creation.” And One Bermuda Alliance chairman Thad Hollis said that the party and its leader were well aware that the Island was facing a brain drain. “The brain drain was one of the reasons our leader Craig Cannonier chose to use his swearing in ceremony at Government House the day after the election to urge Bermudians living abroad to ‘come back to us …. to build the better Bermuda we know we can build,’” he said in an e-mailed statement. “Mr Cannonier, as new Premier, issued the call because Bermuda needs its ‘best and brightest’ now more than ever. One of the most disturbing statistics released today was the high percentage of young Bermudian degree holders who had left the Island for opportunities abroad. That one statistic — 83% of emigrant degree holders were under 35 of age — underscores the seriousness of the ‘brain drain’ threat to Bermuda’s long-term well-being. Our focus going forward is to maximize the skills and talent of Bermudians in a collective effort to make the Island work better for all our people. As new Premier Cannonier said at his swearing-in ceremony: “Let this be the start of Bermuda’s renaissance.” The Opposition PLP said that the “brain drain” statistics were “concerning” but not “entirely surprising. With the impact of the worldwide global recession, many young Bermudians have left to find alternate employment in the US and the UK. Whether they have been successful in their search is another story, however, the bottom line is that these are Bermudians who have felt the need to leave their homeland for other territories, and that is concerning. We implore the Government to consider ways that we can encourage Bermudian young people to return to Bermuda and/or stay in Bermuda and develop their careers. There is no easy solution to this problem, however as the Opposition, we pledge our assistance and cooperation in this awesome task. We also encourage the business community to step up and provide entry level and apprentice level opportunities for young Bermudians. There are many young Bermudians who are abroad in universities or trade schools. They need to feel that there are opportunities for them in their land of birth. We must also ensure that young Bermudians are given adequate preparation so they are qualified and capable of competing in the labour market." Kevin Grant, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said that he was alarmed that 70 percent of the emigrants were Bermudians and at the proportion of them who were under the age of 35. Mr Grant noted that 36 percent of the unemployed were between the ages of 16 to 24. But he speculated that the emigration data could also be related to gang activity which has seen a number of young black males relocating in the UK. “However, it cannot be denied that there are a large number of our young Bermudians who are going to college, completing their studies getting degrees, (and many of them master degrees) coming back home to Bermuda and cannot find a job. Bermuda at this time could be experiencing what I would call ‘youth flight’ whereby young, qualified professionals have to leave their home countries to seek better opportunities. So surely when we consider the suspension of term limits or the elimination of them all together, Government must seek to achieve a balance whereby our young qualified Bermudian workers are given equal opportunity. Having our young workers leave the country can lead to serious ramifications in the long run.” But the loss of jobs has been “accelerating since 2008 — the sixth full year since (six-year) work permit term limits were introduced,” said Diane Newman, Chamber Economics Committee chairperson. “The study released today illustrates clearly that educated people — the sort of people who we need to have in the workforce in order to attract business investment to the Island, and the sort of people who would create new businesses themselves — are going elsewhere. This is a major concern,” she said. “Another concern is the age of the people who are leaving. It illustrates that entry-level jobs are disappearing for educated young Bermudians. ABIC chairman George Hutchings has said that accounting is the only profession where a young Bermudian graduate can be confident of finding entry-level work now. “It also should raise concerns about the state of our government and other pension plans. Without young workers to pay into them, these plans could come up short when the current cohort of older workers begin to retire.” The Bermuda Employers Council also appeared to blame emigration of non Bermudians on the former Government’s term limits policy. “Emigration by non-Bermudians appears to coincide with the setting in of the reality of the former Government’s term limits policy which compounded problems in the recession that came afterwards. It was predicted that persons would not stay in Bermuda with the uncertainty of their future and many moved on with their families,” said BEC president Keith Jensen. "It was very disappointing to see Bermudian professionals move away when employment opportunities were amply available prior to the onslaught of the economic recession. On the other hand, it shows the extent of opportunities and the demand for Bermudians and non-Bermudians professionals in the global workforce. Work experience abroad does place Bermudians in a good position if they return to the Island. The number of non-professional Bermudians leaving for employment shows how some countries welcome our citizens for jobs in their countries. It will be useful in due course to compare this emigration data with the turnover of work permit holders, which we understood was much higher in a six-year period.”

February 4.  As Coral Beach Club moves closer to being placed in receivership by mortgagee Swedbank, members’ bid to buy it has hit major hurdles. It is understood one of the stumbling blocks is that Swedbank will only sell the two leases for CBC and the Horizons property as a package, and not separately. New York-based Brickman purchased the CBC and Horizons leases from ultimate owners, George Wardman’s company, with a loan which ended up being held by Sweden’s Swedbank. As part of the lease purchase, Brickman also agreed to annual rental payments of $1 million for the Horizon lease and $1 million for the CBC lease for the next 45 years of the lease, and thereafter, $125,000 for each property for the next 150 years of the original 200-year leases, which commenced in 2008. It is understood a reduction in that rent payment was given for a period. It has emerged that what were characterized as “lowball” offers by other parties have been made for the Club, but they were not accepted by Swedbank. Further troubling news for the beach and tennis club is that membership has dropped sharply, from around 1,800 members (including 600 in Bermuda) several years ago to around 1,232 this year. Dues are a major source of revenue for the club. Following a meeting last week, the Members CBC Steering Committee said its goal remained “preserving our club for the membership”. However, the committee admitted that the “road is a longer and more complex one than was envisaged at the start”. Another major stumbling block, member sources said, are conditions in the Brickman lease agreement that are not clear at this stage. Members at last week’s meeting said they felt that they could not put any offer on the table to buy the club at this time, though they still hoped to assist in keeping the club going for the sake of members and staff once it is placed in receivership.

February 7. If there is one thing that Bermuda has over the Cayman Islands, it’s a very large yacht. In fact, it’s the largest privately owned yacht in the world — the 533-foot Eclipse owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich — now docked in Hamilton, which flies the Bermuda flag. And that’s no small feat considering that Cayman holds the majority of private yacht registries. Private yacht registry is big business for offshore domiciles and growing here in Bermuda. “More often than not, people who own these mega-yachts have other assets, property and interests that involve off shore, so hopefully when you see a yacht it’s part of a bigger picture, whether that is a holding company, business interests or insurance needs or private client work,” said Timothy Counsell, partner at Appleby Bermuda who specializes in banking & asset finance. Appleby is one of the local law firms that provide shipping registry services. “It could spin off into other things, so it could be a part of a bigger package.” Because many of these yachts are so incredibly expensive, many yacht owners set up holding companies to offset some of the liability, should the vessel be chartered out or if the boat was say, damaged, sank or spilled oil. While no doubt that Bermuda and Cayman’s tax neutrality is also attractive, it’s also the cache of a British flagged ship that is appealing. With both ports British, a Bermuda registry carries with it the benefit of the protection of the British Navy. “That all ties in with residual value and recognition of a good register are where good yachts are looked after properly — people who have safety in mind and play by the rules — that’s where owners will go,” said Mr Counsell. “The cost of registering in Bermuda will generally be more expensive than one would see than other shipping registries, like Panama, Liberia and Marshall Islands,” he explained, adding that in Bermuda owners pay a tonnage fee — the bigger the boat, the more expensive it is to register here. “Those registers tend overwhelmingly to be commercial ship registers.” Where as private yachts tend to go a small handful of places like Bermuda and more likely, the Caymans. “They (Cayman) really steal the march on private yachts worldwide,” said Mr Counsell. "Part of the reason for Cayman’s stronghold on the industry is its aggressive marketing at yacht shows and trade events where these mega-ships are built and sold. Over the years and as word of mouth takes hold, it is difficult to stop the momentum. One skipper talks to another and word gets around. Cayman recognised this as a good business opportunity and they’ve actively marketed at events.” Bermuda, however, seeing the potential of this market, is trying to increase its share of business. Ed Robinson, Bermuda’s Shipping Registrar within the Department of Maritime Administration said that there is ample room for Bermuda to grow this industry. To further advertise Bermuda’s advantages as a yacht registry, Mr Robinson’s group is planning on attending some of the largest yacht shows this year in Monaco and Florida. Though Bermuda is the David to Cayman’s Goliath, the Island can still lay claim to be the registry of choice for the world’s largest private yacht. “There are some significant yachts registered in Bermuda, the Eclipse being one of them. That’s a feather in our hat,” said Mr Counsell. “That shouldn’t be underestimated and it’s a good thing.”

February 8. Speech from the Throne.  Convening of the Bermuda Legislature.

February 13. Irish Independent newspaper. Four Irish sailors were thanking their lucky stars following a dramatic rescue off the coast of Bermuda after their yacht sank. The four businessmen, all experienced sailors, were picked up by a Greek freighter after their boat lost power and was battered by powerful seas. Skippered by Alan McGettigan from Dalkey in Dublin, the 48ft yacht Wolfhound sank just after the four were plucked to safety. Mr McGettigan, a member of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, left Connecticut in the US more than two weeks ago on board the yacht accompanied by three friends, Morgan Crowe, Tom Mulligan and Declan Hayes. The boat had only been purchased in December by Mr McGettigan and their voyage was to have taken them to Bermuda and then Antigua. But disaster struck about 400 miles off the Delaware coast after the boat lost battery power and suffered mechanical failure as weather conditions worsened. A Bermuda coastguard spokesman said the yacht suffered two "knock-downs" as huge waves pushed the boat over before it righted itself. "With the mechanical failures and damage they sustained, they put out a distress call which we received about 70 miles north of Bermuda," the spokesman told the Irish Independent. A Greek freighter, the Tetien Trader, which was in the area at the time, picked up the emergency call and managed to pluck the crew from the yacht before it sank shortly after the rescue. The ship, which is on its way to Turkey, is expected to stop off in Gibraltar early next week where the four lucky crewmen will be put ashore. A spokesman for law firm Arthur Cox confirmed that Mr Hayes was a solicitor with the firm and said they were delighted he and the crew were safe and well. "Our thoughts are with them and their families after this stressful time," he said. Dublin Bay Sailing Club secretary Donal O'Sullivan described Tom Mulligan, the club's protest secretary, who handles disputes during competition events, as a very experienced sailor. "I'm very relieved that nobody has come to any harm and that they were all picked up," he said.

February 15.  Former PLP leadership candidate Terry Lister this morning told the House of Assembly that he is quitting the party to stand as an independent. Mr Lister, who lost to Paula Cox for the leadership of the party, won re-election to the House at the election last December for Sandys South. He told the House that the past few years had been "extremely difficult" and "less than satisfying". He told MPs he had been asked to the leader of the PLP, but had lost to Marc Bean. He also complained of poor treatment by the Party. "I will no longer stand as a PLP MP, but I will stand for Bermuda," he said. Mr Lister said he turned down an offer to be Shadow Finance Minister, but said he would serve in other positions and was surprised to hear the shadow team had been selected before he even got a reply. The development reduces the number of PLP seats to 16 and comes on the heels of Randolph Horton's election to the position of Speaker of the House. Mr Lister was first elected to parliament in 1998 and held a number of Cabinet positions and twice ran for the leadership of the party. He is said to have become disenchanted at the results of the last leadership contest to replace Paula Cox after she lost her seat in the December 17 general election. Mr Lister had been the party's parliamentary group's choice for leader, but the delegates thought otherwise and elected Marc Bean by a landslide. Last night, the PLP would not comment on the reports of Mr Lister's resignation, referring this newspaper to Mr Lister himself.

February 15. A Supreme Court hearing expected to put Coral Beach Club in receivership by mortgagee Swedbank was postponed yesterday. Swedbank AB New York Branch versus Brickman Properties was due to be heard in Commercial Court at 11am, but it is understood it was cancelled due to legal issues over documents. With the receivership looming, Coral Beach’s future as a private club remains unclear. New York-based Brickman purchased the CBC and Horizons leases from ultimate owners, George Wardman’s company, with a loan which ended up being held by Sweden’s Swedbank. As part of the lease purchase, Brickman also agreed to annual rental payments of $1 million for the Horizon lease and $1 million for the CBC lease for the next 45 years of the lease. A group of members has been looking at buying the club, but it is understood Swedbank will only sell the two leases as a package.

February 21. A major insurance company based in the Middle East intends to expand its reinsurance operations into Bermuda. Qatar Insurance Company has embarked on a five-year plan, which includes setting up operations for its reinsurance arm in Bermuda and Zurich. The company intends to open these new Q-Re operations before the end of the year. Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons said yesterday: “We are pleased to see a leading Gulf-Region insurer increasing its presence in Bermuda and bringing top quality capital to our island.” Qatar Insurance Company is no stranger to the Island. It already has a presence as an institutional investor in CATCo Investment Management and CATCo-Re, a Class 3 reinsurance operation. News of Q-Re’s intended expansion has been welcomed by Business Bermuda’s CEO Cheryl Packwood. She said: “Business Bermuda and the Government have been active in developing relationships in the Middle East and Gulf that are necessary to creating new business opportunities in Bermuda and broadening our base of business. The establishment of Q-Re is an outgrowth those efforts and reflects the need for continued investment in international business marketing and promotion in key markets around the globe. We met with the president of Qatar Insurance Company two years ago. He was exuberant over Bermuda and looked forward to a long-term relationship with our jurisdiction.” Ms Packwood most recently took a Business Bermuda delegation to Bahrain and Dubai in December to promote the Island as an Islamic finance hub. And in October 2012 then-Premier Paula Cox led a party to the Arabian Gulf, which included a meeting with the prime minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. Last November’s Throne Speech described the former government’s intention to attract “business, capital and visitors’ from the Gulf Cooperation Council region, and stated the Qatar prime minister had told Ms Cox: “Qatar wishes to find win-win opportunities to partner with Bermuda.” Qatar Insurance Company (QIC) hired New York-based global consultants Oliver Wayman to advise on its future expansion and diversification. QIC’s board of directors have reviewed and approved a five-year plan that has now started and is projected to direct the company’s future until 2017. This year will see the second phase in the development of the QIC’s reinsurance company Q-Re. Q-Re was set up in 2009 as a wholly-owned subsidiary, and is backed by a full parental guarantee by QIC, which is capitalized at approximately $1 billion. The new phase in Q-Re’s expansion will see the establishment of “branches and representative offices in three of the reinsurance centres of the globe, which is Zurich, London and Bermuda,” QIC reported in a statement. “During the second half of 2012 Q-Re started to work on improving its team through recruiting an elite group of underwriters specialized in international risks, this team is supported with expert actuaries, Cat modeling specialists and professionals.” At QIC’s annual general meeting, held last Sunday in Doha, deputy chairman Abdullah bin Khalifa Al Attiyah said the company was in the process of establishing its teams for its Zurich and Bermuda operations, according to a report in the Qatar Tribune. Doha-based Q-Re currently has a branch in Zurich and a representative office in London. It is striving to double the company’s size, chairman Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani stated in QIC’s board of directors’ report. QIC, which was founded in 1964, made a net profit of QR610 million ($167m) in 2012.

February 22. KPMG Advisory was named Joint Receivers to the Coral Beach & Tennis Club and Horizons. Together with the mortgage holder, Swedbank AB New York Branch (Swedbank), and their agents, the Joint Receivers are currently taking steps to find a suitable purchaser for both the Club and Horizons. “The Joint Receivers intend to continue the operations of the Club without interruption, and will continue to work with Club management, employees and suppliers to ensure as little change as possible throughout this period,” KPMG said in a statement. Mike Morrison and Charles Thresh were appointed Joint Receivers. Commenting on the implications of the appointment for Club Members, Mr Thresh said: “We understand that the past year has been a time of uncertainty for the Club. It is our hope that a new purchaser will be able to provide a prosperous future for the Club.” 

February 23. Accountant Anthony Richardson has been appointed as Alderman for the Corporation of St George’s following a hotly contested election yesterday. Mr Richardson, who was born and raised in the town, picked up 160 votes, seeing off the challenge of bookstore owner Kristin White, who came in second with 107 votes. Businessman Alfonso Harris trailed in third with 39 votes while service station employee Rick Wynn picked up 34 votes. There were two rejected ballots and one spoiled ballot. With 1,196 residents eligible to vote, turnout was 28.42 per cent. The post became vacant after former Alderman Garth Rothwell was appointed Mayor last month. Mr Rothwell took up his post after his predecessor, Kenneth Bascome, was elected as OBA MP for the town in last December’s General Election. Speaking to The Royal Gazette after his victory was confirmed at around 9.30pm yesterday, Mr Richardson said he was thankful for the faith that residents had shown in him. The married father of two, who stood unsuccessfully as a Progressive Labour Party candidate in Devonshire South Central in last December’s General Election, also praised his rivals, saying that the campaign had been fought in good spirits with no animosity. “We really interacted well - there was a great rapport,” Mr Richardson said. While canvassing for votes, all four candidates had placed a need to re-energise the town at the top of their agendas. But Mr Richardson said he believed he was able to emerge victorious because he was born and raised in the town and had strong business experience. “I know that St George’s as a community is a very tight-knit family and the fact that I was born and raised here definitely helped me. But I also have a very strong financial background which I think the Corporation is going to need if we are going to reinvigorate this town.” The Progressive Labour Party today congratulated Mr Richardson on his efforts. “Mr Richardson, a two-time Progressive Labour Party candidate, has shown again his dedication to serving the interests of Bermuda.  This is a critical juncture in the life of St George's and a strong team is needed to promote investment and development. We are confident that he will be able to make a positive contribution to the Corporation of St George and work well with the team led by Mayor Garth Rothwell.”

February 23. Government has unveiled its fiscal plan to address what the Premier called Bermuda’s “financial tsunami” as Finance Minister Bob Richards delivered his first Budget Statement yesterday. A new statutory debt ceiling of $2.5 billion, $330 million in additional debt and a more aggressive approach to collecting unpaid taxes are some of the features of what Mr Richards described as a budget based on reality rather than hope. “We have found ourselves in a financial calamity that will require cooperation and shared sacrifice from all of us,” said Premier Craig Cannonier at a post Budget Statement press conference. He added that Government had been working to bring foreign investment into the Country and had met with countless overseas parties. “But understand Bermuda, this is not a sweetheart budget, but it is a workable budget.” Mr Richards dubbed the budget as “the beginning of a new direction in the manner in which the economy of Bermuda and the finances of the Bermuda Government are managed. “The hallmarks of the new management style will be realism, transparency, prudence and decisiveness,” he said. As expected, Mr Richards also signaled that public sector workers are going to be expected to share the sacrifice by taking a pay cut. However the Budget estimates show a 4.2 percent decrease in revenues over the current year and close to five percent increase in expenditure - with a significant increase in personnel costs. Mr Richards admitted at the press conference that his administration had much still to learn. “We’ve been quite realistic on the revenue side,” he said. “On the cost side we have not come to grips with the cost structure of this Government yet. We have not been in Government for three months.” Car owners will face a three percent increase in licence fees — with seniors losing their exemptions for certain classes of cars. Smokers and drinkers will be facing higher prices for their vices come April 1 when the new fiscal year starts, and land tax for homes with an annual rental value of more than $90,000 will be increased. The price of bus passes will be increased to yield an extra $500,000 and the Corporate Services Tax will go up to six percent from four percent to deliver an extra $1.5 million to Government coffers. Government expects to raise an extra $2 million from the sin tax hikes, another $3.4 million from land tax adjustments and $2.2 million extra from the vehicle licensing changes. Payroll tax relief for the hospitality and retail sectors, extended by the former administration, will continue. But funding for the Bermuda Police Service will be boosted, as promised during the election campaign, and more money will be made available to the Department of Corrections to recruit professionals “related to the rehabilitation and management of inmate issues,” Mr Richards said. The Department of Education is being allocated close to $8 million more than the original allocation for the current year as Government plans to expand programmes such as Career Pathways and services to special needs students. And the Health Ministry is slated to get a $4.2 million increase. Notable decreases in projected spending, as compared to the original allocations for the current year, is a $2.6 million drop for the Tourism Development and Transport Ministry, $5 million less for Public Works and a $6 million drop for the Home Affairs Ministry. The Environment Ministry is also being allocated less money and will have to make do with $580,000 less next year — with the biggest drop being $847,000 for Conservation Services. The budget will make good on a pre-election pledge to give a two year payroll tax holiday to businesses for new Bermudian hires — a measure which the Finance Minister said would be revenue neutral. Non-Bermudians who purchase property will have their licence fees slashed to eight percent from 25 percent for the next 18 months after which the licence will cost 12.5 percent of the purchase price. Licence fees for purchases of condos not used for tourism purposes will be cut from ten to six percent for the same period and rise to eight percent thereafter.– PRC holders will also get a tax break on their property purchases — down to four percent but increasing to six percent in 18 months. “This is a jobs programme, pure and simple,” he said provoking laughter from the Opposition benches. “The lowering of licence fees as outlined will stimulate much needed inward direct investment into Bermuda. The purchase of a new house, particularly those at the highest echelons as represented here, is frequently accompanied by renovations or customization of some description. Local construction companies will be required to carry out such modifications, thereby increasing the demand for labour in that depressed sector. As these customisations will be varied in scale and scope it should create opportunities for construction firms both large and small, thus creating a considerable diffusion of opportunity in the sector. Furthermore, the fact that the low licence fees will revert to higher levels after 18 months should have the same psychological effect as the end of a ‘sale’ in retail: it spurs people to act sooner instead of procrastinating. The measures would boost government coffers because demand for property is price elastic and stamp duties will remain unchanged. Non-tax job growth policies include the elimination of term limits, and speeding up processes such as planning and work permit applications and company formations to improve Bermuda’s competitiveness. " Missing from the Budget Statement is a plan to waive stamp duty for first time homeowners who purchase property worth less than $1 million, pledged during the election campaign. And a new procurement policy which will reserve $80 million of annual spending to small businesses, another election pledge, was also missing from the statement. But Mr Richards addressed the procurement policy at a press conference following the statement saying that Government still intended to deliver on the promise. And he defended the payroll tax incentive given to employers for new Bermudian hires saying that “only an employer can create a job.” Mr Richards began his statement with an overview of the global and local economies. Available economic indicators provide no cause for optimism, said the Finance Minister, and Bermuda is expected to head into a fourth straight year of recession. “A two-track strategy that strikes a balance between responsible growth and disciplined financial management” was being pursued.  The first track will implement specific pro-growth economic policies to stimulate much needed foreign investment, restore confidence in the Island as a place to do business and create new jobs. The second track will eliminate wasteful government spending, thereby reducing our national debt over time. But fixing the economy will not happen overnight. It will take time to implement solutions that work for the greater good. It will take time to revamp structures that inhibit our ability to operate efficiently and effectively. And it will take time to reverse trends and trajectories locked in place by past practices.”

February 24. Motorists will have to fork out more to get their vehicles on the road while smokers and drinkers will be encouraged to cut down on their vices through tax increases proposed in yesterday’s Budget. Finance Minister Bob Richards said Government was reluctant to ratchet up taxes for fear of stifling spending in an already “stagnant-to-weak economy” and as a result, most tax rates would remain unchanged. He also urged taxpayers to keep up-to-date with payments revealing that Government was still owed “large sums” in unpaid taxes. “Government has found itself in the difficult position of, on the one hand, needing more revenue to pay for its operations and debt service, while on the other hand, not wanting to cripple the economy further with major tax increases,” Mr Richards said in his Budget statement. Economists estimate that Government can expect to earn around $871 million in the next year, with payroll tax contributing $320 million to that total. Other big earners for Government will be Customs duty ($175 million), land tax ($59 million) and companies fees ($56.7 million). Vehicle licence fees will rise by three percent, increasing the cost of licensing a Class A vehicle from $281.05 to $289.45. The cost of licensing a Class D vehicle will go up from $675.25 to $695.50, while a Class H vehicle licence will increase by $46 to $1,597.80. Mr Richards also revealed that a vehicle licence exemption enjoyed by seniors will be partially removed, with owners of vehicles in bands E, F, G and H to be made liable for the annual fee. In total, Government expects to bring in $28.2 million in revenue from vehicle licensing fees in the next year and it is estimated the increases will swell Government coffers by an additional $2.2 million. The cost of bus day passes will also increase, although Mr Richards said this will likely impact visitors rather than residents. Increases in land tax will only apply to properties with an annual rental value of $90,000 a figure that will leave 96 percent of residential properties unaffected by the move. Mr Richards did not reveal how much the price of a packet of cigarettes will increase by, but did confirm that duty on tobacco, beer, wine and spirits will go up in April, providing an additional $2 million in revenue each year. Some businesses will be affected by a two percent increase in the corporate service tax, but payroll tax concessions for the hotel, restaurant and retail sectors will be extended. Companies taking on new Bermudian workers will also be exempt from payroll tax on those staff for two years. Mr Richards revealed that “large amounts of money” were still owed to Government in unpaid taxes, and that it was important for these debts to be paid to improve cash flow. “As Government presently has to borrow money to pay monthly bills, every unpaid dollar owed to Government increases the public debt and costs taxpayers the interest payable on that dollar. Due to the extended recession there are many small businesses that have struggled to meet their tax obligations in a timely fashion. Government will work with these businesses to make suitable arrangements. However, there are others who simply ignore their obligations. For this group, Government will use all available means to collect overdue taxes, thereby improving Government’s cash flow and reducing its need for borrowing.”

February 25. Government yesterday sent congratulations to the Corporation of St George’s newest alderman, Anthony Richardson. Mr Richardson was elected last Thursday, beating out three others who hoped for the post. He replaces Garth Rothwell, who was appointed Mayor last month. Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, whose Ministry has responsibility for Municipalities, yesterday said he “very much looks forward to working with Mr Richardson, Mayor Rothwell and the entire Corporation team to revitalize the Old Town. Sadly, the economic challenges have had a terrible effect on St. George’s, its surrounding businesses in the area and its tourism sector. This Government stands behind the efforts of the Mayor and the Corporation to get the St George’s economy moving again. And it’s my hope to meet with the team in the near future to discuss the way forward for the Old Town.”

February 27.  Membership in Coral Beach Club is “safer” and its future is “looking better” after KPMG was appointed as receivers. This from George Wardman, landlord and chairman of the Board of Governors. He told members in a letter on Monday: “You will have received by now a letter from Charles Thresh concerning KPMG’s appointment as Receivers. It was not unexpected. I think the letter capably and accurately reflects the current situation. “I want to reassure you that your continued membership in the Club is safer now. Having a resolution of the uncertainty can only help to find a sensible and agreeable solution. Indeed, there are rumors of several possible outcomes. It is all looking better.” In any case, the powerful forces of economic good sense work in your favour. While it is early days, even a distant Swedish Bank seems likely to respond to the inescapable conclusion that your Membership is the life of the Coral Beach Club and it would be foolish indeed to abandon that. These are not foolish people. My experience so far (and of others that I respect) seems to suggest that the Club is currently delivering good quality in every department. This is great credit to the staff. If you still wanted to continue your Membership but had been understandably sitting on the fence, you may now wish to take another look in light of a more secure future. I say again: ‘This project has faced many challenges but you may be sure that the no one has given up. At the end of the day we are certain there will be a Coral Beach Club to withstand the test of another 65 years.’” On Friday it was announced KPMG Advisory has been named Joint Receivers to the Coral Beach & Tennis Club and Horizons. KPMG said together with the mortgage holder, Swedbank AB New York Branch (Swedbank), and their agents, the Joint Receivers are currently taking steps to find a suitable purchaser for both the Club and Horizons. “The Joint Receivers intend to continue the operations of the Club without interruption, and will continue to work with Club management, employees and suppliers to ensure as little change as possible throughout this period,” KPMG said in a statement.

February 28. A number of struggling Caribbean islands are selling citizenship to generate revenue, and it is a trend that appears likely to grow. However, Bermuda would do better to model itself on ‘super powers’ such as the US, UK and Canada, and attract high-value residents to live on and invest in the Island and, in return, open up the opportunity for them to be considered for permanent residency and possible eventual citizenship. So says former Premier Sir John Swan, who has previously presented the idea as one of a number of ways that Bermuda might go about rejuvenating its economy. He is aware of the Caribbean trend, but favors the more rigid programmes adopted by countries like the US. Caribbean islands selling citizenship to generate revenue was highlighted last week in an overseas news article, which revealed a foreigner can qualify for citizenship in the Dominica Republic for $100,000, while someone donating $250,000 to a fund for retired sugar workers can gain citizenship of St Kitts and Nevis (alternatively they can receive citizenship with a $400,000 minimum real estate investment). There is no obligation for the new citizens to ever visit or live on the islands. For some applicants the attraction is simply to gain a more widely recognised second passport for hassle-free travel. A St Kitts passport, for example, provides visa-free travel to 139 countries, including all of the European Union. Antigua and Barbuda is in the process of launching its own citizenship programme to generate money, while the island of Grenada has hinted it might revive its citizenship-for-sale programme. Sir John said the model adopted by Dominica and St Kitts is not what he suggests for Bermuda. He favors a system that attracts substantial investment and intellectual capital, which in turn would lead to employment and business opportunities for Bermuda. “What I had in mind was a policy close to the practice in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. I have suggested repeatedly that we need to attract high-value residents who live and invest in Bermuda. Those who qualify would initially be considered for permanent residency and in time citizenship,” he said. The US programme allows visas for individuals who invest $1 million in a US business employing at least 10 people, or $500,000 in designated economically depressed areas. The investor is then able to seek permanent residency after two years and citizenship after five. Other countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia have similar citizenship programmes, although the demand has been so great in Canada that it closed its programme to new applications last summer. Favoring the system used by these countries, Sir John said: “The common denominator among the super powers like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom is that they simply want to attract substantial investment and intellectual capital that would lead to employment and business opportunities. Our aims are similar to those of the super powers.”

March 1. A fleet of new buses and a high-speed catamaran providing a ferry service between St. George’s and Dockyard are two ways in which Government plans to improve public transport on the Island. Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell announced the developments at a press conference yesterday detailing the Ministries’ budgets for the next year. Mr Crockwell said the ten new buses will cost the Department of Transport $3 million and will provide “increased lift during the peak period of the season.” He added that no new buses had been purchased by Government since 2009 and as a result, older vehicles were being subjected to stress. Pointing out that the Department of Public Transport saw its slice of the Government revenue pie increase by seven percent to $20.9 million, Mr Crockwell said: “This additional funding is provided to ensure the required maintenance schedules are maintained with a resulting improved reliability of service. East end residents should find it easier to travel with the introduction of a new ferry service to Dockyard in the summer. There has been great pressure on the Department of Marine and Ports to provide additional service to the east end during the busy cruise ship season.  It is planned to provide such service this year, using a dedicated, large, high-speed catamaran ferry chartered from overseas. The 400-passenger ferry lift between Dockyard and St George’s will allow the local ferry fleet service to focus on the Dockyard to Hamilton service, as well as the morning and evening commuter service.” Government hopes to pick up an extra $2 million in revenue from increases in bus and ferry passes, which will go up by 25 percent — the first increase since 2004. A one-day pass currently costing $12 for all zones will go up to $15, while a weekly pass will now cost $56.25 from $45 previously. But Mr Crockwell said there will be no increase in the cost of a monthly pass in an effort to lessen the impact of increases on Bermudians. Residents who use public transport regularly are more likely to by monthly passes than daily or weekly tickets, which are purchased mainly by visitors, the Minister noted. Turning to the Tourism portfolio, Mr Crockwell said: "The Ministry’s budget had been slashed by 30 percent in the last five years and has taken another hit of five percent this year. The Ministry has a purse of $27.2 million, the lion’s share of which will be spent on advertising and marketing Bermuda overseas. The Department of Tourism and the Tourism Board have and continue to work closely with our on-Island and overseas partners to ensure Bermuda gets the best value and return on investments for our planned sales and marketing initiatives, product offering and events scheduled for the next fiscal year. The establishment of a Tourism Authority is a high priority for our Ministry and we will hold a product development conference in order to seek initiatives and ideas from the public and will identify the most attractive and sustainable concepts. You will certainly be hearing more about this event in the very near future.” The Ministry will be investing $3.2 million in sports marketing — an increase of 54 percent on last year — and Government golf courses are to be given a grant of $850,000.

March 2. Whitney Institute has launched a year of celebration as it commemorates 130 years of providing academic excellence to the Smith’s community. It was in 1878 when the idea was first developed by Smith’s parishioners to construct a building on a plot of land that had been donated by Thomas and Ameria Pearman. The purpose, according to early documents, was “for the purpose of a Sunday or Day School or Schools or Young Men’s Christian Association, Lecture Room, Reading Room, for a Library or for any Public Meeting, for entertainments, for any such other useful purposes as the Trustees shall determine.” Fund raising and construction began quickly, and by August 1880, a two storey building had been almost completed, waiting just for its roof, when the Island was hit by hurricane that completely destroyed the work that had been done. Fundraising had to start all over again, until Mr. and Mrs. William Whitney made substantial donations that allowed the work to be completed and the school finally established in 1883. To celebrate, the school is hosting a Gospel Explosion concert tonight, under the patronage of Pastors Terrence and Jeanann Stovell. “This is really the kick-off for events,” said Whitney principal, Reeshemah Swan. “We have other plans in the works for later this school year. Why Gospel music? Its about giving thanks and being thankful,” Ms. Swan shared, giving thanks for the school, its heritage and the legacy Whitney has left on the community through more than a century of influence. The Gospel Explosion will feature a wide variety of individuals and groups performing, many of whom are either alumni, friends or family of the school. Those performing including Devaun DeGraff, Shacolbi Basden and John Duncan, the Agape Faith Praise Team, the BCCF Praise Team, Neville Caines, Dawnette Hart, the Salvation Army Band, Marvin Stovell (Geneman), NOVA (Justin Tucker) and Nikita Robinson, as well as a special performance by the newly created Whitney Middle School Family Choir, which consists of students and faculty. The evening will be emceed by Judith Stovell. The event has been organised by alumnus, Laurie Lambert, whose husband is also on staff at the school. “Ms Lambert and her class just celebrated thirty years,” Ms Swan said. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door. Patrons seats cost $20, while regular entry is $10 and Whitney students are just $5 each. The evening will begin at 7pm at the Whitney Institute Auditorium.

March 4. Three bills to implement measures to raise extra Government revenues were tabled in the House of Assembly. Parliament is now set to debate the Motor Car Amendment Act 2013 which would raise vehicle licensing fees by three percent for all vehicle classes, and rescind exemptions for larger vehicles owned by senior citizens, a bid to raise an estimated $2.2 million for the national treasury. And an estimated $1.5 million in extra revenue is to be raised if parliament agrees to pass the Corporate Services Amendment Act 2013 which would raise corporate services tax from four percent of gross earned revenue to six percent. Also tabled were proposed changes to the Fisheries Regulations which would double potential penalties for violators to up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of $50,000.

March 4. Government looks set to backtrack on controversial plans to make all senior motorists pay for a vehicle licence. Laws exempting older owners of any vehicle from the annual fee were introduced by the former Progressive Labour Party Government in 2007. But in last month’s Budget, the new One Bermuda Alliance administration said the law needed to be amended to stop the tax break being abused. Under fresh proposals, seniors who owned vehicles in bands A-D would still qualify for a full exemption, but owners of larger vehicles in bands E-H would have to pay the full fee. The decision was met with concern by advocates for the elderly, while one senior told The Royal Gazette that a two-tier tax system would be discriminatory. Acknowledging that the plan was “distressing” to some seniors, Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell has now confirmed that Government is to rethink its position on the matter — even though a Bill outlining the changes has already been tabled in the House of Assembly. “The discriminatory argument is one that does have its merits and so we will be looking at this decision again. I have spoken to my technical officers and the Minister of Finance and we will be looking at the issue of treating seniors differently.” Mr Crockwell did not reveal details of how the new law will now be drafted to close the loophole while treating seniors across the board the same. “This adjustment will not affect the revenue position we expect to achieve but will address the valid concern of potential unfairness. Any revision of the Bill will be straightforward.  Additionally, those seniors who require specific vehicles for health or disability reasons will still be able to apply to the Minister for an exemption pursuant to section 62A of the Motor Car Act 1951.” Seniors’ rights charity Age Concern gave a guarded response to the reversal, saying that it would reserve comment until it had seen the revised policy. The Royal Gazette understands that Age Concern representatives will be meeting with Minister Crockwell this morning. Government put forward the amendment after Transport Control Department data suggested the exemption was being abused. There was a 26 percent increase in the number of vehicles being registered by seniors after the tax holiday was introduced, while the number of Band H cars — the most expensive vehicle to licence — shot up by a massive 358 percent. Mr Crockwell said a study had shown that, after the exemption rule had been introduced, some car owners were “selling” their vehicles to elderly relatives, who could then get a licence without having to pay. “The scam — which was in most cases not technically illegal — was estimated to have cost Government $40 million. I should point out that the recommendation to repeal the exemption for seniors licensing cars in classes E through H was from a report prepared by Government’s Department of Internal Audit, which outlined abuse of the exemption costing millions in lost revenue. There are cases we could identify where an individual was registering their car and, immediately after the law came into place, it was being registered by their mother. That was the type of circumstance in which it was being abused and it was costing $40 million a year. You have to take a look at it, especially in the current economic climate, and we needed to come up with another way. But we have now listened to the concerns of the seniors and decided to look at the position with a view to making an adjustment which doesn’t only affect one group of seniors.” The loophole had previously been flagged up by the PLP Government. However, when it attempted to reverse the policy in 2011 — by limiting the exemption to vehicles in bands A-D — the move was criticized and eventually dropped. Instead, the then-Government hoped toughening up vetting procedures would tighten the loophole. Seniors had to visit TCD in person with their driving licence in order to qualify for the exemption.

March 5.  Bermuda insurance veteran, and former United Bermuda Party Minister Gerald Simons has been appointed as the new chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA). Mr Simons, who has more than 40 years experience in the sector, most of which were spent at The Argus Group, succeeds Alan Cossar, who stepped down from the post at the end of last year. Mr Simons, the former CEO of Argus Insurance, retired from the company in May of last year. The BMA also announced that Anthony Joaquin has been appointed as Deputy Chairman of the Authority’s board. Mr Joaquin replaces Darren Johnston, who has also stepped down after serving one of the longest periods of tenure on the BMA Board. Jeremy Cox, CEO of the BMA and executive member of the board, acknowledged the contributions of the retiring board members saying, “We wish to sincerely thank Alan and Darren for their invaluable input and expertise. Alan has been Chairman during one of the most challenging periods in the BMA's history, and Darren has completed one of the longest periods of tenure on the BMA Board, a total of 17 years. I think I speak for all staff at the Authority in acknowledging their unwavering support and selfless service. They have both contributed significantly to the organization.” Both Mr Simons and Mr Joaquin will build on their previous years of service as board members in their new roles. “As we transition to new board leadership, we are delighted that Gerald and Tony have agreed to take on the Chairmanship and Deputy Chairmanship respectively. We are very much looking forward to their continued valuable contributions, along with the directors who will also continue their terms of service and the two new board appointees,” said Mr Cox. The two new appointees are veteran insurance professional Fiona Luck and entrepreneur Alan Marshall, who each bring extensive business experience that complements the strength of the board, the BMA said in a statement. With these changes the BMA Board is composed of the following members: Gerald Simons (Chairman), Anthony Joaquin (Deputy Chairman), Walter Bell, Fiona Luck, Alan Marshall, Lynda Milligan-Whyte, Barclay Simmons, Ronald Simmons, Tracey Tepper and Jeremy Cox.

March 6. Eddy DeMello died at the age of 75. As a music promoter and businessman, owner of Music Box on Reid Street, He recorded many Bermuda musicians and organized many music concerts and musical events on the Island. He also worked tirelessly on behalf of the Island’s Portuguese community and was president of the Vasco da Gama Club for 17 years. He received numerous Bermuda honors for his work and was also recognised by the Queen and Portuguese government. Mr DeMello’s wife, Elsie, said he was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2008 and died peacefully at home. “He put up a brave fight and had a real will to live which he never gave up until the end. He was a man who wore many hats and always wanted to keep busy. But he was also incredibly kind. He would give you the shirt off his back.” Mrs DeMello recalled how staff at the Music Box would always try and prevent Mr DeMello from serving customers because he was always giving discounts to clients who couldn’t quite afford their purchases. “He was generous to a fault but never talked about that side of things,” Mrs DeMello said. Mr DeMello was born in the Azores in 1937, but came to Bermuda in 1949 at the age of 11. He attended Dellwood School for a few years but, as the oldest of four children, had to go out to work while still a teenager to support the family. A love of music soon landed him a job at the Music Box, which was then located on Queen Street. He bought the business in the 1970s, turning it into one of the most popular music retailers on the Island. Mr DeMello was also highly successful as a promoter, bringing many top-of-the-bill recording stars to Bermuda, including Charlie Pride, Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Amalia Rodrigues. For more than a decade DeMello Productions organized an annual concert by soca legend Byron Lee. Former Culture Minister Dale Butler said that Mr DeMello did more than anyone to promote culture of all kinds on the Island. Pointing out that Mr DeMello had already been inducted into the Cultural Hall of Fame, Mr Butler added: “That man needs a monument in his honour because he is a national hero. His emphasis was on what it means to be a decent human being. He wasn’t interested in black or white or where you were from or anything. He just wanted to work with anyone, as long as it was for the betterment of Bermuda. Obviously he was very interested in Portuguese culture but he also had a love for Bermudian culture I don’t think I ever saw him wearing long pants. He was an outstanding promoter and a truly outstanding citizen. His passing is a big, big loss for Bermuda.” Never one to forget his roots, Mr DeMello worked tirelessly to keep alive Portuguese traditions and promote Azorian culture here. His interpreting skills were often called upon to assist Portuguese nationals struggling to deal with officialdom. He served on the Portuguese Cultural Centre Committee and was also a member of the Committee for Long Term Residents. Vasco da Gama Club and all of its members were deeply saddened. His passing will be a large loss in the Portuguese-Bermudian community of Bermuda.  In 1979, Mr DeMello’s work was recognised by Portugal when he was made Knight Commander of the Order of Prince Henry for his contribution to the Portuguese community. He received the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour twice the first time in 1988 for his work with the Portuguese community and the second time in 2006 for service to the Bermuda Independence Commission. He was presented with a Bermuda Arts Council Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 for his contribution to the arts and last year he received a Senior Citizen Community Service Award from the Bermuda Government. As well as his wife, Mr DeMello leaves his son, Duane, sister Mary, brothers William and Joseph and a granddaughter.

March 13. Spring Break 2013 looks set to exceed the numbers recorded last year with 200 college students currently in Bermuda for week three. The total for this week alone is just 50 short of the estimated 250 students who visited during the entire period last year. Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell said the visiting students represent groups from Yale, Duke and Cornell Universities in addition to other schools of higher learning in the US and Canada. The first week saw an estimated 80 students on-island, of which half were non-residents, followed by another 100 college students during the second week. Said Mr Crockwell: “Last year we hosted approximately 250 students for Spring Break and we are certainly on track to exceed that number this year. From all accounts the students have had a great time and we will look to build on this momentum next year and hope that some students who visited this year come back again and bring their friends.” Activities include an Island Party Bus Tour, the Spring Break Cruise and the Tom Moore’s Jungle/Cave Tour, with several activities on tap at night at Cosmopolitan, Docksider's and Cairo. The Department of Tourism will post footage of all the Spring Break events held this year on YouTube in early April.

March 13.  Developer Gilbert Lopes is testing the waters for a new condominium complex on the South Shore through media advertisements. Looking to gauge the public’s interest in purchasing a one-bedroom condo, the advert, which started running in the Royal Gazette newspaper on Monday, highlights the low cost of the units, between $310,000 to $340,000. The proposal for 51 one-bedroom units just east of the Grand Atlantic development hasn’t been submitted for planning approval. Neither has the application to amend the current sustainable development order (SDO) attached to the property from 47 two- and three-bedroom units to a one-bedroom complex. “The idea is just to see what’s out there first before we waste a lot of money,” said Mr Lopes to The Royal Gazette. The plans have been redrawn — which Mr Lopes says reduces the current plan’s footprint by two thirds — and are ready for submittal. Set back from the cliff face, the proposed units would consist of around 800 square feet and be built in three, two-storey blocks. Most units will not have a sea view though should the proposal move forward, there will be private beach access. The complex, which is being designed by architects Benevides & Associates, is not intended to be a part of a low cost housing programme. Mr Lopes added that the pricing was as low as he could go in order to build the complex and was hoping that price range would be attractive to potential buyers. His hope is also to work with financiers to get approval for a ‘rent-to-buy’ scheme. So far, the advertisement has generated a few callers but the viability of the project really depends on the interest he gets. “We’ve done a lot of the prep work but we want to know what way the market is,” said Mr Lopes. “If I end up running the ad for a week and we get nothing then forget it, it doesn’t make sense — we’ll sit on it.” He added that he was concerned that any mention of the Grand Atlantic in association with the potential new condo complex could scare away potential interested parties. Mr Lopes purchased the land on the South Shore and began building the Grand Atlantic complex in 2010 on behalf of the Government. It was a joint housing project and hotel development, with 125 housing units announced for the site along with a 100-room hotel. The first housing units were completed in late 2011, and last year Government announced that 100 percent financing for the units was available, but as of last October only one unit had sold. The hotel phase of the project has been put off indefinitely.

March 14. Bus and ferry fares to rise by nearly 25%. A planned increase in the cost of traveling on public transport has stepped up a gear, with the tabling of two Bills in the House of Assembly. The Omnibus and Ferry Services Fares Amendment Regulations raise some bus and ferry fares by around 25 percent. A one-day adult pass currently costing $12 for all zones will go up to $15, while a weekly pass will cost $56 from $45 previously. And bus passengers paying cash will soon have to pay $4.50 for a 14-zone journey, an increase of 50 cents. The cost of other multi-day passes will also increase under the amendments, but Government says it hopes the hikes — the first since 2004, will have little impact on residents. The cost of monthly and quarterly passes — which are purchased mainly by residents rather than visitors — is to remain the same at $55 and $135 respectively. Government hopes the increases will boost its revenue by an additional $2 million this year.

March 15. Land tax will be increased for the Island’s most expensive homes, according to legislation approved in the House of Assembly. The Land Tax Amendment Act increases taxes for properties with an annual rental value of between $90,001 and $110,000 from 9.6 percent to 19.2 percent. Taxes on properties with an ARV of more than $120,001 will rise from 19.2 percent to 23 percent. Land taxes on all other properties will remain unchanged. The increase comes into effect on July 1. Finance Minister Bob Richards said the legislation would only affect a small percentage of homeowners and raise millions in revenue for the Government. “This is fair,” Mr Richards said. “Those who live in the most expensive homes should pay more land tax than others.” Shadow Finance Minister David Burt said he was pleasantly surprised, saying there were “a few more places” to look in order to find similarly progressive revenue sources. Mr Richards responded: “Hope springs eternal.”

March 19. Legislation ending the exemption for vehicle licensing fees for seniors was approved in the House of Assembly early this morning, despite arguments from the Opposition. Government described the exemption as a mistake, but the Progressive Labour Party said ending the exemption was an attack on seniors. Under the Motor Car Amendment Act 2013, although seniors will lose their exemption from paying vehicle licensing fees, they will receive a 50 percent discount. The cost of vehicle licenses will otherwise increase by three percent across the board. The amendments are estimated to raise around $1.75 million. Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell said the free vehicle licence initiative was a mistake, and that the PLP Government had intended to make drivers’ licenses for seniors free, not vehicle licenses. “The fact of the matter is the result of that mistaken policy it has cost the Government in the region of $3.5 million of revenue ever year since 2009,” Mr Crockwell said. “That is just not sustainable.” He also said there had been abuse of the system, further worsening the issue. Mr Crockwell said that the Government had considered re-instituting licence fees for only for larger vehicles, but there were concerns that the results could be viewed as discriminatory. As a result, they decided to re-institute fees for all groups of vehicles, but at a discounted rate. “We think it’s fair. It’s still a significant discount,” Mr Crockwell said. Shadow Transport Minister Lawrence Scott described the argument as a “bad case to make a bad law. It will do nothing to stop the abuse of the system, but continue to offer fraudsters a discount. You still haven’t plugged that hole. You are nickel and diming our senior citizens. We can understand a three percent increase, but we cannot understand a three percent increase, plus making them pay for their cars. Prior to December 17 we had their word they would protect seniors’ free transportation. If this was the change that we knew was coming perhaps December 17 would have had a different outcome.” Minister for Health and Seniors Pat Gordon Pamplin however said the reference to “free transport was for free public transport, not that Government would buy seniors cars or gas”. She said that since the legislation was announced, she has received several calls from seniors. While some expressed concern about the increased in cost, others said they could afford the change and understood the financial position the Island is in. The PLP’s Walter Roban said Government was showing a lack of caring and compassion for the Island’s seniors, and called for the policy to be reconsidered. “What’s next? What other defenseless group is going to have the axe from the Government? “Here we have the Government axing a benefit. I’m concerned.” Shadow Attorney General Kim Wilson and Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert called on Government to find other ways to raise the revenue or cut spending without hurting seniors. But Attorney General Mark Pettingill said that if seniors need assistance they can apply for an exception under the legislation, and criticized the opposition for either not knowing or ignoring that aspect of the legislation. “The exception is there, it is in the act. If seniors cannot afford it, all they have to do is apply,” he said.

March 19.  Bermuda’s National Health Plan (NHP) has been put “on hold” pending a review of the ambitious programme. It had been expected that the plan would provide universal healthcare for residents by next year. However, a Health Ministry spokeswoman yesterday said that the NHP was under review because parts of it “do not fit in with the Government’s views.”. Meanwhile Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva insisted that the plan had “been scrapped.” A search by this newspaper found the NHP’s website, Facebook page and e-mail address had been discontinued. Sources close to the plan told The Royal Gazette they doubted Government intended to pursue it. Mr DeSilva described the decision to get rid of the plan as “a social injustice to the people of this Country. Legislation has been tabled for an increase in hospital fees and the Standard Health Benefit. We’re looking at an increase across-the-board, of about 20 percent on the Standard Health Benefit. You know the insurance companies will put five to ten percent for administration on top of that; our people are going to be hit hard come April 1. I’m not saying the same thing wouldn’t have happened under the Progressive Labour Party but it shows what’s really at stake if they do away with the NHP. There were 72 people who devoted thousands of hours of their time to this. I don’t mind if they rename it, rework it or make it better. I’d be the first to stand up and give congratulations for any improvement whatsoever. I can’t believe they are dropping it when health costs in this Country are soaring.” Government last night insisted the plan hadn’t been scrapped. “Contrary to Opposition suggestions that the National Health Plan has been set aside, the Minister of Health and Seniors reiterated as she has said in previous public statements that the National Health Plan is on hold. “There are certain aspects of the plan that do not fit in with the Government’s views, but the full plan is still under review. The team who worked on the National Health Plan will, in the coming days, make a full presentation on the plan and the reports from the Benefit Design Task Group and the Finance and Reimbursement Task Group. From there, the Government can begin to make decisions on which parts of the plan will be retained and which parts will be used as a foundation for other solutions.” Age Concern executive director Claudette Fleming was one of those who helped draft the NHP. “Tremendous amount of stakeholder hours were undertaken by credible local and international professionals with respect to the background work” for its eventual development, she said. “I sincerely hope that this information can be used in some meaningful way to improve the significant challenges of containing healthcare costs and providing quality healthcare services for the benefit of the Island’s residents.” In her Budget brief earlier this month, Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin told MPs that there were “many facets of healthcare that needed to be addressed as a precursor to implementing anything that resembled a cogent and equitable plan.” She said universal coverage “could not be implemented against the backdrop of a fundamentally dysfunctional system” and that the system would have to be fixed before “sugar-coating our needs with an overarching plan that could become unwieldy and expensive.”

March 19. The Green family of Bermuda has purchased the former Sonesta Beach Resort from a US-based financial institution. The family is now conducting a review of the Southampton Beach Resort to determine the way forward with the 32-acre South Shore property. They intend to consult with “Government, Planning and relevant stakeholders” as part of that process, a spokeswoman said. Andrew Green said on behalf of the family: “We understand that there may be interest in our plans for the land, and particularly given our ownership of the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, however it is important that we now take some time to consider all the appropriate options. For now our main focus continues to be planning for the Fairmont Hamilton Princess upgrade and, when that is complete, we will work to see how we can best utilize the former Sonesta property.” The sale was announced yesterday by Jones Lang LaSalle’s Capital Markets experts, along with real estate experts Rego Sotheby’s International Realty. The sale was led by Rego Sotheby’s International Realty team led by president Buddy Rego and executive vice-president Penny MacIntyre. “This is an exceptional acquisition as the only freehold hotel tourism property recently available in Bermuda,” said Ms MacIntyre. “We are pleased the South Beaches site is in the hands of the Green family who continually demonstrate their commitment and dedication to Bermuda’s success.” Previously the home of the Sonesta Beach Hotel and Beach resort, the Green family purchased the Fairmont Hamilton Princess in 2012. The site includes three private beaches and includes building sites with “elevated views of the Atlantic Ocean and direct access to the beach areas”. It also includes entitlement to 88 residential units, “47 of which are available for purchase by non-Bermudians, and a resort hotel”.

March 21. Daily Delta flights between Bermuda and New York’s LaGuardia airport are set to start early next month. The flights are set to begin on April 8, and could operate year-round should demand warrant it. Delta flight 437 is scheduled to depart LaGuardia at 11.20am and land on the Island at around 2.29pm. Flight 438 is scheduled to leave Bermuda at 3.29pm local time and arrive in New York at 4.55pm. Delta first announced the flight last year as part of its expanded service out of New York to Bermuda, Florida and the Caribbean. Following that initial announcement, the then Transport Minister Derrick Burgess said that there was no revenue guarantee for the flight, but the Department of Tourism would work hard to ensure the 160 seats are filled. The move was hailed at the time by the Bermuda Hotel Association with president John Harvey saying: “This is great news as we need as much airlift from the New York area as we can possibly get.”

March 26.  Food and liquor sales jumped last year helping to push the annual gross turnover in the Island’s retail sector to $1 billion. There was a $5 million increase in total retail sales receipts compared to 2011, according to the Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics. The main contributors to the higher level of retail sales in Bermuda last year were liquor and food store sales, which increased 8.2 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively. In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone, liquor and food experienced increases in sales value of 4.9 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. Total retail sales for the fourth quarter of 2012 were estimated at $268.5 million. This represented a $0.4 million decrease year-over-year. Retailers of building materials, apparel stores and all other store types experienced lower sales activity in the fourth quarter of 2012, the bulletin showed. Motor vehicle dealers registered a 14.1 percent jump in gross receipts. Sales receipts for service stations rose 3.8 percent. Sales of building materials fell 28.5 percent year over year. This decline was due to the near completion of major commercial construction projects such as the redevelopment of the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, combined with a decrease in sales related to residential construction. Sales activity for apparel stores dipped 5.3 percent and for all other store types by 4.9 percent.

March 26. The Bermuda Monetary Authority in February approved three insurers and one broker to do business on the Island. The new registrants are Mt. Logan Re Ltd., Lorenz Re, Safe Harbor Management Ltd and broker International Specialty Brokers Ltd. Mt. Logan Re Ltd. is a sidecar launched by Everest Re Group Ltd. Lorenz Re is a special purpose insurer, according to BMA records. A number of new sidecars have cropped up in recent months, including one that will also write primary business. Earlier this month, Aon Risk Solutions, the global risk management business of Aon plc, said it signed a unique coinsurance agreement with Berkshire Hathaway International Insurance Ltd. Aon Risk Solutions will place business in the sidecar where the Lloyd's market participates. Unlike most sidecars, which write reinsurance business, this sidecar is globally available across all industry segments to write primary business for retail clients. In January, Argo Group International Holdings Ltd. launched its first sidecar, Harambee Re 2013-1 Ltd., which will write business for the 2013 accident year. Harambee Re supports both a reinsurance and an insurance portfolio, Argo said. Also in January, AlphaCat Managers Ltd., the investment advisory subsidiary of Validus Holdings, has raised $404.4 million of third-party capital for collateralized reinsurance and insurance-linked securities. RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd. also launched Upsilon Reinsurance II Ltd., a $185 million sidecar to write collateralized retrocessional reinsurance.

March 26. Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed specialist natural resources investment company Pallinghurst Resources Limited has announced a change to its board. The company, which is incorporated in Guernsey, announced that Patricia White, an independent non-executive director, has resigned from the Board, effective 15 March. In statement the company said that Ms White’s resignation follows the appointment of Dr Christo Wiese, effective 11 February 2013. The Board thanked Ms White “for her substantial contribution.” Pallinghurst Resources is a private equity company focused on the mining sector and the luxury brand Faberge'.

March 28. The Senate last night approved legislation ending a vehicle licence fee exemption for seniors, despite multiple attempts by the Opposition to change the legislation. During a debate in the Upper Chamber, Senator Marc Daniels tabled three potential amendments to the legislation, all of which were voted down by Government senators. The Motor Car Amendment Act 2013, set to come into effect on April 1, increases the cost of vehicle licence fees by three percent. It also rescinds an exception for senior citizens, allowing them to licence their vehicles for free. Instead, seniors will receive a discount of 50 percent. The exemption was put in place in 2007 by the Progressive Labour Party Government, but the ruling One Bermuda Alliance has said the policy was a mistake, costing the government $3.5 million in lost revenue every year. It has also reportedly been exploited, with the number of Class H cars being registered to seniors rising by 358 percent. Government originally planned to modify the exemption so that it would only apply for smaller vehicles, but chose to eliminate it for all classes of car after hearing concerns the partial elimination could be seen as discriminatory. Senator Daniels yesterday expressed several concerns about the legislation, saying that the way it had been unveiled had led to confusion. He suggested that the amendment be modified so that the exemptions would end next year rather than next month to allow seniors more time to prepare for the financial impact, saying: “No one knew this was coming.” Sen Daniels also noted that in the House of Assembly, Attorney General Mark Pettingill had stated that in error that the legislation included a way for seniors facing financial hardship to apply to the Minister for an exemption. While Mr Pettingill later released a statement clarifying there was no available exemption for financial hardship, Sen Daniels said such a measure should be included. “It costs you nothing to allow the seniors to make an application for that excerption,” he said. He further suggested that, even if Government were not willing to back down on ending the exemption, that they might lower the rate paid by seniors to 25 percent rather than 50 percent. The senator tabled three potential amendments to the legislation, which would implement his suggestions, but all three were voted down. Senator Michael Fahy said that the decision to end the exemption was a difficult, but that difficult choices had to be made to get the Island’s financial situation in order. “We are just going to have to deal with that unfortunately,” he said. “That’s just the way it’s going to have to be for a while.”

April 1. Sin taxes rise from today. The new ten percent import duty hike on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages goes into effect as a result of the Customs Tariff Amendment Act 2013. The tax hike was implemented as a result of the new Budget in February to raise an estimated $2 million in revenue. Duty alone on Cigarettes will go up from $40 to $44 per carton. For alcoholic beverages, beer will go from $0.90 per liter to $0.99 per liter, wines will go up from $2.63 to $2.89 per liter. Rum, vodka, gin, whiskies and liqueurs will go up from $25.15 per liter to $26.57, and passengers arriving at the LF Wade International Airport will have a fixed duty rate on spirits of $10.63 per liter. A Customs spokesperson said: “The flat rate for spirits imported in passengers’ baggage makes it easier for arriving travelers to declare and pay duty on liquor. Our airport staff will not have to know the alcohol content of your rum or whisky to collect the right duty.” Meanwhile, another Government spokesperson said further provisions of the 2013 Amendment Act will “make improvements to the structure of the Customs Tariff Act 1970. The current complex duty charging provisions are to be made simpler by replacing the 25 percent ‘standard rate’ and associated business end-use relief with a streamlined charging provision which simply imposes duty at the rate specified in the Customs Tariff on all imported goods — whether intended for personal use or for a business purpose. This year’s amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1970 also include measures designed to encourage certain types of business for the development of Bermuda by expanding the scope of the surcharge on duty suspended goods using the mechanism of a business temporary importation duty relief. The scope of the surcharge provisions is to be expanded to include not just bonded warehousing under the Revenue Act 1898; but also other duty suspension arrangements, such as — storage in a regulated shop under the Bermuda Airport (Duty Free Sales) Act 1997; storage in bond under the Bonding of Precious Stones Act 1952; and the new business temporary importation relief .” There are two surcharge rates for goods removed from the bond that will be rationalized to a median rate of 3.75 percent. Items listed for business temporary importation relief the surcharge will be calculated based on their “deemed customs value” as set out in the Customs Tariff Act 1970. And in both cases, it will be payable in addition to any duty due upon the discharge of duty suspensions.  A Government spokesman said: "The new business temporary importation relief is designed to encourage sustainable development by real economic growth. It allows the duty free importation of goods for business use, including use of goods as inventory, subject to the payment of duty and the surcharge on diversion to home use or export. For traditional business it facilitates greater inventory and larger scope of goods and services. For new business it allows for entry to market with reduced initial investment cost. But the new business temporary importation relief will not come into effect right away. “It will be activated by the Minister’s Order in due course to allow Customs and commercial importers the time to make the necessary programming adjustments to their respective automated systems,” a Government spokesperson said. 

April 1. Service at Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre has been cut back effective today, the Bermuda Hospitals Board announced. The clinic will no longer offer a weekday walk-in service from 8am to 4pm according to a BHB spokeswoman only about ten people took advantage of it each day. Diagnostic technicians who had been working during those hours will be redeployed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. The East End clinic will now operate from on public holidays and between noon and midnight on weekends. Weekday service will be limited to between 4pm and midnight. “This means the urgent care service will continue to be staffed by a physician, nurses and diagnostic technicians from 4pm to midnight in the week and on public holidays, and from noon to midnight on weekends,” the spokeswoman explained  “This service is used by in excess of 5,000 people per year. The walk-in daytime service was between 8am and 4pm and provided a diagnostic service only for people who had doctor referrals for X-ray, ultrasound or lab (blood and urine) tests. The facility will continue to open and deliver medical services to the East End when the Causeway closes, for example during hurricanes. It will also continue to be available as a disaster hub in the event of a major event in the East End. The urgent care centre provides a useful service in the evenings, weekends and public holidays for people with minor injuries and illnesses who cannot wait for their primary care physician’s office to open. This out-of-hours service is well utilized, and figures show that it has reduced some of the pressure experienced in the hospital’s Emergency Department. Unfortunately, the small numbers of people accessing the limited daytime service does not support us staffing the facility from 8am to 4pm. In the current environment it is simply not cost-effective for Bermuda at a time when we are seeking ways to be more efficient and control the costs of healthcare for the Island.”

April 4. By Janine Carey, a Trainee Associate with Appleby (Bermuda) Limited. People are very careful about managing their money during their lifetime; how it is spent, what deductions are made, how it can be invested, and how it can be saved. But it’s also important to think about how your assets will be managed after death — and that’s where having an estate planning strategy can prove beneficial. That is because, before anyone can receive anything under your Will, your estate will be subject to stamp duty in respect of Bermuda property. An astute estate planning strategy, however, can minimize, or even avoid, the payment of stamp duty, allowing more of your estate to pass to your loved ones. If your estate is probated, estate stamp duty will be payable on the value of the net estate and is calculated as follows:

Estate stamp duty must be paid within 90 days of the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration unless an extension is given by the court. However, before your death it is possible to reduce the value of assets that go to probate by Will or under intestacy — or potentially avoid the probate procedure altogether. One way to reduce the value of assets that go to probate, or the risk of probate altogether, is by holding assets jointly. On death, there will be an automatic transfer of your estate to the surviving joint owner. Probate will not be necessary if all assets are held as joint tenants, rather than as tenants in common, and there will be no estate stamp duty. Holding some assets in joint names can still be advantageous if holding all assets in joint names is not an option for you. Although those assets that are in your sole name may trigger the need to make an application for grant of probate, holding some assets in joint names will reduce your estate’s stamp duty on probate as only the deceased’s share of the asset as at the date of death is taxable. Owners of property (real or otherwise) can also consider making lifetime gifts as opposed to transferring property on death. A lifetime transfer will still be subject to stamp duty — however, the thresholds are lower than that of estate stamp duty as outlined above. The stamp duty rates applying to a conveyance or transfer of property during one’s lifetime are:

If you do not want to completely give up your rights to property by transferring it during your lifetime, you can make a gift of property subject to a life interest. This allows you to benefit from the use of the property during your lifetime. Your estate planning gift from government came with the introduction of the primary family homestead designation pursuant to the Stamp Duties Amendment Act 2005. The designation allows owners of real property to register a property as their primary family homestead. Following their death, the designated property passes to the beneficiaries without incurring estate stamp duty. Although this removes the incentive to make a lifetime transfer in relation to real property as noted above, the designation is only applicable to one property. In cases where an individual owns multiple properties, lifetime transfers will still be a useful estate planning strategy. You can also reduce the value of assets that pass through probate by establishing a Trust during your lifetime. The property in Trust is immediately available to the beneficiaries. Transferring assets into a Trust means that stamp duty may be payable during one’s lifetime. However, once this is done the Trust will not be affected by any future changes in stamp duty rates. As part of your estate planning strategy, you should be aware that there are certain exemptions from stamp duty including gifts to spouses, gifts to Bermuda charities and gifts of foreign real property. Further savings in estate stamp duty can be made by converting assets into foreign currency assets — for example, using foreign currency accounts. These assets will not form part of your estate and will not be subject to stamp duty. Shares in local companies having no more than five shareholders where at least 75 percent of the assets are foreign and 85 percent of the net income is foreign are also protected from estate stamp duty. It can be very beneficial to consider your options when it comes to anticipating and organising the disposal of your estate as you can minimise any uncertainties that may arise in its administration and maximise the value of your estate that will be passed on to your loved ones. It is best to consult an attorney experienced in estate planning to assist you in this respect."

April 4. In the short term Bermuda should not be overly concerned that ratings firm Moody’s has placed the Island’s Aa2 rating on review for possible downgrade, but if the economy does not improve then major concerns lie ahead. That is the view of Peter Everson, who heads the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s economics committee. New York-based Moody’s Investors Service yesterday placed the Island’s Aa2 government bond rating on review for possible downgrade, reporting: “The review is prompted by the steep rise in government debt since the global financial crisis and by the prospect of further rises in the coming two years. In addition, the Island's economy remains in recession, making efforts to correct the fiscal deterioration more difficult.” The warning comes only days after Standard and Poor’s said it might downgrade the Island’s credit rating. Standard and Poor affirmed Bermuda’s ‘AA-/A-1+’ long and short term issuer credit rating last Thursday, but revised its outlook from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’. Responding to the news, Finance Minister Bob Richards noted the agency had recognized Government’s efforts to put “various initiatives in place aimed at economic improvement” and said Government remained optimistic for future economic growth. However, Shadow Finance Minister David Burt called it a “wake up call” and said: “The PLP, and now independent international observers, are shocked with the increase in spending and the record deficit contained in the first OBA Budget.” A ratings downgrade would likely result in Government having to pay a higher rate of interest on its borrowings. The Chamber of Commerce’s Mr Everson pointed out that nominal interest rates at major central banks are at artificially low levels and appear likely to remain so, and said: “One side effect of this market manipulation is to compress the spread between the various credit rating levels because lenders are penalized for owning US Treasuries and therefore have to buy other bonds. This benefits Bermuda and will probably outweigh any extra cost from a reduced credit rating.” In its ratings rationale Moody’s noted that Bermuda has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world (above $80,000) and that the Island’s regulatory institutions have allowed the international business sector to develop. “Despite its recent rise, government debt started from a very low level and is still at a level only slightly higher than the median for countries in the Aa2-A1 rating range,” said Moody’s. “The review for possible downgrade is prompted by the upward trend in government debt that has occurred since 2008, with the ratio of government debt to GDP rising from a low 5.9 percent at the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year to an estimated 28.1 percent at the end of 2012-13. Furthermore, the newly elected government's first budget, introduced in February, projects a large deficit that will raise this ratio further in the coming year to well over 30 percent.” Moody’s believes the rise in government deficits and debt was primarily due to a prolonged period of declining GDP, “which began in 2009 and looks likely to continue through 2013. Moderate growth may resume in 2014, but the long-term decline in the tourism industry and less dynamic growth in the insurance sector could limit the pace of future growth”. Moody’s said its rating review will focus on the Government’s plans to address the rising debt and implement reforms to boost economic growth. It warns: “A downgrade could result if the review concludes that debt will likely continue to rise.” Finance Minister Mr Richards said: “Although a possible downgrade is certainly not something we wish for Bermuda’s future, I was pleased to read in the report that Moody’s has recognized that the OBA is putting various initiatives in place aimed at economic improvement, as did the S&P report that was released last week. Government remains optimistic about future prospects for growth and will manage the economy accordingly.” Shadow Finance Minister Mr Burt said: “Though deficits are not new the lack of any concrete action to reduce the deficit, by reducing spending and increasing revenues, are alarming.” Mr Everson said the rating agencies had a “poor track record in being current with the facts. All this revision achieves is to bring them closer to the facts. The only way for Bermuda to move forward is to grow the economy which requires enhanced competitiveness; greater levels of foreign direct investment and more jobs. " Whether or not the ratings agencies do in fact reduce Bermuda’s rating in the future will be driven by whether the recovery comes soon enough for their liking. While Mr Everson was not overly concerned by the short term impact on Bermuda of a ratings downgrade he warned about longer term concerns. “If the economy does not respond, or fails to respond quickly enough, then Bermuda will fall into the debt trap and end up asking the IMF for bailout funds and debt relief as several Caribbean countries have done in recent times. This would mean that important decisions are made outside of Bermuda by foreigners and Bermudians being told to accept the medicine. The recent developments in Cyprus and last year in Greece show clearly the misery inflicted on the broad mass of the population. This is not what any Bermudian would wish for their country or their fellow Bermudians.”

April 5.  Bermuda’s junior swimmers returned home to a heroes’ welcome from the Carifta Swimming Championships in Jamaica last night. And not even a late arrival from Miami and the loss of half the team’s luggage, which was misplaced en route to Bermuda, could dampen the spirits of the team members on their arrival at LF Wade Airport. Present to greet the team was Sports Minister Wayne Scott who traveled to Jamaica earlier in the week to personally lend his support. Team Bermuda scooped seven medals at this year’s regional championships, including three gold. They also set 63 personal bests in the pool and established 18 national age group records for added measure. Warwick Academy duo Madelyn Moore and Jesse Washington accounted for all of Bermuda’s medals. Moore, Bermuda’s top performer in the Caribbean, won gold medals in the girls 11-12 50 meters freestyle and 50 meters backstroke, silver in the 100 meters backstroke and bronze in the 100 meters freestyle. She also set two national age group records in the 50 meters backstroke (32:84) and 100 meters backstroke (1:14.10) and finished as the high point swimmer in her respective age group. Washington won the gold medal in the boys 13-14 100 meters freestyle, bronze in the 100 meters butterfly and silver in the 50 meters freestyle. He also set national age group records in the 50 meters freestyle (25:21), 100 meters freestyle (54:71), 50 meters butterfly (27:02) and 200 meters freestyle (2:02.83) and swam a personal best (1:01.17) in the 100 meters butterfly.

April 5. An American cruise ship passenger who attempted to smuggle $369,000 worth of cocaine into Bermuda has been jailed for 12 years. Jane Carmichael, 52, from Hazelhurst, Georgia, had strapped the drugs to her body inside a girdle. When authorities accompanied by sniffer dogs apprehended the grandmother on board the Celebrity Summit liner at Royal Naval Dockyard in May 2012, she immediately told them that she was carrying the drugs. The drugs mule later said she had been asked by a ship cleaner to deliver the four packages to a bar in Hamilton. The packages contained 3,452 grammes of cocaine. At a sentencing hearing in Supreme Court yesterday, prosecutor Nicole Smith called for Carmichael to be jailed for up to 18 years. She pointed out that Carmichael had failed to cooperate with police in tracking down the dealers who had set her up. “The only mitigating circumstances are that she entered an early plea of guilty and the defendant has no previous convictions in this jurisdiction,” Ms Smith told Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves. “But she did not provide any assistance with the identification of her co-conspirators.” Defence lawyer Saul Dismont pointed out that Carmichael had led a tragic life and had been “a victim of manipulation”. Requesting a sentence of between six and nine years, Mr Dismont explained that his client had been sexually abused as a child and had spiraled into depression following the death of a grandson six years ago. Her mother had died two years ago and she was also struggling financially after losing her job. “From that point on, she spiraled into a never-ending pit of depression,” Mr Dismont said, adding that the drug mule had made several attempts to commit suicide. “By her own definition, she has been lost in her life and made a number of bad decisions.” Mr Dismont also said that Carmichael had been a model prisoner since her incarceration immediately following her arrest. “Since her arrest, her behavior has been exemplary,” Mr Dismont said, adding that Carmichael had “made a 360 degree about-turn in terms of her attitude and depression. She has managed to turn herself around and helped many inmates — she has been a great encouragement to those who find themselves in a negative situation.” Before sentence was passed, Carmichael told the court: “I accept whatever judgment that the judge gives me. I made a mistake and I apologies to the Premier and to the courts here.” Mr Justice Greaves, who had earlier sentenced two men to terms of 15 and 12 years for conspiring to import cocaine into the Island, said a sentence of 12 years for Carmichael “would convey a message of some balance”.

April 5. Polo Resources Limited, a globally focused natural resources and mine development investment company, has been admitted to the Bermuda Stock Exchange. The company’s primary listing is on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). It has 269,622,745 ordinary shares. According to Polo Resources’ company website it has a core portfolio in the gold, oil and gas, coal and iron ore sectors and large-scale investments include Nimini Holdings Limited (90 percent), Signet Petroleum Limited (48.21 percent), Regalis Petroleum Limited (8.32percent), Equus Petroleum plc (1.95 percent), GCM Resources plc (29.8 percent) and Ironstone Resources Limited (15.7 percent).

April 8. Bermuda’s shipping registry has fallen foul of international quality standards and could face restrictions by the UK Government. And the development of the aviation registry business is effectively on hold, The Royal Gazette understands. At issue is Bermuda’s failure to recruit enough of the highly specialized professionals required for the two registers. Members of the Red Ensign Group — those shipping registers authorized to fly the British flag — must maintain enough in-house shipping surveyors to conduct at least 90 percent of critical safety management inspections of their ships. Bermuda’s complement of ship surveyors can only meet 32 percent of the ship inspection requirements, and it would have to double the number of ship surveyors in order to meet international standards. “We’re working with the Department of Maritime Administration to rectify the situation and bring Bermuda back into compliance as soon as possible because it [the shipping registry] is an important revenue generator for Bermuda and there are reputational issues involved,” Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons said. It is not clear where the money will come from to get the shipping registry’s staffing complement up to speed — no money was budgeted for the purpose for the new fiscal year. Dr Gibbons also revealed that the aviation registry also faced a shortage of qualified personnel. That registry is compliant with international standards, according to Governor George Fergusson, but it has ceased accepting new aircraft registrations because of the staff shortage. The two businesses are highly profitable for Bermuda, as noted below. Mr Fergusson said the two registries had been audited recently and audit reports were being prepared. “The two reports are still awaited. If either of them identifies any areas where UK assistance can usefully be provided, I would wholeheartedly support this,” he said. Government has budgeted for an extra five staff members to join the Department of Civil Aviation. The UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency audits Bermuda Department of Maritime Administration every four years, but it is unclear how long Bermuda’s shipping registry has been non-compliant. “During a February 2012 audit of the DMA undertaken by the MCA, the auditors identified the urgent need to engage additional surveyor resources, for the Bermuda Shipping Register to be able to meet its obligations and to function as a Category 1, Red Ensign Group Register in accordance with the agreed REG policies,” Dr Gibbons told the House recently. "In fact, the Auditors had such concern about the DMA that instead of waiting a further four years for their next scheduled visit, they arranged to come back again in February 2013. “It was at this follow up meeting that the UK auditors recommended that the DMA should double its surveyor resources in order to maintain its current fleet, to the required international standards, and specially, if it wishes to expand the fleet in the future. Learning of this in February was too late to put in appropriate provision into the budget for fiscal year 2013-14.” As a category one register, the Island can register vessels of any size or type, but staffing requirements are dependent on the number of ships of various categories on the register. UK authorities could impose limits on the number of ships in Bermuda’s fleet — thwarting plans to expand the business — if the issue is not addressed. Government also plans to open a satellite office in London to be able to provide shipping inspection services at a lower rate and promote the registry in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. The Royal Gazette understands that it is not uncommon for shipping registers to fall into non-compliance with international standards. Shadow Economic Development Minister Glenn Blakeney said the former Progressive Labour Party Government had worked to increase the number of qualified surveyors but faced significant challenges. “It is not just about having the budget to comply with international standards, it is also about the global scarcity of qualified people. There was certainly a desire to resolve the in-house challenge of being understaffed but the time to train up Bermudians to achieve the required level of expertise, takes significant time and that is why in some areas of speciality, there is reliance on highly qualified and experienced overseas talent.” Mr Blakeney added that Government had been considering merging the Departments of Maritime Administration and Civil Aviation to “make better use of combined resources” and suggested the new Government examine such options. 2Such a move would do little to address the immediate problem," said Dr Gibbons who described cost savings from a merger as “marginal at best” and noted that the functions of aviation and nautical surveyors do not overlap. “A merger between the DMA and DCA would not solve the immediate problem which is a deficit of in-house, qualified professionals in both areas which stems from a lack of sufficient investment, recruitment and hiring over the last few years in both registries. The current Government will continue to explore all options with a view to realizing efficiencies and savings in operations and expenditure, including the potential merging of the two Departments. In addition, efforts are underway to address the deficits in qualified professionals in both Registries.” The shipping and aviation registers are serious cash cows for Government. Each of them earns about double the costs of operation and there’s promising growth potential. Bermuda has four full time ship surveyors, compared to other members of the Red Ensign Group like the Isle of Man which has 17, and the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar which have ten each. Of Cayman’s ten surveyors three are based there, six in the UK and one in Greece. A net revenue earner for the Island, Bermuda’s register is expected to cost just under $2 million to operate and rake in over $4 million this fiscal year. The Bermuda Ship register currently has 168 ships — 28 passenger ships, 44 Gas Tankers, 16 Oil Tankers, seven Chemical Tankers, 29 Bulk Carriers, 16 Container ships, and another 28 other types of ships. Another 258 yachts are registered here — 14 large commercial yachts and 244 pleasure yachts. In comparison, 1,900 vessels fly the Cayman Islands flag. The Department of Civil Aviation which operates Bermuda’s aviation register is expected to cost $10.5 million and bring in $23.5 million. There are 702 aircraft registered here, but that figure is expected to increase by nine percent by the end of the new fiscal year.

April 8. A coming change in FutureCare premiums has angered some seniors, who say the programme is rapidly becoming too expensive. The new rate structure, unveiled by Government last week, ends the existing two-tier system in which seniors paid different premiums for identical benefits based only on when they joined the programme. Those enrolled in the second and third phases will see their monthly premiums fall by $195, and Government said those who cannot afford the premiums can apply to have FutureCare included as part of Financial Assistance benefits. However those in the first phase said their premiums will increase for the fourth consecutive year. One senior, who asked not to be named, said both she and her husband were automatically enrolled in the first phase of FutureCare when the programme began in 2009. Since then, they have seen premiums for the programme rise every year. “It has jumped from $260 to $440, a 70 percent rise in four years, 17 percent a year,” she said. “How are we pensioners supposed to keep up with this when any pension increase is minimal? It is now more than one third of our pension.” She also stated that they have to pay for part of the cost of doctors, dentists and prescriptions. “It certainly stops me from going to the doctor unless I am really in need,” she said. “I only have a Government pension as I worked part time and was deemed not entitled to pay into a pension scheme with my employers, who were Government. “I acknowledge that it was not really fair for the second phase to pay more, but to up our payments by so much is unfair.” A 78-year-old man, who said he was also enrolled in the first phase of the programme, said he was upset about the rate increase for both himself and his wife. “Prior to retirement we were both self-employed,” he said. “I get a Government pension of $526.17 a month, my wife has no pension. My premium is automatically deducted from my pension, therefore with the new rate (I still have to pay my wife’s premium) my pension is down to $86.17. We live on the money we have carefully saved all our lives and at the moment are looking at a mere 0.5 percent interest rate offered by the local banks. What was in their minds to deem it as in any way equitable to increase to the fullest those on the first tier, bring tier two all the way down — not part of the way — and then leave the HIPsters to go totally scot free? Cannot these rampant hikes take place over a few years instead of one?” Another senior enrolled in the first phase said: “I live on my own and pay my own expenses. While I was in the working field I saved money for my future. My pension does not cover all of my expenses, I have to go into my savings to cover the remaining expenses for the month. I do not receive Government Financial Assistance. Many have been receiving FutureCare paid by Financial Assistance, prescriptions free, house rent paid, food allowance, electricity and telephone expenses paid monthly. Many receive a widow/widowers pension cheque and others a non-contributory pension to spend as they wish. Now, Government will be paying the increase of FutureCare for all on Financial Assistance. This is not fair.”

April 10. The Bermuda Supreme Court must decide a case that involves one of Taiwan’s largest companies and a family fortune worth billions held in trusts on the Island. Winston Wong, the son of Formosa Plastics Group’s late founder Wang Yung-ching, has sued an adviser for transferring the bulk of the family fortune valued at $15 billion into Bermuda trusts controlled by other family members. Dr Winston Wong, eldest son of YC Yang, said in a statement yesterday: "The Bermuda court now has an opportunity to recognize and resolve the injustice that has been perpetrated on my father, on his heirs, the shareholders of FPG, and on the people and government of Taiwan. We trust that justice and truth will prevail." It was pointed out in the statement that Taiwan stood to receive billions in taxes which could help get rid of its deficit. “Additionally, if the Bermuda court declares the transfer of assets to the trusts invalid and turns the assets over to YC Wang's estate, the Taiwanese Government could receive an estimated NT $158.4 billion to NT $237.6 billion in various taxes (US $5.3 billion to US $7.9 billion) — which could eliminate the Government's anticipated 2013 budget deficit of NT $214.4 billion (US$7.15 billion),” the statement said. Hung Wen Hsiung set up the trusts, excluding Wang, referred to in court documents as YC Wang, from the ownership and some members of his direct family as beneficiaries, according to a statement of claim filed by Wong yesterday in the Supreme Court of Bermuda. Bermuda is the fourth jurisdiction where Wong filed claims to recover the estate of his father, which he said is valued at $18 billion. Bloomberg reported that Hung, Wong’s half-sisters Susan Wang and Sandy Wang, as well as group Chairman William Wong and Wilfred Wang are among the trusts’ managers, according to a copy of the court filing. Wang died in the US in 2008 at the age of 91. He founded Taiwan’s biggest diversified industrial company, Formosa Plastics Group, which made pretax profit of NT$143 billion ($4.8 billion) in 2011, according to the company’s website. The group has worldwide assets valued at more than $85 billion and employs 100,000 people, according to the lawsuit. The case is Between Wong Wen-Young and Grand View Private Trust Co. in the Supreme Court of Bermuda. “We are seeking to invalidate the transfers and get a declaration that the assets are held for all the heirs of Y.C. Wang,” Mark Stoutenburg, Wong’s lawyer, said in a phone interview. Frank Fu, a spokesman for the Formosa Plastics Group, declined to comment on the lawsuit when reached by phone by Bloomberg yesterday. In a statement put out, Dr Winston Wong, eldest son of YC Yang, said 90 percent of his personal fortune was allegedly transferred without his consent. The statement said the Bermuda outcome could determine control of Formosa Plastics Group, and that the offshore trusts are the largest shareholders of "Four Treasures." The statement said: “Dr Wong conducted an extensive four-year investigation that revealed the following key findings: 1) that the trusts are non-charitable; 2) that the trusts were established in secret by a minority of Y.C. Wang's family; 3) that the assets were transferred into the trusts without his father's consent; and 4) the trust assets should have been declared as part of his late father's estate.” Dr Wong's lawsuit focuses on the contention that the transfer of YC Wang's assets into the trusts is invalid and he seeks to have these assets returned to their rightful owners: Y.C. Wang's estate and legal heirs. The lawsuit names as defendants, the Grand View Private Trust Company Ltd. (established in 2001), Transglobe Private Trust Company Ltd. (2002), Vantura Private Trust Company Ltd. (2005) and Universal Link Private Trust Company Ltd. (2005), all of which are incorporated in Bermuda. Mr Hung Wen Hsiung, the late Y.C. Wang's long-time personal financial advisor, is also named as a defendant for his role in creating the trusts and transferring Y.C. Wang's assets to the trusts. Mr Stoutenburg noted: "It's impossible to believe that the late YC Wang gave the required consent and approved the transfer of his immense fortune to these four trusts. There is no evidence that Mr Wang knew that the transfer of these assets would permanently strip him of his ownership of them and give control of the assets to just a tiny minority of his large family. The Bermuda trusts together hold approximately 90 percent of YC Wang's personal fortune. "Given YC Wang's famously meticulous attention to detail, it is inconceivable that he would have approved transactions of such magnitude and importance without being involved in every step. There is no evidence, however, that he ever saw, read or signed any of the complex documents establishing the trusts — which were written in English, a language neither he nor his advisor Mr Hung could speak or read. The defendants and their agents do not deny these facts," he continued. "This has led Dr Wong to the inevitable conclusion that his father was deceived." Stoutenburg explains: "The Wang Chang Gung Charitable Trust, established by YC Wang and named in honor of Dr Wong's grandfather, was the blueprint for Mr Wang's charitable giving. He was very detailed and specific about its mission, its management, and its financing. He included his entire family. He did nothing in secret. He left nothing to chance. He made everything transparent. The Bermuda trusts, established in secret, with no clear charitable mission or activity, stand in stark contrast to this and are trying to hide behind the good deeds of the Wang Chang Gung Charitable Trust. The purpose trusts were established offshore in Bermuda to avoid scrutiny in Taiwan and so that they could be hidden from Y.C. Wang's estate. Despite repeated requests, no proof has been provided about the purported charitable activities of the trusts, nor has Dr Wong's widespread investigation turned up any evidence that the Bermuda trusts are engaged in any charitable activities." In summary, says Stoutenburg: "The evidence indicates that the Bermuda trusts were primarily established to: 1) secretly ensure that the control of FPG was kept in the hands of a few family insiders and guarantee that other family members could not inherit significant shares upon YC Wang's death; 2) drastically reduce YC Wang's estate; 3) obscure the true ownership of FPG under the guise of foreign investors; and 4) hold the assets of a vast, global business empire controlled by a few members of the family. All of this was done offshore to avoid the scrutiny of Taiwan regulators." The statement added Dr Wong's lawyers assert that the people who control the trusts have unchecked and unregulated power to do whatever they like with the billions of dollars of assets in the trusts. There are no outside authorities or government bodies in Bermuda that actively supervise the trusts or the billions of dollars worth of assets they control. To the contrary, these offshore purpose trusts, named in Dr Wong's lawsuit, are controlled and self-supervised by the same people who benefit from the decisions they make, the statement said, going on to say: “The lawsuit, which marks a critical point in Dr Wong's long-standing efforts to restore his late father's legacy, has profound implications for the future of FPG. If the Bermuda court rules that the transfer of YC Wang's FPG stake to the offshore trusts should be undone, it would affect the current management and control of FPG.

April 10. Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell is confident the industry can bounce back from a “disappointing” year in 2012. At a press conference yesterday unveiling a raft of promotional initiatives and strategies planned for 2013, Mr Crockwell warned that the challenges the industry faces “will not be resolved overnight.” He added that data had exposed several opportunities which Government was planning to exploit to boost visitor numbers. Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert today commended the OBA for following through with plans established by the PLP. “The Progressive Labor Party laid a strong foundation in tourism which allowed the One Bermuda Alliance to successfully move forward with ideas to revitalize this long stagnant, critical industry. From the revamped marketing theme, So Much More, the establishment of a Tourism Board with authority to promote and market Bermuda and most importantly, the National Tourism Plan, much of the heavy lifting has been done already and now is the time for results. I took note of Minister Crockwell’s comment and I quote, ‘We are optimistic that the So Much More campaign is one that will continue to help drive business. In looking at the campaign’s impact since it was introduced in August, we saw load factors increase every month a positive sign that our message is getting through.’ With these words, the OBA has finally admitted that the PLP plan was working. I am delighted that the OBA is willing to acknowledge that there were good things produced under the PLP and their willingness to move forward with this plan is truly in the best interest of Bermuda. For this we thank them.” Mr Crockwell revealed that visitor arrivals last year dropped by six percent — from 655,000 in 2011 to 615,000 in 2012. Air arrivals fell by less than two percent, but cruise arrivals, after a record high year in 2011, slumped by nine percent due to 20 fewer ship calls in 2012. And the Minister advised that the first quarter of this year was shaping up to be “a mixed bag”, with air arrivals up in January and down in February. Total room occupancy at major hotels is projected to be down by five percent for the first quarter. “While those numbers overall are disappointing and need to be turned around, we see within them some positive signs and opportunities,” Mr Crockwell said. Among the opportunities, Mr Crockwell pointed to a four percent increase in leisure visitor arrivals and increasing growth of the Canada market. “The leisure traveler is our primary target audience and the area towards which the bulk of our sales and marketing efforts have been focused,” Mr Crockwell said. “These vacationers represent 65 percent of all visitors to the Island, so realizing continued growth here is crucial.” Mr Crockwell said the Ministry was working to build and maintain relationships with airlines, and to push Bermuda as the ideal destination for sport and culture lovers. And new promotional campaigns targeting convention business — which saw a massive 50 percent decrease in business last year — and high-end travel agencies in the UK, US and Canada, will also be launched. “In 2012, the Department of Tourism sponsored financially, or with in-kind services, more than 40 sports tourism-related events that brought several thousand visitors to our shores. The Department will look to expand on the number of events and thus the visitors coming to Bermuda in 2013 for sports-related experiences. We will also look to work with our sports tourism product providers to ensure that they are effectively marketed and promoted and thus living up to our visitors’ expectations. While sports tourism will continue to be an important pillar of our tourism business, our product development team is working hard to ensure that there is no shortage of diverse cultural events and activities to attract and entertain visitors. The worst thing that can be said about a destination is that it is boring and we are working to guarantee that those words are never uttered on our shores.” The Minister acknowledged that economies that were now emerging from recession offered potential markets that Bermuda needed to tap in to, although the bulk of the Ministry’s marketing budget was being directed towards the North America market. “There are some countries who are doing very well and obviously we want to go to those jurisdictions that are thriving,” the Minister said, adding that a new German language website had just been launched “to help impact a market where we see encouraging potential for growth. I see many more opportunities ahead in 2013 and beyond and it is my job to ensure that we have the right tools in place to transform opportunities into success. There is much work still to do to rebuild our economy and our tourism industry. Our challenges will not be resolved overnight, but they will be resolved. I see a bright future ahead of us for our Country and our tourism industry, but we will only get there by working together and utilizing our greatest strength — the intelligence, creativity, hard-working spirit and indomitable will of the Bermudian people. Together we can and will achieve anything.”

April 10. Your typical day might be a morning at the luxurious spa getting a 24 carat gold facial and a shot of Botox, followed by a round of mini golf, shooting hoops on the basketball court, zipping down five watersides, dinner at one of the 28 themed restaurants, taking in one of three Broadway shows, playing the slots in the casino, cocktails in a real ice bar, then watching a fireworks display at sea. Norwegian Cruise Line’s “most innovative ship to date” is sailing seven-day cruises from New York to Bermuda starting next month, arriving May 15. At 1,062-feet long, rising 18 decks, and able to accommodate 4,000 passengers and 1,600 crew on each cruise, the brand new Breakaway is the largest luxury liner to visit Dockyard this year. Dockyard will see a total of up to 9,600 cruise visitors on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays throughout the season, as they pour off the Breakaway and Celebrity Cruises’ Summit. And earlier in the week, on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, a total of up to 6,600 passengers and crew arrive in Dockyard on the Norwegian Dawn and Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas; an additional up to 4,500 come on the Explorer of the Seas on Mondays and Tuesdays or Saturdays each week. It’s clear from a look at what’s on board that the Norwegian Breakaway may be one of biggest competitors resorts in Bermuda have in attracting visitors from the US East Coast. Regular price cabins start at around $1,000 per person including all meals for seven-day cruises out of New York. She’s not the largest cruise liner in the world but some of her amenities must be among the most amazing having the coolest bar in the industry for one. Her unique “Ice Bar” is kept at 17 degrees Fahrenheit and will feature ice sculptures of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and Chrysler Building plus Big Apple inspired cocktails. The room’s bar area, seating and glasses will all be made entirely out of ice. Customers will be given gloves and coats to stay warm. The ship of course will also feature an expansive casino with the latest slot machines and gaming tables featuring poker, blackjack, roulette and craps. Other food and drink options besides the main dining rooms include Italian, French, a raw bar, sushi, noodle bar, steakhouse, gelato, cake shop, and an Irish pub. Norwegian Breakaway’s entertainment will include three Broadway shows: the Tony-nominated ‘Rock of Ages’; ‘Burn the Floor’ and ‘Cirque Dreams & Dinner Jungle Fantasy’. The ship will also feature a fireworks display on every cruise on the second to last night at sea each week, and will be the grand finale of a 1980s-themed deck party. Catering to children and teens, is what’s billed as the first aqua park at sea with five full-size water slides, including twin free fall slides, the first at sea, and a three-storey sports complex that includes the largest ropes course at sea. Catering to moms and dads is the Mandara Spa, with the first-ever salt room at sea and a fitness facility encompassing more than 23,000 square feet. Popular in top spas around the world, salt room therapy has been proven to alleviate respiratory and skin ailments, strengthen the immune system, promote better sleep and have a long-term positive impact on overall lung function. A thermal suite also offers guests spectacular unobstructed views of the ocean, the opportunity to melt away on one of the 13 heated loungers, vitality pool, whirlpools, sauna, solarium and steam room, along with a full-service salon and barber shop. The 22 treatment rooms will feature more than 50 signature services for both men and women including the “24 Carat Gold Facial,” massages plus acupuncture, teeth whitening and cosmetic medical treatments, performed by a licensed medi-spa doctor. The full service salon will offer hair, nail, waxing and special kid-friendly services. The area also features a full service barber shop, exclusively for men, offering treatments including haircuts and traditional warm shaves. And with Government contractors racing to get upgrading of the wharf facilities at Dockyard ready in time for the liner’s arrival; she has had her own deadlines to meet. Norwegian Cruise Line announced the end of March that its most innovative ship to date successfully completed her technical and nautical sea trials which took place off the coast of Norway and Denmark. The ship has a draft of 27 feet, and cruise speed of 21 knots.

April 11. Some 350 people, including Governor George Fergusson, turned out this morning for a keynote speech by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon at the 2013 Capital G Private Wealth Conference at the Fairmont Southampton. He was introduced by Capital G CEO Ian Truran. Mr Calderon said the world was still facing a tough economic time, with the Eurozone still at risk, the US employment still to recover and a slowdown in the emerging economies of India, China and Brazil. "It is still a time of crisis, but it also means opportunities for those who embrace them." The conference is comprised of an interactive panel discussion and seminars led by industry leaders, and will offer the opportunity for valuable dialogue on the issues currently affecting Wealth Management professionals and private investors. President Calderon will be joined by an array of financial experts in the wealth management industry, including Jonathan Dahl, senior editor of the Wall Street Journal; Minister of Finance Bob Richards, James Gibbons, chairman of Capital G Bank; and Peter Hughes, group managing director of APEX Fund Services. The panelists will discuss the state of global economics and markets.

April 12. Buried deep within President Barack Obama’s FY2014 budget released this week is a provision that calls for changing the tax treatment of reinsurance transactions here in Bermuda. The administration wants to “deny an insurance company a deduction for premiums and other amounts paid to affiliated foreign companies with respect to reinsurance of property and casualty risks to the extent that the foreign reinsurer (or its parent company) is not subject to US income tax with respect to the premiums received.” That’s according to the US Treasury Department’s newly-released “Treasury Greenbook”, which provides an explanation of the Obama Administration’s revenue proposals for Fiscal Year 2014. US insurance companies are generally allowed a deduction for premiums paid for reinsurance — that is, insurance for insurance companies — if the reinsurer is a non-US based affiliate. Reviving a proposal that’s been included in several of its previous budgets, the Administration’s plan calls for disallowing that deduction. The Treasury department document says the Administration calls for the change because reinsurance transactions with foreign affiliates, like those based in Bermuda “can result in substantial US tax advantages over similar transactions with entities that are subject to tax in the United States.” It adds that the excise tax on reinsurance policies issued by foreign reinsurers is “not always sufficient to offset this tax advantage.” The Administration argues that the tax advantages “create an inappropriate incentive for foreign-owned domestic insurance companies to reinsure US risks with foreign affiliates.” The President’s budget proposal closely resembles legislation first introduced in the House by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) in 2008 and again in 2009. It was then reintroduced in 2011 with the added sponsorship of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in the Senate. But the long-stalled legislation has failed to garner enough support in either house of Congress to get it passed. Brad Kading, president and executive director of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), which represents 22 of the world’s largest international re/insurers, has been lobbying on Capitol Hill against the Neal Bill for more than six years now. He says the budget proposal would take away reinsurers’ ability to diversify and spread risk. “Affiliate reinsurance is a fundamental component of insurance group operations,” Mr Kading said. “US and non-US insurers use affiliate reinsurance to spread risk and match capital with risk — this helps generate capacity to meet client needs. You can’t do business without it. People sometimes forget that all insurance and reinsurance transactions between US customers and Bermuda re/insurers are already taxed — and taxed on a gross receipts basis,” Mr Kading added. “You get taxed even on unprofitable transactions. The proposed tax is an add-on, punitive, protectionist tax,” he said. While proponents of the Obama Administration’s proposal say the policy would nix a long-standing and unfair advantage for foreign-owned insurers, R.J. Lehmann, a fellow with the R Street Institute, a non-profit policy research organization, says the proposal would benefit only a small group of US insurance companies at the expense of American consumers. “Its costs far exceed the revenue it would generate and its ultimate effect would be to drive reinsurance capital — so sorely needed in catastrophe-prone states like Florida, Louisiana, Texas and California — out of the country. Congressman Neal estimated his bill would have raised about $11 billion of revenue over ten years. Treasury Department however, says the President’s proposal would bring in $6.2 billion over ten years — a drop in the bucket, opponents say, when compared to the US national debt, which currently stands at more than $16.7 trillion. Approximately two-thirds of all reinsurance coverage currently required to protect American homes and businesses is provided by non-US reinsurance companies. In Florida, less than ten percent of that reinsurance comes from US companies — with the rest coming from foreign affiliates — 62 percent of them right here in Bermuda. In an economic impact study of the Neal-Menendez bill, the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm, found that the proposed tax would reduce the net supply of reinsurance in the US by 20 percent — which would raise

rates. “State regulators recognize this essential need and consumer benefit of affiliate reinsurance, which is why regulators from Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina have written letters to Congress opposing the tax,” Mr Kading said. The Coalition for Competitive Insurance Rates (CCIR), of which ABIR is a member, has objected to the proposal, calling it a “protectionist” move that will “drive up the cost of insurance” for American consumers. The CCIR says it is “a major threat to homeowners and small businesses in disaster-prone states. As lawmakers continue to fight for emergency aid to help rebuild following Hurricane Sandy, the President’s budget proposal appears to ignore the fact that insurance companies are expected to pay nearly 50 percent of the losses incurred from Hurricane Sandy,” the CCIR said in a statement. “As we reflect on the disastrous events of the past year, it is clear the US needs a robust insurance market that is open to as many competitors as possible,” said James Donelan, the Louisiana commissioner of insurance. “Hurricane Sandy and the 2012 drought underscore the important role that international reinsurers play in times of crisis.” Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network said targeting global insurance companies would be “disastrous” for his state and other areas vulnerable to natural catastrophes. Instituting this tax would significantly reduce the supply of reinsurance in the US, decrease America’s ability to manage volatile, catastrophic insurance risk, and would further burden American homeowners, large and small businesses and public sector organizations during these challenging economic times,” Mr Newton said. The Brattle Group estimates that in Florida alone, the price of Commercial Multi-Peril Insurance would jump 12.6 percent for businesses and Florida families could see their Homeowners Multi-Peril Insurance go up by 4.2 percent. Carolyn Shaw, of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) said with increasing potential losses due to extreme weather all across the US, the demand for global reinsurance is now greater than ever. “The ability to pool US hurricane and earthquake risks with the risks for typhoons in Japan or earthquakes in Latin America means US coverage costs less than it would without reinsurance, making it therefore essential for US consumers and businesses,” Ms Shaw said. “Throwing up a protectionist wall to block globally-provided reinsurance is a risk that US businesses cannot afford, and would invite trade retaliation against the US from its largest trading partners." President Obama’s nearly $3.8 trillion dollar budget blueprint for the 2014 fiscal year now goes to Congress, which hasn’t passes a budget in more than three years.

April 13. The Bank of Butterfield has come under fire from a customer after instituting a new $5 monthly fee for some chequing account holders. The fee came into effect on March 25, but is waived for seniors over 60 years of age, charities and customers who elect to not receive paper statements. And as of April 25, customers who do not hold a Butterfield chequing or savings account will be charged a $15 fee to cash cheques drawn on Butterfield. The changes come less than a year after a monthly $1 fee was put in place for savings account holders. In a letter to The Royal Gazette (See Comment), a Pembroke resident expressed his anger about the new fee. “Until now the Bank of Butterfield has been content to nickel and dime us on our meager savings but no longer,” he wrote. “Based upon today’s statement they will now charge us $5 a month for the privilege of having a non-interest bearing chequing account, no matter how much money is in that account.” While he acknowledged that the fee will be waived for seniors, he complained that seniors would have to attend the bank in person to have the fee waived. “Half the first month’s saving will go in parking fees to attend my Hamilton branch and the loss of income in traveling to and from town, waiting for a representative and telling the bank what they already know will eliminate the savings for the rest of the year,” he wrote. “Does the bank make these personal attendance rules to dissuade seniors from taking advantage of a minor concession to their age?” He further criticized the bank’s decision to charge a $1.50 processing fee for any written cheques. Those who have a balance of more than $5,000 however can write five cheques per month without a fee. “I wrote eight cheques last month so the bank has grabbed $17 of my money for doing absolutely nothing more than they did in February,” he wrote. “Butterfield made a profit last year, I didn’t. “Needless to say, I am looking at banking options where a glimmer of social conscience may exist. If I find it at Bermuda or Gibbons I will sever a 30 year relationship with Butterfield.” A Bank of Butterfield spokesman yesterday said: “The recent change to chequing account fees was made concurrently with the launch of e-statements and the consolidation of multiple chequing account products (with varied fee structures) into a single chequing account offering; the latter reflecting a marked decrease in demand for chequing options and cheques usage among our customers. Customers who opt for e-statements over printed statements pay no monthly account fees on chequing or savings accounts; a policy that was put in place in response to customer feedback on previous savings account fee changes. The monthly fees on chequing and savings accounts are automatically waived for charities and registered seniors over age 60.” And regarding the per cheques fee, he stated: “Per-item user fees enable Butterfield to offset processing and administration charges for cheques clearance. We believe that the application of usage fees is preferable to having all chequing account customers — many of whom write few or no cheques — subsidies the costs of cheque clearance through higher monthly fees.” He also said the bank offers Butterfield customers alternative, secure means of making payments other than cheques, which carry lower fees or no fees at all. Any customers with questions are asked to call 295-1111 or visit any Butterfield Banking Centre.

April 16. The Bermuda Regulatory Authority (RA) — the new watchdog of the Island’s telecommunications industry — wants consumers to know how to make a complaint against their service providers. With bundling, or one-stop shopping for phone, internet and TV finally making its way to Bermuda by the end of April, the new RA is overseeing the long-awaited reform of the telecoms industry and they want to ensure consumers’ voices are heard. To make a complaint, the RA says customers must first contact their telecommunications provider and give them an opportunity to resolve the complaint. If the complaint remains unresolved after seven days, the RA says you may file a formal complaint with them. Once the complaint is submitted, you can update the RA with any developments by using a reference number and your name and address. For more information, visit and click on “Make A Complaint” on the home page. There, you’ll find an electronic complaint form as well as detailed instructions on the process.

April 17. Bermuda is set to sign on to new US imposed regulations to combat tax evasion by Americans, says Finance Minister Bob Richards. And similar arrangements with the United Kingdom are certain to follow. According to Mr Richards, Government will decide how Bermuda will comply with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which would require foreign financial institutions to automatically make available to the Internal Revenue Service details on accounts held by US taxpayers or by foreign entities in which US taxpayers own a substantial interest. Mr Richards said Bermuda had little choice but to accede to the US demands, and that the UK has asked for a similar arrangement. Government had waited to see how other jurisdictions would respond to the US demands and is now in a position where a decision will be made in a matter of weeks, Mr Richards said. All offshore jurisdictions are “having our hands forced,” he added. “It's a question of how we go about it, how we negotiate it. There’s a couple of different models that are acceptable to the US. We’ve been examining which one is best for us. That decision will be made very shortly.” Bermuda’s Tax Treaty with the US already provides for information to be passed on to the US Government, upon request. “The big hurdle here with FATCA is that this is now being taken a giant leap further where they are demanding that information on their citizens overseas be provided automatically by way of computer data. Because the US has such a big stick they can make this demand and they can make it stick. I don’t think there’s any question of whether we are going to do it. We have to. And the United Kingdom government has basically said to us ‘whatever you do with the US, you have to do with us.’ The international environment, as it relates to tax matters, is such that offshore financial matters are under a lot of scrutiny and we have to make the adjustments that are in the interests of Bermuda so that we can stay in business and grow our businesses.” But Bermuda does not face the same kinds of threats to its business from such scrutiny as other jurisdictions which thrive on secrecy, he noted. “Bank secrecy, data secrecy — we gave that up in 1986-88 (with the US Tax Treaty). So it’s not a big issue here,” he said. But Bermuda does get lumped in by international media with other jurisdictions, such as the British Virgin Islands, which are tax havens and which help people hide huge sums of money. “We try extremely hard to differentiate ourselves from countries whose principal business is hiding money. Our principal business is risk management. And we provide that risk management to most of the major nations of this world. We provide value here in Bermuda.” While Bermuda shares some attributes with other offshore financial centres, such as size, British law and good weather, “what we actually do in Bermuda is different. And it's a challenge for us to have to continue to highlight that differentiation in the face of an onslaught of being damned by association.” Mr Richards continued: “There is no secrecy, we are not a tax haven. Is the US a tax haven? The biggest tax haven in the world is the state of Delaware. Let’s forget about these silly labels. Companies, particularly multinational companies operate in a way to minimize their taxes. Their shareholders consider that to be a sworn duty — to mitigate their taxes.” Still, larger and more powerful jurisdictions are constantly seeking ways to get more tax revenue into their national coffers, and offshore jurisdictions are an obvious target. “It is a threat, there’s no question about that. We are a guppy swimming in an ocean of sharks. There’s no question about that. We are fully aware of that.”

April 18. Mandarin Oriental International, which at the time operates the Elbow Beach Hotel, made an underlying profit of $71 million in 2012. The company has reported its preliminary full year results, showing a 20 percent increase with underlying earnings of $175 million before tax, depreciation and amortization, up from $165 million the previous year. Company directors have recommended a final dividend of five cents per share, bringing the total dividend for the year to seven cents. Mandarin Oriental said its hotels in Asia and Europe performed well during the past year, however, in the Americas there were varied performances by individual hotels “amidst a climate of political and economic uncertainty.” The group currently operates 28 hotels worldwide, two more than a year ago, and has a further 16 hotels under development.

April 18. Drivers will be happy to see that prices at the gas pump have fallen. The new maximum pump price for regular fuel hitting $2.10 per litre, down 4.8 cents from last month. The new price is ten cents a litre lower than it was one year ago. Drivers who use diesel are also paying less, with the price decreasing 2.6 cents to $1.89 per litre. Kerosene also fell 2.4 cents to $1.60 per litre.

April 18. Ace Limited has become the latest company to get into the third-party reinsurance capital management arena with the launch of a $95 million special purpose vehicle (SPI) called Altair Re. Ace, one of the world’s largest multi-line property casualty insurance and reinsurance groups, announced the formation of the SPI which will be used as a sidecar to provide additional collateralized capacity to support its global reinsurance business. The insurance giant said that the capital behind the vehicle will be used to “broadly support” the global property catastrophe reinsurance portfolio of its Ace Tempest Re business. “Altair Re gives us additional capacity to meet the diversified property catastrophe needs of our insurance and reinsurance company clients,” said Jacques Bonneau, chairman of Ace Tempest Re Group. The Bermuda-headquartered Tempest Re oversees Ace’s reinsurance operations across P&C lines but has its origins as a catastrophe specialist set up in 1993 in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. The launch of Altair Re launches Ace into the third-party capital management arena, looking to use the sidecar to attract capital market investors’ capital and leverage its underwriting resources to deploy it as reinsurance capacity. “Capital markets investors will benefit from ACE Tempest Re’s proven track record of conservative underwriting and consistent profitability, while the additional capital will enable us to take advantage of opportunities we see in the global property catastrophe market,” Mr Bonneau added. Willis Capital Markets & Advisory acted as structuring and placement agent on the transaction. This year has seen a number of new sidecar launches as insurance and reinsurance groups look to capitalize on the interest in the potential returns from reinsurance and catastrophe risk being shown by third-party investors. Recent launches include, PartnerRe with the $75 million Lorenz Re, Everest Re’s $250 million Mt. Logan Re, Validus with its $230 million AlphaCat 2013, Argo’s launch of Harambee Re and RenaissanceRe’s $185 million Upsilon Re II.

April 18. RG article by Michael Mello, QC. "Bermuda residents who have entered into same-sex marriages or civil unions/partnerships in foreign jurisdictions where these are permitted should be aware that such unions will not be recognized in Bermuda. Neither our Constitution nor our Human Rights Act presently provides for protection under the law in respect of one’s sexual orientation or changes in gender. The present Government stated last month that its proposed amendment to the Human Rights Act will be restricted to only prevent discrimination in the areas of provision of goods, services and accommodation. This proposed amendment will not have any impact on the recognition of same-sex marriage or transsexuals in Bermuda. Bermuda law provides that a marriage is void if the parties were not, respectively, male and female. Consequently, same-sex couples in Bermuda will not share in the success of petitioners in Europe and North America who based their court applications on non-discriminatory provisions in their country’s constitutions, human rights acts and applicable international conventions. For example, in Canada, the court found that the legal definition of marriage as being between “one man and one woman” violated the equality rights of the applicants and reformulated the definition of marriage in Canada as “the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. There was a similar case on this point in the United Kingdom (UK) with a different outcome. The UK court refused to recognize a foreign same-sex marriage of a British-domiciled couple on the basis that there was insufficient discrimination for the court to intervene. The British same-sex couple entered into a lawful and valid marriage in a foreign jurisdiction (Canada) and their relationship was regarded in English law as a civil partnership but not a marriage. The UK court’s decision was based on the premise that the UK law’s discriminatory treatment of recognizing foreign marriages of opposite-sex couples, but not foreign marriages of same-sex couples, was legitimate and proportionate. This was due to UK law according same-sex couples formal recognition under its Civil Partnership Act, which had all the features and characteristics of marriage, while preserving and supporting the concept and institution of marriage as a union between persons of the opposite sex. The UK court claimed this removed the legal, social and economic disadvantages suffered by same-sex couples who wished to join in stable long-term relationships and therefore did not constitute a breach of the British same-sex couple’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). Because Bermuda law does not provide for same-sex civil partnerships, this leads to the irresistible conclusion — from the reasoning of the UK court’s judgment — that Bermuda law is discriminatory, illegitimate and disproportionate as it recognizes an opposite-sex couple’s foreign marriage but not a same-sex couple’s foreign marriage. What about transsexual couples then? Transsexual couples can marry and have their foreign marriages recognized in the UK but not in Bermuda. UK law now recognizes that the gender of a person registered at birth can be “reassigned” after a medical operation and that the traditional determination of gender at birth on purely biological criteria is too restrictive. For example, a post-operative male to female transsexual, who lived in a relationship with a man and who only wished to marry a man, had no possibility of doing so under the old UK law. Subsequently, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the very essence of her right to marry under the Convention had been infringed and found that there was no justification for the UK barring the transsexual from enjoying the right to marry. The present difference between UK and Bermuda law is that although the Convention was applied to Bermuda by the UK after it was signed, no domestic legislation has been passed to specifically implement the Convention into Bermuda law. Therefore, the Convention does not have the force of law to be applied by the Bermuda courts. Because neither our Constitution nor our Human Rights Act presently provides for protection under the law in respect of one’s sexual orientation, a petition to the Supreme Court of Bermuda for recognition of a same-sex or a transsexual couple’s foreign marriage clearly would not be successful. The legal recognition of same-sex and transsexual marriages in Bermuda present enormous legal issues to the courts and are probably beyond judicial resolution as the law presently stands. Problems of great legal complexity would be involved if judicial recognition were to be given to such marriages. The Bermuda courts will most likely take a pass on such a challenge and fall back on their traditional position that such difficult social issues must be left to Parliament to resolve. Accordingly, as Bermuda law presently stands, same-sex and transsexual couples who have ‘married’ or entered into a civil union or partnership abroad will find themselves in the same legal position as common law opposite-sex couples — that such unions are not recognized in Bermuda. The conflict of laws, where what is legal abroad but is not permitted in Bermuda, can have wide-ranging implications in estate-planning. Such difficulties can only be overcome by same-sex and transsexual couples entering into formal arrangements, such as jointly purchasing their home, as well as preparing reciprocal Powers of Attorney and Wills to govern their respective legal positions before and on death."

April 25. Government has received 16 proposals from local and overseas potential investors looking to take over the Grand Atlantic development. Bermuda Housing Corporation General Manager Barrett Dill said the response to date has been more than favorable. And the deadline to respond to the request for information has been extended to May 23. The proposals range from transforming the apartment complex into tourist accommodations, to a residential complex for senior citizens plus other options. The deadline was extended to allow sufficient time for potential developers to submit plans which will be dealt with by the Office of Procurement. Said Major Dill: “I’m confident that by the end of this year we will have a clear direction as to what the best use for the Grand Atlantic Development will be. We met on site with local representatives, some were representing the overseas investors on April 17 and there were representatives, local and foreign, who were very keen on viewing the site. They asked very interesting questions to show that they were very informed of the development and they were keen to come up with different ideas for the best use of the site for future development. There were 14 representatives there on that day and so far we have 16 submissions. The deadline is May 23 and by then we will open up the tendering process to see exactly what type of ideas and proposals are by potential investors." Asked if a development for seniors would be hampered by the fact that the complex has no elevators, he replied: “The Project Manager said it would not be a problem to install elevators because of the way the stair courts are structured so it’s not an impediment.” Community and Cultural Development Minister Wayne Scott issued the request for information in March in a bid to recoup the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the failed project. At that time he said: “The fact of the matter is that this has cost the taxpayer upwards of $40 million. We have a depressed real estate market, we have a depressed economy, we have a bank note on some of these outstanding funds that this year will cost us $1.6 million just on interest. It’s not really something that we can afford. The $700,00 price tag attached to each of the 78 units at the South Shore Warwick complex “was not low-income housing which was the initial intent”. To date, only one apartment unit at Grand Atlantic has been sold, but according to Major Dill others have been cleared to purchase units. “We have at the moment a total of 14 people who are very interested in purchasing a unit, in other words they have been pre-approved and are looking to purchase one. But all of that has been put on hold. Everything with that is at a standstill at the moment until such time as we have some clarity as to what direction we’re going to go in. No further units will be sold. Those people who are still interested in buying a unit are simply being told that they should delay any further movement until such time as we have clarity and we will contact them,” he said. Asked if in hindsight he would admit that the project was a multimillion dollar mistake he reflected on the housing situation in Bermuda when the Grand Atlantic development was built. “It was a project for the time, if you remember in 2008 and 2009 everyone was crying out for accommodations. And then the market collapsed, number one, and number two, we had the exodus of international company businesses. At one point we had a very dire need to provide that type of accommodation. Now I would say there’s a glut of empty units in Bermuda and so the housing need has been reduced. No longer is housing a number one priority, for some it’s still urgent but there’s no longer the situation that we were in a few years ago when there was not enough housing available.” Asked for his take on the situation now in light of the economy, he said: “There are too many variables out there for me to say that I’m comfortable meaning that the world economic climate seems to be recovering but we won’t know for sure until the later on in the year. We’re looking at it as being prepared for any eventuality. In the event that the market does recover, in the event that international business returns, in the event that Bermudians are more confident in Bermuda again and decide to invest in real estate again then we’re prepared. The tide changed in December. Post election people started to show renewed interest in the development. But then of course after the election a new Government came in, the requests for information on Grand Atlantic also came in with that and things were put on suspension; but I’m eternally optimistic about this development.” As for the fourth and final stage of the development that includes plans for a new hotel, Major Dill said: “You’ll have to ask Gilbert Lopes what all this means for his development. We have no involvement with the fourth and final phase of that development.”

April 25. Winds whistled through the Town Square in St George’s yesterday morning while dark clouds threatened rain. But not even overcast skies could dull the sparkle and pomp of the annual Peppercorn Ceremony. The tradition, now almost 200 years old, marks the day when one of the town’s lodges, through the Corporation of St George’s, pays its annual rent of one peppercorn to the Crown for use of the town’s State House. The historic building — the first stone structure to be built on the Island — was the meeting place of Her Majesty’s Council before the seat of Government moved from the old town to Hamilton in 1816. Then-Governor Sir James Cockburn granted the property to the mayor, aldermen and Common Council of St George’s in trust for the lodge for an annual rent of just a single peppercorn. The one condition of the lease was that the building must be made available at least once a year for a meeting of the Governor’s Council — a condition that has been met every year since.  Yesterday spectators — including residents, tourists and local schoolchildren — crowded the perimeter of the Square to witness the ceremony, which kicked off with the arrival of the Bermuda Regiment, wearing crisp whites, accompanied by the Regiment Band. Led by a kilted bagpipes player, members of Lodge 200 then filed into the Square before the arrival of Town Mayor Garth Rothwell and Governor George Fergusson, both of whom traveled in horse-drawn carriages. Among the dignitaries attending yesterday’s ceremony were acting Premier Michael Dunkley and Sally Holman, the Mayor of Lyme Regis. The English seaside town is twinned with St George’s and is the birthplace of Sir George Somers, who claimed Bermuda for the English Crown when he landed here in 1609. Coincidentally, yesterday’s ceremony took place on the 459th anniversary of Sir George’s birth. Wearing his chain of office and a top hat, Mayor Rothwell took the opportunity to tell his audience of recent developments in the town, citing the installation of CCTV cameras and an improved police presence as two improvements. He then introduced Governor Fergusson to the town’s councillors and aldermen. It was the first time that both Mr Rothwell, who was appointed mayor in January, and Mr Fergusson, who took up his post last summer, had performed at the ceremony. But in his address, the Governor pointed out that the occasion was not his first visit to “this wonderful town” adding that, since his arrival on the Island, he had “fallen under its spell.” After the annual rent had been paid by the lodge, Mr Fergusson demanded the key to the State House in order for the meeting of Her Majesty’s Executive Council to get underway. Visitor Gary Langlands was one of many tourists who enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of yesterday’s event, which is one of only three annual state occasions in Bermuda. “We come down on the same week every year so we’ve seen the ceremony before,” Mr Langlands, 62, from Toronto, Canada, said. “I love the band and just the history of the whole thing, the pageantry. And it’s really exciting to think that this has been going on for so many years now. It’s good to see that these traditions are being kept alive.”

April 26.  Hamilton's weekly Harbour Nights street fair promises to be bigger and better than ever before after organizers decided to give the flagging event a major make over this season. Plans to expand the Front Street festival to include Queen Street and Reid Street have already been unveiled by the Chamber of Commerce. And the organization now says the event has been given the backing of 90 percent of City retailers, who pledge to open their doors for late-night shopping when the first Harbour Nights kicks off next Wednesday evening. Stores will be promoting 'Made in Bermuda' products that can be found only on the Island, giving visitors a uniquely Bermudian shopping experience. In another drive to liven up the event, the Chamber is seeking to obtain a licence to allow alcohol to be served from several 'pop up' vendors, enabling visitors to stroll through the pedestrianised streets with a cup of their favorite beverage. Other changes include the creation of three entertainment zones, replacing the once central stage at the Flagpole, while the Island's singers and musicians are encouraged to entertain the crowds at designated busker spots. The facelift marks a major turnaround for Harbour Nights, which was in danger of being scrapped last year. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joanne MacPhee said that, following consultation with its members, the Chamber realized that the 20-year-old event needed a major overhaul” after becoming worn and shabby. “We asked ourselves if it had run its course and the response we got back was yes, in its current format. But given its rich history and importance to the summer season, it was agreed that it was more than worth saving. We all agreed we needed to build on what makes the event original and 'authentically Bermudian. We had allowed vendors to stray from the 'Made in or made for Bermuda' mandate and in doing so lowered the overall tone and quality of the event.” Mrs MacPhee said she was confident the changes will breathe new life into the event, giving it more of a carnival atmosphere. But she stressed the fair would still remain a family-friendly occasion. Should a liquor licence be granted, sales of alcohol will be heavily regulated, with trained staff from already-established bars and restaurants manning up to five stalls dotted throughout the pedestrianised zone. Drinkers will have to produce identification to obtain a wristband allowing them to buy alcohol. Mrs MacPhee said: “The new route alone will open up the entire City Centre and bring life and much needed vitality to Hamilton. The return to an authentic Bermudian vibe will enhance the visitor experience. But it's still going to be very much a family event — we don't want it becoming like Bourbon Street,” she added, referring to the notorious avenue in New Orleans favored by rowdy revelers who party through the night. Mrs MacPhee, who is also a member of the Tourism Board, said that she had consulted with retailers located in the newly expanded Harbour Nights footprint and was thrilled with their renewed enthusiasm for the event. “Basically we now have 90 percent buy-in from retailers in the city centre — pretty much the whole city centre will be open. Participating stores will be displaying 'Open For Harbour Nights' stickers in their windows. Most of our retailers had a horrible fourth quarter in 2012 due in great part to Government's decision to call an election in December. They, along with our restaurants, need a boost to kick the season into high gear so they can recoup some of their losses. We certainly hope that Harbour Nights plays its part to stimulate economic activity. Anything which enhances the visitor experience is good for Bermuda, we are in the business of tourism and it is vital that we remember and act on that premise. Today's great experience is tomorrow's return visitor. Organizers decided to change entertainment arrangements because the previous format — where musical performances on a large single stage at the Flagpole were amplified across the length of Front Street — was too in your face. Three smaller stages spread out across the venue would allow for a wider range of musical entertainment. I urge locals to support the occasion. The event's slogan is 'Where Bermudians and visitors connect' and this speaks again to the issue of authenticity. Visitors come to Bermuda looking for that special something only we can share, so it is absolutely imperative that locals, as well as our visitors embrace and enjoy Harbour Nights.” Last night Tourism Board Chairman David Dodwell applauded the development, saying it would encourage hotel guests and cruise visitors to spend a night on the town and help revive Hamilton's appeal as a venue to spend an evening. “It's a brilliant idea. I think the Chamber should be applauded because it has taken advice from two entities — its customers, and those who wanted to participate. They've then looked at how they can do things differently and to see how they could raise the bar. The event could be a “stepping stone” to making Hamilton a magnate for visitors looking to be entertained in the evenings. At the moment we're talking about one night a week, but I think, in conjunction with the new waterfront, what we should be aiming for is making Hamilton an anchor that can attract visitors seven nights a week, and so anything we do to help that is a step in the right direction.” Starting from next week, Harbour Nights will run from 7pm to 10pm every Wednesday.

May 2. Work will begin later this month on the Clyde Best Centre of Excellence in Prospect in honour of Bermuda’s most successful footballer. Bermuda Football Association, Government and FIFA officials yesterday stood on the site adjacent to the BFA Field where the two-storey building, expected to be completed in 10 months, will house BFA offices on the upper level and changing rooms, a physio room, gym and bathrooms on the lower level. The construction on the near 4,000 square foot building will commence at the end of May. It's been a long time coming and today is a fantastic day for us because we’re going to honour Mr Clyde Best and the reason we are here today is because we are going to have what will be our start of construction event — some people might call it a ground breaking event,” said BFA President Larry Mussenden. The building is becoming a reality because of land donated by Government to build the technical centre and a generous donation by FIFA to help fund the construction of the building. “We are extremely grateful to the Bermuda Government for all they have done to provide the land to us,” said Mussenden. “The next group that we have to thank is our worldwide governing body of football, FIFA, and they have present today the FIFA development officer (Angenie KKanhai, for the north Caribbean region) as well as people from other departments of FIFA (Anton Corneal, Technical consultant; Flavia Lopez, manager of FIFA development department and Claude Hollenstein, FIFA marketing consultant) who are here this week working with us on another matter. FIFA gave to the Bermuda Football Association and people of Bermuda $1.5 million a few years ago to develop the field and for the building that’s going to go here, FIFA have given us over the period of two or three phases $1.3 million to erect the two-storey building.” Sports Minister Wayne Scott praised the construction of the building which will honour a Bermuda legend. “I’m delighted to be associated with this ground breaking ceremony,” he said. “The BFA’s dream of having its own facility is finally coming to fruition and in the process a Bermuda football icon will be indelibly memorialized as the BFA’s Academy of Excellence will be named after Clyde Best. What a great honour to a man who had eradicated the race barrier and was one of the first people of colour to play in the English First Division, now known as the Premier League. Not to be outdone, FIFA is to be congratulated for providing the funds to build the facility.” Former Sports Minister and Speaker of the House Randy Horton, an ex teammate of Best during his early years at Somerset Trojans, said the former striker is deserving on the honour. “I remember coaching him before I even played with him and he struck the ball better than anybody I’ve known,” recalled Horton. “At the time he came along, more importantly he paved the way for black players in Europe. I go to Europe now and you mention Clyde Best’s name and everybody knows him. Little black boys in England, especially, wanted to be like Clyde Best. I remember I went to a game, Fulham and West Ham, and was sitting next to a young guy and when he found out I was from Bermuda he said ’oh, Clyde Best’. People like Cyrille Regis and John Barnes will tell you the impact that Clyde had on them.” The man himself described the gesture as very touching. “I would like to thank the BFA along with FIFA because without them all of this would not be possible,” said Best, who also thanked Horton for aiding his early development as a footballer. “It was because of the FIFA game of football that I was able to achieve what I did. My mom and dad are not here no more but if you are up there looking I know you would be proud. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

May 3. The last surviving member of an elite group of black airmen who served with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War has died. Philip Lamb died at King Edward VII Memorial early yesterday morning. He was 90. Mr Lamb, who was from St David’s, joined the Bermuda Militia Artillery at the age of 17 in 1940, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. After three years of service on the Island, he was selected by the RAF and trained to become a member of a ground crew team. Following his training in Canada, Mr Lamb was shipped out to England at the end of 1944. “I guess it was because I was daring,” Mr Lamb said in a 2004 interview with The Royal Gazette. “I had no fear and I was anxious to get away from Bermuda, although everyone was getting killed, maimed and everything else.“ Mr Lamb rose to the rank of Leading Aircraftsman and during his time in England survived a number of air raids by the German Luftwaffe. In March 1945, in one of the last raids the Germans made on England, Mr Lamb received leg injuries when the building in which he was sheltering was bombed. As a result, the war veteran suffered pain in his back and legs for the rest of his life. After the war ended in May 1945, Mr Lamb was given what was perhaps his most dangerous assignment — flying over France and Germany in search of unexploded mines that had to be detonated. After almost eight years in uniform, Mr Lamb studied engineering in Canada before returning to Bermuda. And just two years ago his military record was finally recognised when the RAF presented him with a medal for his efforts during the war. Former Bermuda Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Eddie Lamb, a distant relative of Mr Lamb, described “Uncle Hunky” as a hero, icon and inspiration, who was well known and popular in St David’s. “It was a great shock to hear the news, it’s very, very sad,” Lt Col Lamb said. “Despite his advanced years, Uncle Hunky was in very good spirits and a picture of health when I last saw him. He was very well respected in the St David’s community and in my eyes he was a hero and an icon for what he did in the service of the country. I was always very proud to be linked to him. Growing up, he always showed me great kindness and as I became older and learned more about him, I got to respect him more and more. He was also a very colourful, larger-than-life character, very strong and robust.” Lt Col Lamb added that, when in command of the Bermuda Regiment, he would invite Mr Lamb and other war veterans to Warwick Camp to speak to recruits. “He would regale us with tales of his exploits during the war and he always had a glint in his eye,” Lt Col Lamb said.

May 3. The supply of office space currently exceeds demand resulting in very competitively priced office accommodation in Hamilton, according to the Coldwell Banker Commercial report for May. The realtor also points out that the price per square foot of office space in Bermuda’s capital is actually equal to or less than top cities including New York, London, Boston, Toronto and Hong Kong. “With record office inventory and realistic pricing, coupled with residential supply to match, there are no accommodation barriers to businesses looking to make Bermuda home,” the realtor said. More than 50 percent of the available space is already fitted out and available for immediate occupancy. “Bermuda’s occupancy cost averages in the mid $60s per sq ft per annum (the range is from a high of $110 per sq ft per annum for new waterfront to as low as $45 per sq ft per annum for well kept 10+ year old space),” the report said. “That means this prime offshore domicile is equal to or less expensive than the top 50 most expensive cities listed by CB Richard Ellis in their December 2012 report. These include London (City), New York (Downtown and Mid-town), Boston, Toronto, Hong Kong and Dubai to name a few.” The realtor added: “With reinsurance company consolidations and the new Waterloo House development on Pitts Bay Road nearing completion, new high quality space in preferred locations is now coming on to the market.” Examples of prime office space ready for occupancy include:

May 7. Wayne Smith has been named the Island’s new Postmaster General. He has served as Acting Postmaster General since 2011. Mr Smith rose to the rank of Major in the Bermuda Regiment, where he served for 22 years until his retirement in 2008. He then held a variety of posts within the Civil Service and the private sector. Part of his role as Postmaster General will be to “lead the reinvention and restructuring of the Bermuda Post Office”, a Government spokeswoman said. George Outerbridge served as Postmaster General prior to Mr Smith’s appointment.

May 9. RG Editorial. The continued omission of age discrimination in employment from the latest planned amendments to the Human Rights Act has caused controversy. One of the arguments put forward by Age Concern — that workers should not be prevented from working beyond the traditional retirement age on the basis of age itself — highlights a wider issue for this community in the coming years. There are many reasons why older people would want to carry on working. First, because of the advances in healthcare and healthier lifestyles, many are far from ready to retire at 65 and have many more good years to offer their employer. The idea that ‘60 is the new 40’ raises the question of whether 65 is an appropriate retirement age for the 21st Century. Second, given the high cost of living in Bermuda and, in particular, soaring healthcare costs, older people need to work longer to make ends meet. The financial crash of five years ago, the collapse of Butterfield Bank shares and the departure of thousands of rent-paying expatriates in recent years may have derailed even the best-laid retirement plans, forcing many to work longer than they had planned. One of the problems with an ageing population is that it means more people (seniors) are drawing from the system while fewer (working-age population) are paying into it. It follows that when older people work for longer, it eases pressure on the public purse. Every year workers continue to draw a wage they can hold back from drawing a pension and at the same time, put more aside for future years, while continuing to contribute payroll taxes. The other side of the coin is that if people are slower to exit the workforce, what does that mean for young people looking for a job? According to the Labour Force Survey carried out last year, about a third of people aged between 16 and 24 were seeking work as of May 2012. The recession is disproportionately hitting both the young and seniors. The most obvious solution would seem to be economic growth and more jobs, so there’s enough work for everyone who wants it. Easier said than done in these difficult times, but at least we know that is a priority of the One Bermuda Alliance Government. In the meantime the fight to prevent age discrimination in the workplace will go on.

May 9.  The continued omission of age discrimination in employment from the latest planned amendments to the Human Rights Act has caused controversy. One of the arguments put forward by Age Concern — that workers should not be prevented from working beyond the traditional retirement age on the basis of age itself — highlights a wider issue for this community in the coming years. There are many reasons why older people would want to carry on working. First, because of the advances in healthcare and healthier lifestyles, many are far from ready to retire at 65 and have many more good years to offer their employer. The idea that ‘60 is the new 40’ raises the question of whether 65 is an appropriate retirement age for the 21st Century. Second, given the high cost of living in Bermuda and, in particular, soaring healthcare costs, older people need to work longer to make ends meet. The financial crash of five years ago, the collapse of Butterfield Bank shares and the departure of thousands of rent-paying expatriates in recent years may have derailed even the best-laid retirement plans, forcing many to work longer than they had planned. One of the problems with an ageing population is that it means more people (seniors) are drawing from the system while fewer (working-age population) are paying into it. It follows that when older people work for longer, it eases pressure on the public purse. Every year workers continue to draw a wage they can hold back from drawing a pension and at the same time, put more aside for future years, while continuing to contribute payroll taxes. The other side of the coin is that if people are slower to exit the workforce, what does that mean for young people looking for a job? According to the Labour Force Survey carried out last year, about a third of people aged between 16 and 24 were seeking work as of May 2012. The recession is disproportionately hitting both the young and seniors. The most obvious solution would seem to be economic growth and more jobs, so there’s enough work for everyone who wants it. Easier said than done in these difficult times, but at least we know that is a priority of the One Bermuda Alliance Government. In the meantime the fight to prevent age discrimination in the workplace will go on.

May 14.  Although tomorrow’s arrival of thousands of cruise passengers is seen as a boost to a flagging tourism industry, questions have been raised over whether Bermuda’s infrastructure is capable of handling so many visitors at one time. Government has been working around the clock getting required upgrades to Heritage Wharf completed in time for the arrival of the Breakaway liner. It has also been forced to charter a ferry for the summer to provide backup for its fleet of unreliable public ferries, which will play an essential role transferring passengers from the west end to Hamilton and St George’s. And to add to the logistical headache of catering to more than 7,000 visitors, taxi drivers have expressed concerns that a yet-to-be tested road network at Dockyard will hinder their ability to serve passengers effectively. In 2011 the Island’s transport network was branded “a joke” by visitors who were stranded at Dockyard because of a lack of transport. And Chamber of Commerce President Ronnie Viera yesterday said that ferrying visitors around the Island was “a challenge”. “Everyone involved in transportation really has to work together to do this successfully and if there are any issues, work to resolve them quickly,” Mr Viera said. Sinclair Samuels of Marine & Ports said he was not aware that the charter ferry had arrived, even though Government announced three months ago that Millennium had been booked to cover the Dockyard/St George’s run. “We still have some concerns and I’m not confident that we will be able to handle the load — we are adopting a wait-and-see approach,” Mr Samuels said. Concrete was still being poured at Heritage Wharf yesterday, and Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz has acknowledged that the facility won’t be fully complete by tomorrow morning. But he did express confidence that the essential components of the wharf will be in place to allow Breakaway to dock. The Ministry failed to respond to a Royal Gazette request for a last-minute progress report last night. Transport and Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell is also optimistic that services will run smoothly. Last night he said: “The staff in the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport are putting the final touches in place for the arrival of the Breakaway. The Department of Public Transportation and Department of Marine and Ports are both ready for the expected visitors and a much improved transportation arrangement in Dockyard involving buses, ferries, taxis, mini buses, train and tour boats is helping get more visitors where they want to go more expediently.” Taxi industry chief Derek Young said that drivers will be put to the test by the high demand, but added that “all hands will be on deck to accommodate passengers. I’m certain there will be some issues when having to wait for a taxi, which happens worldwide, but we plan to raise the bar when providing transportation needs for our visitors and locals,’ the Bermuda Taxi Owners/Operators Association President said. “I want to emphasize that this is a first-time event so it will come with some issues and problems. But Bermuda’s taxi ambassadors will be putting their best foot forward. Patience will be the name of the game.”

May 16. Moody's Investors Services has just downgraded Bermuda's rating by another notch as it reiterated its concerns about Government's mounting debt and lack of an economic recovery. Moody's lowered Bermuda to Aa3, three notches below the top triple-A level, and said the outlook is negative, reflecting uncertainty about Government's debt trajectory over the medium term. The move ends a review for a potential cut that began April 3 when Moody’s put Bermuda on a downgrade watch. The ratings agency said then that the review was prompted by the Island’s steep rise in government debt and its ongoing recession since the global financial crisis. That review came about a week after Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its outlook on Bermuda to negative from stable, citing its prolonged economic downturn and weakened financial performance. S&P had Bermuda at double-A-minus, also three notches below the top rating. Moody's expects Bermuda's weaker economic trends will continue through this year, with moderate growth returning next year. Moody's also expects a long-term decline in the tourism industry and says less dynamic growth in the insurance sector may limit future growth. The outlook could return to stable if the economy begins to grow and the government can contain its rising debt. However, a further potential downgrade could be prompted by continued economic weakening or a lack of significant government spending policy measures. In response to Moody’s rating action, the Ministry of Finance today said it recognised that continuing government deficits and weak economic growth could put Bermuda’s sovereign rating at risk of a downgrade by one notch. “We note however, that in so doing, Moody’s affirmed that our rating is supported by very high per capita income, strong institutions, and our still moderate level of government debt in relation to similarly rated sovereigns,” the Ministry of Finance said in a statement. While the ratings adjustment was not positive, the Ministry of Finance also noted that the adjusted rating remains in the top tier of the ratings matrix. “At Aa3, our sovereign bond rating is only three notches below the highest rating of Aaa. Moody’s continues to endorse the Island’s institutional strength and the Island’s very high per capita income. Government remains optimistic about future prospects for growth and will continue to press ahead with our Jobs and Economic Turnaround Plan which involves providing balance between responsible economic growth and disciplined financial management.”

May 16. A seniors advocate has called for stronger laws to protect the elderly from being exploited out of their property. Despite the 2008 introduction of the Seniors Abuse Registry Act, Age Concern Director Claudette Fleming said Bermuda suffered from “regulations but a lack of enforcement.” She spoke to The Royal Gazette after two cases came to light of elderly residents claiming unfair treatment from their families, involving property. Both complained to the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged (NOSPC), and the agency confirmed it knew of their cases. However, NOSPC head John Payne said the capacity of the Registrar and the NOSPC to carry out their own investigations was “very limited. As a result, they work very closely with the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Bermuda Police Service,” he said. There are now three persons named on the Senior Abuse Register created under the Act. But Mr Payne said that since alleged senior abuse must be tried in criminal rather than civil courts, the burden of proof is higher. “Neither the Registrar, nor the National Office, has the authority to find a person guilty of Senior Abuse. Only a court can determine guilt or innocence.” The Registrar takes advice from the Attorney General’s Chambers when needed — but cannot provide legal advice to clients. Instead, complainants are directed to seek their own legal advice. “When matters relate to property there are often legal issues that must be decided by the Courts,” Mr Payne continued. “In these situations, this is the advice given. Often there are other issues that impact on the care and well-being of the senior other than abuse. In these instances NOSPC works with the family and the senior to ensure that the appropriate services are put in place for the care of the senior. This is occurring in at least one of the cases mentioned.” One case involved an elderly man who unwittingly signed over his house to two grandchildren. NOSPC can’t comment on case specifics, but confirmed they were “aware of the concerns.” In another instance, an elderly woman who shared a home with her daughter claimed she was being forced to live at the top of a flight of stairs that she couldn’t negotiate. NOSPC “is aware of the concerns raised by this individual and her care givers and we are doing what we can to assist”, a spokesman said. Ms Fleming responded: “We’re not going to be able to go much further without strengthening the powers of the Registrar, in terms of human resources capacity. With an increasingly older population, contracting economy and the proliferation of greed, selfishness, attitudes of unearned entitlement, “the environment is ripe for the abuse of vulnerable people”. She suggested the creation of an Asset Protection Act allowing the Registrar to reverse “questionable decisions” made by the elderly. “They’ve given everything away — how can they take people to court? Sometimes people need others to go to bat for them.” She also called for “collegial responsibility from the legal fraternity to not allow certain cases to take place.” Last month, Age Concern offered a free legal seminar on wills and estates that was attended by 115 older adults, she said. Another is anticipated for later this year. “We’d like to see a whole lot more older adults, especially those 50 and older, getting their legal affairs in order, particularly if they own property. However, if for whatever reason older adults unwittingly fall into a situation of abuse, we expect those who are found guilty of that abuse will be appropriately and judiciously dealt with by the relevant legal authorities.”

May 16. The Bermuda Post Office issued this First Day Cover showing new postage stamps circulated about Bermuda's beaches, part 2.

2013 May 16 Bermuda beach stamps pt 2

May 22. Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act (FACTA). Its impact on Bermuda's insurance, funds and banking industries. More than 250 local industry professionals were told “now is the time to take action in preparation for FATCA”, during KPMG’s second FATCA forum, held earlier this week at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Building on the topics raised during the 2012 FATCA forum, the interactive session again asked the question “Are you ready for FATCA?” and delivered the message that as we approach the looming FATCA threshold dates, it is clear that FATCA is not going away. Discussion covered a wide range of topics, including FATCA from a global perspective; Bermuda’s response to FATCA; the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) models; FATCA’s potential impacts on business in Bermuda; and the cost of compliance and impact on customers, investors and counterparties. Describing why KPMG in Bermuda felt it was important to run a second FACTA forum for Bermuda professionals, KPMG managing director Charles Thresh, said; “This US legislation will have far-reaching consequences for the financial industry worldwide and Bermuda is no exception. If companies haven’t yet started planning for FATCA, it is not too late to become compliant, but the window is closing and the time to do so is now.” A key component of the panel portion was discussions around the IGA models, with particular interest on the differences between Models 1 & 2, the potential benefits and impacts of a Model 2 IGA, and the potential impact of FATCA on Bermuda’s insurance, funds, trust and banking industries. Additional analysis was also sought around the final FATCA regulations, as issued January 17, 2013, and a high degree of interest was shown around the compliance timeline, strongly echoing last year’s forum. In the wake of the timeline discussion, consensus again reflected that the time for Bermuda companies to act on FATCA is now. Describing the global implications of planning and preparation, David Neuenhaus, KPMG global FATCA lead partner said; “How companies transition to FATCA compliance will have a significant impact on their relationships with their customers, investors, counterparties and services providers. Companies who are early adopters of a robust compliance programme will have the competitive advantage — so a timely response is key.” This year’s forum was led by Charles Thresh, Managing Director of KPMG Advisory, Bermuda with keynote address provided by KPMG Global’s David Neuenhaus and Daniel Dzenkowski, and additional local market insights from KPMG FATCA team members including Catherine Sheridan Moore, James Berry and Will McCallum. In addition, valuable industry insights were provided by Kiernan Bell, managing partner, Appleby; Alison Morrison managing director, Oyster Consulting; Peter Pearman, partner CD&P; and Lyndon Quinn of HSBC.

May 27. Legislation to tax Bermuda reinsurers has been resurrected in the US Congress. The offshore reinsurance tax debate has been revived with the introduction there of two new bills. Two American lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would end a tax break they say favors foreign insurers — including those based in Bermuda — over US insurers. Congressman Richard Neal, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Select Revenue Subcommittee and Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, introduced bills in both the House and the Senate last week aimed at preventing non-US based insurers operating in the US from reducing their US tax bill by reinsuring with their non-US affiliates. “Many foreign-based insurance companies are using affiliate reinsurance to shift their US reserves into tax havens overseas, thereby avoiding US tax on their investment income,” Congressman Neal said. “This provides these companies with a significant unfair competitive advantage over US based companies, which must pay tax on their investment income. That is why I am filing legislation to end the Bermuda reinsurance loophole. Ending this unintended tax subsidy for foreign insurance companies will stop the capital flight at the expense of American taxpayers and restore competitive balance for domestic companies. It simply reinforces my efforts to combat offshore tax avoidance,” the congressman added. The legislation closely resembles legislation Congressman Neal first introduced in the House in 2008 and again in 2009. It was later reintroduced in 2010 with the added sponsorship of Sen Menendez. But the legislation failed, as have Congressman Neal’s other efforts to close what he, and a number of US insurers, see as a loophole that allows reinsurers, mainly based in Bermuda, to dodge US taxes. A similar proposal is included in President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget. Under current law, property and casualty insurers are allowed a deduction for premiums paid for reinsurance — that is, insurance for insurance companies — if the reinsurer is an affiliate not based in the US.In essence, the Neal-Menendez legislation defers the tax deduction for premiums paid to an offshore affiliate until the insured event occurs. That effectively restricts any benefit a company would gain by shifting reserves and associated investment income overseas and is modelled after the Obama administration’s budget proposal. The Coalition for a Domestic Insurance Industry, led by US insurers, WR Berkley and Chubb said in a statement that the bills’ sponsors worked with tax experts at the Treasury Department and the Joint Tax committee in drafting the bill. “We urge Congress to swiftly adopt the proposed legislation. Congress never intended to give a preference to foreign-controlled insurers over their domestic competitors,” said WR Berkley, chairman and CEO of WR Berkley Corporation. "Closing unintended loopholes to recover lost revenue is one of the best ways to offset the cost of needed tax reform. The increasing trend of foreign insurance companies moving profits made in America offshore and sticking Americans with the bill is incredibly troubling,” said Sen Menendez. “This legislation will staunch the flow of capital overseas, protect American jobs, and reduce deficits by shutting down a tax loophole that provides a huge unintended subsidy to foreign companies at the expense of both their US competitors and American taxpayers. "But opponents contend the bill would do serious damage to the US property and casualty insurance markets, while also violating international commitments made to trading partners. A group representing the reinsurance industry, the Coalition for Competitive Insurance Rates (CCIR), is objecting to the proposed legislation, arguing that it would increase costs and limit coverage availability for American consumers. “The legislation introduced closely mirrors thinking we have seen time and again from the Obama Administration and Congress,” said Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network. “Our concerns remain the same: instituting a tax on foreign affiliate reinsurance would only result in a more limited US domestic insurance capacity and more expensive insurance coverage, a major threat to homeowners and small businesses whether they are in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey or elsewhere, but particularly those in states that are historically susceptible to natural disaster." Approximately two-thirds of all reinsurance coverage currently required to protect American homes and businesses is provided by non-US reinsurance companies. In Florida, less than ten percent of that reinsurance comes from US companies — with the rest coming from foreign affiliates — 62 percent of them right here in Bermuda. Estimated losses from Hurricane Sandy currently stand at more than $19 billion and may reach $25 billion. International insurance companies are expected to cover nearly 50 percent of the losses caused by the storm, the CCIR says. “This legislation would shift the financial burden of rebuilding following a disaster onto already strained domestic insurers and their policyholders,” said James Donelon, the Louisiana commissioner of insurance. “As we enter the 2013 tornado and hurricane seasons, we need Congress and the President working on legislation to aid rebuild efforts, not hinder them with avoidable economic challenges.” Carolyn Shaw, Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) board liaison to the society’s external affairs committee international reinsurers are essential to the US insurance markets — able to fill gaps in coverage while domestic insurers are coping with an influx of claims following a disaster. “This short-sighted legislation fails to realise that if organisations are forced to abandon their offshore counterparts, the financial burden would fall on government and policyholders — an alternative that could shatter this country’s economic vitality,” Ms Shaw said. RIMS president John Phelps says the use of foreign reinsurance by domestic carriers is an “efficient mechanism to pool risks, diversify exposures, reduce the volatility of losses, and as a result, enhance availability of coverage and reduce prices for consumers.” He says the proposed legislation would make critical types of coverage, scarce for American companies and consumers. “Throughout the recent series of natural catastrophic events, and the terrorist attacks on 9/11, foreign reinsurers have filled gaps in coverage where domestic insurers either discontinued or severely curtailed coverage or significantly increased rates,” Mr Phelps said. In an economic impact study of the Neal-Menendez bill, the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm, found that the proposed tax would reduce the net supply of reinsurance in the US by 20 percent — which would raise rates. The Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), which represents 22 of the world’s largest international re/insurers is a member of the CCIR. Brad Kading, ABIR’s president and executive director, has been lobbying on Capitol Hill against the Neal Bill for more than six years now. He says the proposed legislation would take away reinsurers’ ability to diversify and spread risk. “Affiliate reinsurance is a fundamental component of insurance group operations,” Mr Kading said. “US and non-US insurers use affiliate reinsurance to spread risk and match capital with risk — this helps generate capacity to meet client needs. You can’t do business without it.” RJ Lehmann, a fellow with the R Street Institute, a non-profit policy research organisation, says in the end, the legislation would only benefit a small group of US insurance companies at the expense of American consumers. “This is a protectionist measure that serves the interests of certain large domestic insurance companies by discouraging foreign-based competitors from devoting their capital to US risks. It also is simply bad policy, in that it would tend to concentrate US risks within the United States, rather than allowing the global reinsurance system to spread them throughout the globe." Mr Lehmann also added that the legislation appears to violate the United States’ commitment under the General Agreement on Trade in Services not to subject companies to more punitive or burdensome taxation based solely on where the company is based.  

May 27. A classic watercolour of a Confederate cruiser painted in Bermuda when the warship wasn’t wreaking havoc on US Navy vessels during the American Civil War [1861-1865] has been offered for sale by a Virginia gallery.

CSS Ship Florida, by Edward James

Captained by John Newland Maffitt [1819-1886] of Wilmington, North Carolina the “Florida” — launched in 1862 — had gained fame for her relentless attacks on US Navy ships blockading Confederate ports. “The ‘Florida’ operated as a commerce raider from the West Indies to New England throughout the first months of 1863,” said a Christopher H. Jones spokesman. “By the summer she had sunk or captured millions of dollars of Union shipping and was constantly pursued by warships of the US Navy. On July 17 the Florida reached Bermuda where Maffitt hoped to take on coal and contract for repair but was refused access to official British government fuel stockpiles or dry docks. He was allowed to await the arrival of a coal ship and secure emergency repairs by private commercial yards. During this brief stay in Bermuda, Captain Maffitt encountered Edward Copeland Stiles [circa 1827-1895] who had been in Saint George’s as early as December, 1862 where he was reported by the US Consul as deeply involved in Confederate naval activities. The painting of the “Florida” was commissioned by the “Florida’s” captain and presented to the Confederate agent, carrying the inscription: “Presented to Capt. E.C. Stiles by his friend Capt. Maffitt C.S.N. Commanding C.S.S. Florida July 21, 1863.” Ship’s logs show that the Liverpool-built “Florida” sailed for France for repairs on July 27 indicating that the presentation of the painting took place only a few days before her departure. “The dramatic image of the ship, decks cleared and battened down, running before a gale must certainly have depicted a particular event but the details have proven elusive,” said the Christopher H. Jones spokesman. “With the exception of the stacks, the ship portrayed closely resembles surviving images of the Florida and it seems certain that the proud Maffitt would have only presented his friend with a painting of the Confederate States Ship ‘Florida’. Edward James [c.1820-1877] is thought to have been the pseudonym for an Englishman who worked as a journalist and artist in Bermuda from the outbreak of the US Civil War until his death. His surviving paintings are closely related stylistically and show a flair for drama and detail that are quite similar to the depiction of the ‘Florida’,” said Christopher H. Jones. “James was well known in St. George’s and was commissioned by the US Consul, Charles Allen to make sketches of various Confederate vessels for the use the US Navy in identifying the rebel vessels which changed their names frequently. While anchored in a Brazilian harbour in October, 1864, the “Florida” was caught defenseless in an illegal night attack by Commander Napoleon Collins of USS “Wachusett.”. Towed to sea, she was sent to the United States as a prize despite Brazil’s protests at this clear violation of their sovereignty. Commander Collins was court-martialed and was convicted of violating Brazilian territorial rights, but the verdict was set aside by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. At Newport News, Virginia on November 28, 1864, “Florida” sank under dubious circumstances after a collision with a troop ferry. The sinking was most likely carried out with Admiral David Dixon Porter’s encouragement to prevent “Florida” from being delivered to Brazil in satisfaction of the final court order — a move which would have allowed the cruiser to rejoin the Confederate Navy. For further details about the painting, contact the Christopher H. Jones gallery at [703]-622-9978.

May 30. The structure of legal fees is under review by the Bermuda Bar Association. The President of the Bar Association Justin Williams has formed a subcommittee to consider whether conditional or contingency fee arrangements are feasible for Bermuda’s legal profession, if they should be permitted for civil cases and, if so, to what extent. They have also been charged with recommending any appropriate changes in the law. Mr Williams, a barrister who also sits as an acting magistrate, coroner and chairman of Family Court, added a ‘conditional fee’ arrangement permits a lawyer to accept cases on a ‘no win, no fee’ or on a ‘success fee’ basis, which permits the lawyer to charge an enhanced fee in the event that litigation is successful but a lower fee if unsuccessful. A ‘contingency fee’ enables the lawyer to take a share of any damages that are awarded to the client instead of charging the client a conventional fee. Such arrangements are permitted in many common law jurisdictions, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. “As matters stand, conditional and contingency fees are not permitted in Bermuda,” said Mr Williams, adding: “Although many Bermudian lawyers are understandably wary of the litigation culture that prevails in the United States, as our society becomes increasingly complex and more people need to avail themselves of the civil justice system, we must ensure that large segments of our society do not become disenfranchised and precluded from asserting or defending their rights in the civil courts. It is clear that the needs of many members of our society cannot be met from personal resources or from public funds via legal aid. An alternative must be found.” The Bar Association’s review is in line with comments made by the Chief Justice Ian Kawaley who called for measures to help people access justice in civil cases in a speech commemorating the beginning of the legal year in January. He commented: “The cost of civil justice is a major threat to the ability of ordinary litigants to enjoy the right of access to the courts which is an element of the right to a fair hearing in civil cases.” He noted the scope of civil legal aid had been cut in recent years in Bermuda and suggested that consideration be given to the introduction of conditional fees, along the lines of those permitted in the UK. Bermuda Online’s cost of living section called legal costs ”very high, averaging in Bermuda about $600 an hour.” Mr Williams noted that the legislative regime in the United Kingdom, which first introduced conditional fee arrangements in 1995, has evolved to the point where contingency fees arrangements have been permitted since 1st April of this year. Lawyer Mark Chudleigh, who chairs the Bar's subcommittee, commented: “Although similar in many respects to the US system, the UK arrangements are more heavily regulated and the UK costs rules, which are similar to Bermuda’s, act as a strong deterrent against frivolous litigation as the losing party generally has to pay a portion of the winner’s legal costs.” Mr Williams said if Bar Council approval is forthcoming, the Association hopes to be able to provide proposed draft legislation to Government by the autumn. Anyone who wishes to express a view on whether conditional or contingency fees are appropriate for Bermuda are welcome to contact the Bermuda Bar Association.

June 4. Tax loophole legislation fears from USA in Bermuda. The Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) expressed concern in a leading re/insurance publication that legislation in the USA to close a so-called tax loophole that favors Bermuda-based insurers could pass without warning. “The threat is some middle-of-the-night, last-minute deal,” said Bradley L Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, which opposes the measure. “That's what we've always been waiting for.” He was commenting on the reinsurance tax loophole legislation in the US being revived. Business Insurance reported at the weekend: “The Legislation that would change the tax treatment of reinsurance ceded to non-US affiliates of domestic insurers is unlikely to be enacted as a stand-alone measure, but might pass as part of a larger budget or tax reform bill, insurance industry sources say. Companion bills introduced by Rep Richard Neal, Democrat-Massachusetts, and Sen Bob Menendez, Democrat-New Jersey, would disallow tax deductions for reinsurance premiums ceded to affiliates in jurisdictions not subject to US tax law. The measure has been introduced and failed in previous sessions.” The publication noted President Barack Obama included a similar provision in his 2013 budget, estimating that it would raise $6.2 billion in revenue over 10 years. “Several US insurers supporting the legislation argue that it closes an unfair tax loophole, while a wider group of opponents — including many multinational insurance groups and the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc claim that it will reduce market capacity and raise costs for policyholders,” Business Insurance said. “While several sources say the measure likely has too much opposition to pass on its own, opponents say it may be rolled into a tax reform bill now being drafted by the House Ways and Means Committee, or into a larger budget bill.”

June 4. Increasing political pressure may force more captives to move onshore posing a threat to Bermuda — that’s according to a recent report published by Intelligent Insurer. The article interviews Clive O’Connell, a partner at law firm Goldberg Segalla Global, who says we could see more captives move onshore in the coming months. “There are lots of reasons why companies set up in Bermuda and why they move away. At present, there is a lot of governmental pressure on both sides of the Atlantic against what might be perceived as tax havens. Some companies are taking a very strict view on that,” Mr O’Connell told Intelligent Insurer. The concern surrounding offshore captives comes as officials in New York State continue to investigate the use of captives by some insurance and reinsurance companies. The New York Department of Financial Services, led by Benjamin Lawsky, began its investigation last July, requesting information about the arrangements from about 80 life insurers in the state. Mr Lawsky said in a speech last month that offshore captives reduce the amount of reserves insurers hold to pay future claims and threaten the stability of the entire insurance system. Just two week ago, MetLife Inc announced it would merge its offshore captive reinsurance unit (based in Cayman) with three of the parent company’s US subsidiaries — a move lauded by New York state regulators. The merger “proactively addresses recent regulatory concerns about the use of captive reinsurers,” New York-based MetLife said in a presentation to investors. It could also help the company be in a “better position to deal with Dodd-Frank derivative collateral requirements.” “The New York Department of Financial Services’ industry inquiry regarding captives was an important factor in our taking a closer look at our offshore reinsurance subsidiary,” MetLife CEO Steve Kandarian said the presentation. Mr O’Connell says the MetLife move could be the first of many offshore exits. “Over the coming months insurers are going to look at the arrangements that they’ve made in order to ensure that they are acting within the arm of the law and socially acceptable parameters,” he said. Because this is an issue unique to life insurers engaged in regulatory arbitrage, it might not have too significant of an impact on Bermuda, which has long been considered a base for non-life insurance and reinsurance companies. The Island did however see a surge in interest from the life sector last year with three times as many new long-term insurance registrations in 2012 as in 2011. “The Bermuda insurance market continues to have a robust Long-Term (life insurance) sector,” a spokesperson for the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) said. “This is reflected in the Long-Term sector’s consistent performance, writing over $34 billion in gross premiums and holding substantial amounts of both assets and capital and surplus.” At the end of 2012, 176 Long-Term firms were registered in Bermuda,” the spokesperson added. “This total included nine new Long-Term firms which had registered in 2012 — up from three registrations recorded in 2011.” According to the BMA, Bermuda also remains the largest domicile in terms of active captives — a total of 856 as of the end of last year, with $20 billion in gross premiums written. While this is an issue affecting life insurers and their captives, with other legislation looming, such as the Neal Bill, some in the industry feel other insurers could follow in the footsteps of MetLife. The controversial bill in the US Congress would deny tax deductions for reinsurance premiums paid to foreign affiliates by domestic insurers. Some say insurers moving onshore could encourage support for Congressman Richard Neal’s proposed plan, but Mr O’Connell told Intelligent Insurer he doesn’t believe that to be the case. “In some ways, if companies start doing this off their own volition then there’s no need,” he said. “Politically, there’s a growing momentum among governments to try and regulate global businesses on a national scale, but this is a difficult thing to do.”

June 7. This year marks the last for Bermuda’s old-style horizontal-print bank notes, which cease to be legal tender come January 1, 2014. Starting June 30, the vertical note series introduced in 2009 is to replace the “legacy” notes of $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 over the course of the year. As old currency gets taken out of circulation, members of the public can exchange them for fresh notes at their own bank or credit union. Banks will also switch notes for visitors — up to a cut-off date to be set by each institution. ATMs and retailers will continue to dispense legacy tender — but the amount of old notes will steadily decrease. Although the old notes will no longer be accepted in stores after the start of 2014, they will still be accepted by banks for exchange. The Bermuda Monetary Authority yesterday announced the launch of an Island-wide public awareness campaign on the switch. However, neither the BMA nor retailers will be exchanging the legacy banknotes for the public. 

June 11.  Bermuda’s health financing is a staggeringly complex arrangement — especially for a comparatively small jurisdiction. “The input we’ve had from our advisers, who have experience of different health systems around the world, is that this is more complicated than what exists in other jurisdictions. In particular, for a population of our size, it’s highly complicated,” said Jennifer Attride-Stirling, CEO of the Bermuda Health Council. As part of our ongoing series on the Island’s rising healthcare costs, The Royal Gazette explores the structure of Bermuda’s financing. The Island’s Standard Hospital Benefit (SHB) package serves as the base of the system — covering much of the population, plus a substantial range of hospital services. The SHB deals with most of the local spending, plus a third of what we spend overseas. Currently, residents pay a $326 monthly premium for the basic SHB package — but a breakdown of who pays for what shows Government picking up a hefty portion of the bill, for seniors in particular. 1. Dimensions of health coverage.  “In order to understand how health insurance coverage is organized on the Island, we can represent it as a cube — an illustration scheme developed by the World Health Organization,” said Dr Attride-Stirling. “A health system with universal coverage for everybody would fill the whole cube: all of the population, all of the costs, all medically necessary services. Each country fills the cube in different ways. For Bermuda, at the base of the cube is the Standard Hospital Benefit (SHB), which covers most of the population. It includes Government’s subsidies. The SHB covers all hospitalization costs — but out of medically necessary services, it covers about a third. Government’s Health Insurance Plan (HIP) covers a little bit more of the population and a few more services. FutureCare covers a sliver of the population because it’s designed for seniors, and it’s more generous than HIP. Then, under Supplemental Benefits, we have the standard medical cover that most employers provide. There are other systems such as the Canadian, UK and French systems that cover significantly more. This illustration shows how the SHB plays a role in relation to the whole of Bermuda’s coverage.” 2 and 3: The Standard Hospital Benefit — and how much Government pays.  “The breakdown of Standard Health Benefit (SHB) claims by age graphically illustrates how we incur more health costs as we get older,” Dr Attride-Stirling said. "In bar-charts, the red portion of the bars covers the long hospital stays, or the Continuing Care Unit costs. We can see that red proportion growing sharply as the population gets older. There’s a spike in the zero to four years category. There are birth costs and neonatal care, which then drops off. It’s around the age 50 to 54 that the costs start to go up.” A comparison of the two charts reveals how “Government subsidies cover a huge amount of the bill,” she added. “You can also see how the subsidies are designed for youth and the aged. It also covers the indigent. When you look at the difference between the two charts, you can really see how Government is taking the hit for those claims, under our current system. People naturally complain about their premiums being high, but you can imagine what they’d be without the subsidies. It’s easier to understand when you see just how much the Government actually spends.”

June 13.  Bermuda’s retailers want the freedom to open on public holidays, and are lobbying the Government to make those changes to the 1947 Public Holiday Act. “The Public Holiday Act is very outdated,” said Paula Clarke, who in addition to her position as chief executive officer at Gibbons Company, is also chairman of the retail division of the Chamber of Commerce. “Basically, what we’re saying is the Public Holiday Act 1947 needs revision — because it is outdated. We need to get with the rest of the world. As things stand, retailers with floor space of 2500 square feet or above are restricted to opening between 1pm and 6pm on any public holiday, except for Christmas Day and Good Friday,” she explained. The Chamber of Commerce has put out a public appeal for feedback from the community. In a recent open editorial, executive director Joanne MacPhee stated: “In the coming weeks the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce will be undertaking a robust community consultation process to ascertain the public’s response to our lobbying efforts to amend the current legislation. To be clear, we are advocating for two precise changes to the Act: 1) Sunday should not be deemed by law to be a Public Holiday, and 2) that no business should be restricted from trading based on the size of their premises.” Ms Clarke said: “We want to engage with the public as a full consultation process, so we can get feedback from all the stakeholders and the general public. “Comments, positive or negative, are welcome. Obviously, we are hoping for participation from the general public, because customers want to have the opportunity and freedom to shop whenever they want. And retailers feel that they should have the right to open on public holidays — except of course Christmas Day and Good Friday — should they feel they need to. This really is in response to the demands from the customers.  We understand that Saturdays are engaged with sports for children and housekeeping, that sort of thing, and the only time they have to shop as a family is on a Sunday, but they become frustrated because there aren’t enough businesses open to make the journey into Hamilton a full shopping experience. It’s up to the businesses when they want to open, but if you have a cruise ship in port, and it’s leaving Dockyard at 2pm, then people have to be back on board by 1pm, say, and the last day of shopping is a Sunday, then we can’t even open on that day. Those visitors are also looking for Sunday and public holiday store openings. In past years they would arrive in Hamilton on Sunday, and there would be nothing to do — so they would go back to Dockyard feeling disappointed because nothing was open or available. We need to offer a level of service which exists anywhere else in the world — you expect to shop seven days a week. We’ve reached a point in retail where we need Bermuda to be competitive and relevant in today’s retail industry. The law needs to be flexible.  We should have the right to open our business whenever we feel it is appropriate — we need to be nimble and flexible so we can give the service that the customer expects.” Smaller stores do have greater flexibility to open on public holidays, and Ms Clarke said a relaxation of restrictions pertaining to the larger shops should be beneficial to those smaller retailers. “The larger stores will help the smaller retailers because of that critical mass wanting to come into town or to a destination to shop.  Special applications can be made to the Government to open on public holidays. We have made many requests in the past for the industry for concessions, such as Good Friday last year when there was a cruise ship in St George’s. It was the only one of the season and we wanted to open on that day. We were granted special permissions to do this. In fact, on that occasion, weather forced the ship to detour away from St George’s.  But every time, it is a huge amount of time that goes into the application. We want to have the freedom and right to open when the demand is there.” Ms Clarke said under the previous government, the Department of Tourism and its Minister Wayne Furbert were supportive of retailers opening on public holidays. “Then, the election was called and everything came to a grinding halt,” she explained. “We’re going through the appropriate steps again.”

June 14.  Bermuda faces a healthcare “disaster” if the Island doesn’t rein in its diabetes epidemic, a leading healthcare speaker has warned. Controversial US medical expert Robert Lustig said at least a quarter of the Island’s population has the disease. However, Bermuda’s reliance on imported food makes us unique in the battle to turn around our unhealthy diet, Dr Lustig told The Royal Gazette. “You have got a diabetes pandemic on your hands here,” Dr Lustig told audiences this week courtesy of the Bermuda Diabetes Association. As healthcare costs keep rising, the surge in expensive treatment for metabolic disease risks derailing Bermuda’s health financing. “I went into your supermarkets; and found large bags of potato chips for $1.69, while a mango cost $2.99,” the endocrinologist said. “This is exactly the pricing structure that foments diabetes.” Dr Lustig has drawn flak for insisting that the food industry has deliberately “spiked” 80 percent of US food products with toxic levels of sugar. “The best way to avoid diabetes is to eat real food,” he said, speculating that Bermuda’s disease level is “even worse” than that of the US. Obesity in Bermuda is similar to US levels, despite the Island’s relative affluence — very likely because of our “specific food environment that is generated from everything being imported”, he said — especially the importing of processed foods. Even so, you don’t have to be obese to get diabetes, he said. “My job in coming here is to debunk the last 30 years of propaganda that you’ve been fed. Twenty-five percent of Bermuda has diabetes — this is a disaster, and the sad part is that you’re all at risk.” But the Island could be a “demonstration project to the world” because food importation is potentially subject to control. “If distribution can be controlled through societal interventions, then availability of healthy, natural, appropriate foods can be increased, while processed foods can be decreased,” he said. However, Dr Lustig added that since Bermuda’s food goes through distributors, unhealthy food is promoted because it’s cheaper and easier to sell. “Where food goes from supplier straight to consumer, you see a standard supply-demand paradigm. But where there is a middleman controlling distribution, that middleman is going to chokehold that distribution to maximize profit. That means inflation of prices, and maximization of those foods which bring the most profit — processed foods, because there is no depreciation.” He called it “urgent” that Bermuda’s public get educated on the hidden sugar content of common foodstuffs like salad dressing or crackers. “Education of the populace about the role of nutrition in disease is a primary goal; this is what I was doing in Bermuda this week. Education includes alteration of the food label, and alteration of marketing practices, especially to children, who are a target of the food industry.” He also suggested a tax on processed food and a subsidy on healthy food, plus restricting access to soda and fruit juice at public venues. Government could also set “dietary guidelines and limits on nutrient content that companies have to respect.” Consumers crippled by diabetes could even explore the lawsuit option, Dr Lustig said, adding: “But not around obesity. Obesity is a loser. Diabetes is the issue, because that’s where the money goes. There are several legal theories that could be pursued. “However, I can’t say whether legal challenges could or would work in Bermuda, as I am not as familiar with your legal system.” An audience of hundreds turned up for Dr Lustig’s public talk on Tuesday — but his visit also included a private lecture to an audience including Health Minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin and Deputy Premier Michael Dunkley. 

June 15.  Former Premier Alex Scott has been appointed a Commander of the British Empire, and charity founder Clem Talbot recognised as Member of the British Empire along with Raleigh Bermuda’s Michael Spurling. For Mr Scott, the accolade made for “an exhilarating fortnight”, as he was honoured for his political career at the start of the month. “I did not go into politics for recognition, so this becomes a pleasant surprise,” Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette. Initiated into politics by former Progressive Labour Party leader Frederick Wade, Mr Scott was appointed to the Senate in 1985, eventually becoming Opposition Leader in the Senate. He became an MP in 1993, and Premier ten years later. Mr Scott also served as one of the five members of the Pitt Commission investigating Bermuda’s 1977 riots. Last night he said he’d celebrate the honour with his family “as they have made a greater sacrifice than myself.” Clem Talbot took the MBE for services to the community, in recognition of fundraising through the Ross (Blackie) Talbot Foundation and Ross (Blackie) Talbot Golf Tournament. The initiative is named after Mr Talbot’s late father. “I didn’t expect this at all,” Mr Talbot said. “When I got the call from the Governor I was in between minds as to whether I should accept it, as there are far more worthy individuals than I. What I did over the last 20 years, raising almost $4 million for some 85 charities, was not for recognition. I think I will probably reflect on it quietly with my wife.” Raleigh Bermuda founder and chairman Michael Spurling was last night overseas in the UK. His work with the youth development organization earned him the Queen’s birthday honour. Mr Spurling is known for his contribution to Raleigh Bermuda and its impact on young people. A spokeswoman said he had “worked tirelessly to address the issues facing some of our most troubled youth”.

June 20. Government’s charter of a $1.25 million ferry to provide backup to the public fleet during the summer has been branded a waste of taxpayer money by Marine and Ports staff. And workers are said to be furious at reports that foreign crews of the US-based Millennium are being put up at a hotel when on the Island — and are given travel expenses to fly back home at regular intervals. One Marine and Ports worker, who asked not to be named, claimed that three of Government’s six fast ferries are currently not being used at all. Two are on standby to cover periods when extra lift may be required, while a third has been in dry dock for months awaiting repairs. The source claimed that, instead of spending $1.25 million for a six-month charter, new engines could have been purchased for all six ferries at half the price, extending the life of the fleet by several years. Accusing public transport managers of applying short-term, band-aid solutions, the source said: “To get new engines for all six ferries would cost an estimated $600,000, which is much cheaper than bringing in a charter. “Even though the new Government only came in December of last year, it still had time to look into this and implement it. It only takes a matter of weeks to put in a new engine. And of course, had it done so, it would mean that all six of our ferries would now be operational for another six years or so, without them needing to be constantly repaired, which is the case at the moment. As it is, we now have three of our own ferries doing nothing. Had the money been spent on new engines, we would have all six ferries in good working order — more than enough to see us through a busy cruise ship season. And we’re going to be facing the same problem next summer. What’s Government going to do then — hire another charter for another $1.25 million?” Last month, Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell revealed that, in addition to the $1.25 million hire cost of Millennium, Government will also be spending a further $190,000 in “peripheral costs relating to crew and vessel operations and insurance.” Mr Crockwell said that this expense would be offset by savings “including $100,000 in reduced overtime and with reduction in unplanned maintenance and additional shift work.” The Marine & Ports source questioned why Government seemed prepared to spend extra taxpayer dollars on foreign crews to skipper the Millennium, rather than provide additional work for Bermudian staff. “Granted, getting the engines installed would have meant more work for our staff, but isn’t that better than spending money flying foreign workers back home to the US for a break? Our staff are struggling, we’re all struggling, and that additional cost would be spent in the local economy, helping needy Bermudian families rather than being spent overseas. We feel very angry that Government thinks it’s okay to spend money on foreign staff and justifies this cost by make savings at home — by cutting back on work for Bermudians.”

June 26. A cultural revolution is needed in the Civil Service, says SAGE Commission chairman Brian Duperreault. He told Hamilton Rotary members yesterday that SAGE was surprised to find that creativity and innovation are not encouraged in the Civil Service. “One of the biggest challenges we have to face is the culture of the Bermuda Civil Service,” Mr Duperreault said. “It’s been a surprise to private sector members of the Commission to learn of the number of reports produced by civil servants that outline plans for progressive change, and the number of people who have worked hard to try to implement the recommendations in those reports. But this is not a culture that supports, encourages and rewards creativity and innovation. This is not a culture that promotes brave leadership. What we have is a lumbering organization with cumbersome bureaucracy, a vestige of a colonial mindset that can’t adapt to the 21st century because it hasn’t been given the tools to do so. In most organizations, there’s what I’d call a natural cleansing process in the way personnel are managed. You do your job well, you’re rewarded and possibly promoted. You don’t do your job well, you get some assistance for professional development, you get some coaching, and if that doesn’t work, you leave the organization to make way for someone else. But this isn’t how it works in the Civil Service. The performance process doesn’t seem to produce reasonable outcomes that support healthy, well-managed growth and development. Staff who enter the Civil Service with a zeal to make a difference are worn down by a system that thwarts progress. Their ideas are ignored. If they’re not ignored, they drift for years before they’re implemented. There is little accountability for those who do not perform to expectations. Staff who violate Public Service regulations might face a mild slap on the wrist. The chances of them being dismissed are slim to none. At the SAGE Commission, we’re beginning to believe that if we can find a way to help effect real systemic change in the Civil Service, to infuse it with a “can do” culture, we will be well on our way to creating the government Bermuda needs and can afford. We’ve been told by many civil and public servants that they desperately want the SAGE Commission to recommend a culture in government that both rewards excellence and also deals with non-performance. They want a culture that attracts, and keeps, strong performers.” Mr Duperreault went on to say that reducing personnel costs had to be done with a view to not causing more harm than good and planning for the social ramifications. And new revenue sources will have to be identified as “we can’t cut our way to economic recovery.” He called on the public not to indulge in the blame game over the Island’s fiscal crisis. “Are we going to retreat into our traditional comfort zones? Are we going to look for scapegoats to bear the brunt of what has to be done? Or are we going to reach out to each other, with mutual respect and decency, to find a way to fix our broken government?” The Commission has received 200 submissions from the public, and will submit an interim report next month. Healthcare costs and government pensions were being reviewed by the six Commission members, Mr Duperreault reported. But he said the Commission might make a separate recommendation of a healthcare review. “I’m pleased with the analysis the Commissioners have done so far on government pensions but I’m concerned about the review of healthcare costs. This type of review isn’t the same as finding ways to cut government spending. It needs the eye of professionals with specialist expertise.”

(Formation of SAGE has resulted in top civil servants are being put through their paces with an exhaustive series of questions and requests for information from the SAGE Commission. Charged with recommending ways in which Government can be more effective and efficient, the SAGE Commission turned its attention to the 70-odd department heads asking them to provide about a dozen reports on their operations. The reports include policy and legislative reviews, service delivery standards, performance benchmarks, performance system reviews, strategic reviews and plans, “inter-departmental and inter-ministerial coordination and efficiency,” and “efficiency, effectiveness and economy of programmes and services." The bosses are expected to justify and explain how they measure performance, reward good performance and think through ways in which they could be more effective and efficient, according to correspondence obtained by The Royal Gazette. Directors are being asked by the Measurement and Metrics Committee what key performance indicators are used by their departments, what makes them relevant and whether they are taken into consideration to evaluate the performance of their staff. “Is it fair to hold you accountable for the performance of your organization?” is one of the questions being asked by the Performance committee. SAGE’s privatization/outsourcing committee is expecting civil servants to tell them which of their services compete with the private sector, can be more effectively provided by the private sector and which assets are underutilized “not used at all, or are being misused or inappropriately used?" Government employees are required by law to provide information requested by the SAGE Commission).

June 27. The former Sonesta Beach resort site was sold to the Green family for $10.5 million, documents from the Registrar show.  

The documents show the transaction was filed on March 18 this year in which Sinky Bay Ltd purchased the 32-acre Southampton property from a company called SSBT LCRE II LLC. Scout Real Estate, the US developer which bought the property in 2007, had planned to build a five-star resort there. But after demolishing the hotel, its plans for what it called the Southampton Beach Resort were scrapped. And Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank which filed for bankruptcy protection during the 2008 financial crisis, had been the main financier of that $200 million project. The Green family, who own the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, is conducting a review of the Southampton Beach Resort to determine the way forward with it. They intend to consult with “Government, Planning and relevant stakeholders” as part of that process, a spokeswoman said earlier this year. The sale was led by Rego Sotheby’s International Realty with Jones Lang LaSalle’s Capital Markets.

July 3. Former Premier Dame Pamela Gordon Banks and her husband have criticized the Land Valuation Department for waging a costly four-and-a-half year legal battle against them, instigated by a senior civil servant who overvalued their Gate Wood, Inglewood Lane, Paget, house. The Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the couple, agreeing with an earlier tribunal that Chris Farrow, the Director of Land Valuation, proposed an “incorrect and unfair” annual rental value for their luxury home in Paget. The civil matter is likely to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, since Government brought in a QC and junior barrister from London to argue its case, against the wishes of the Bermuda Bar Council. Dame Pamela told The Royal Gazette she and husband Andrew Banks were willing to fight the case as the outcome impacted hundreds of Bermudian homeowners. “We will never shy away from looking for justice and a just outcome,” she said, adding that they would “take it to the nth degree” to ensure justice was done. Businessman Mr Banks said the couple endured the “four-and-a-half year legal gauntlet” to “right the wrong that was inflicted upon us” and ensure it didn’t happen to others. He alleged that Mr Farrow used “bully tactics” with them and said he’d heard similar complaints about inaccurate valuations from “many, many, many people” who didn’t have the means to appeal such decisions. He also shared documents with The Yoyal Gazette showing how the Director did not pass important paperwork about their property to the Tax Commissioner’s office for a year, resulting in the couple receiving an inaccurate land tax bill for almost $215,000. The bill included $151,000 in arrears and interest, although it was the first demand they’d received. “When we heard from scores and scores of people who had [also] been mistreated we just felt like ‘we can’t let this go’,” said Mr Banks. “People continue to tell us how they were treated unfairly. We were appalled.” The couple’s argument with the Land Valuation Department began in December 2008 when Mr Farrow proposed that their newly built property should be deemed for land tax purposes as a single unit with an annual rental value of $852,000. The highest ARV given to a property in Bermuda is thought to be $1,182,000 for Golden Eye in Tucker’s Town. GateWood comprises a main three-bedroom house, a two-bedroom staff apartment and a two-bedroom guest cottage, but Mr Farrow proposed giving it just one assessment number, instead of the three it had, increasing the amount of land tax payable. The Bankses objected to the proposal and to a proposal a year later giving the property an ARV of $768,000. Two tribunals heard their objections, with the first upholding their appeal and concluding that GateWood should have three assessment numbers. The second tribunal confirmed the same and decreed that the total ARV for the three units should be $360,000. It heard evidence from a realtor that the highest market rent ever achieved on the Island was $35,000 a month, or $420,000 a year. Mr Farrow had 21 days to appeal the decisions but he took almost 14 months to challenge the first one, with the AG’s Chambers bringing in Jonathan Small QC and barrister Nathaniel Duckworth from London to make an “out of time” application. Bermuda Bar Council objected to the expensive silk and his junior coming here for the Supreme Court hearing in March last year, as its policy is that foreign counsel shouldn’t be used for “interlocutory” proceedings and foreign junior counsel shouldn’t be used at all. Bar Association president Justin Williams said the result was that at a hearing in then Chief Justice Richard Ground’s chambers, counsel for the Attorney General’s Chambers appeared with work permits for Mr Small and Mr Duckworth. “The Attorney General’s Chambers obtained the work permits directly from the Department of Immigration,” he said. “Bar Council had put in place the procedure to protect the rights and engagement of Bermudian attorneys.” Mr Farrow’s “out of time” application failed and his timely appeal of the second tribunal decision was also dismissed by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley. The judge agreed to look at the “wider public interest” issue of how residential properties are evaluated for tax purposes, with Mr Farrow giving evidence in an affidavit that there were 758 properties classified as single valuation units, despite having a main house and at least one guest house or pool house. The judge found there was no “coherent legal basis” for reclassifying high-end properties like GateWood as single units when there were “too many examples” on the Department’s valuation list of “more humble” houses with apartments and cottages being treated as separate units. The Director appealed the Chief Justice’s ruling in the Court of Appeal, where he lost again earlier this month, meaning all costs must be met by Government. Meanwhile, the appeal panel found no “pressing reason” to consider and rule on the issue of how the number of assessment units should be evaluated. Mr Justice Kawaley’s judgment could open the door for the 758 homeowners whose properties are currently classed as single units to challenge that when the Department’s next valuation list is compiled in 2014 — and be granted multiple assessment numbers. Dame Pamela, the Island’s first female premier and a former Environment Minister, said the issue was an important one as many Bermudians relied on rental incomes to pay their mortgages. The Land Valuation Department and the AG’s Chambers have failed to respond to numerous requests for comment from this newspaper since June 18 and have not shared any information on how much the case will cost taxpayers.

July 3. Veteran Lisa Blackburn picked up her second gold — and third medal so far — as Bermuda’s swimmers earned two more medals on day two of the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation in Costa Rica last night. Blackburn, who won a gold (100 breaststroke) and silver (200 individual medley) on the opening day on Monday, closed out the second night of finals by winning the last event, the 200 metres breaststroke when she pulled away from the field in the second 100 metres to capture another gold. Earlier, Rebecca Sharpe added to Bermuda’s medal haul by taking the bronze in the 100 metres backstroke final. Also winning medals for Bermuda on Monday were Stephanie Myles with a bronze in the 800 metres freestyle and Shannon Hassell the silver in the 100 metres backstroke. The evening of finals on day two started with Hassell getting a ticket into the 200 metres freestyle final when another swimmer pulled out. Hassell had secured the first alternate spot for the final during the morning heats when she swam just outside her personal best time. In the final Hassell took the opportunity to lower her PB to 2:18.07 though she finished outside the medal places. Myles and Rebecca Heyliger both competed in the 18 and over 200 metres freestyle final and finished seventh and eighth respectively. Ashley Yearwood joined Sharpe in the 100 back final and both were primed for a good race, with Sharpe capturing the bronze while Yearwood struggled to get into a rhythm. It was later discovered that she was hampered by an ongoing shoulder injury and could not push herself. Blackburn and Rebecca Heyliger both competed in the 100 metres butterfly final where Heyliger lowered her PB again in finishing seventh while Blackburn was eighth. In the morning session Jesse Washington missed qualifying for the finals of the 200 metres freestyle and 100 metres butterfly by just one place in each event while Andrew Beveridge was just off his PBs in the 200 free and 100 back as he missed the finals in those events. Ashley Yearwood and Rebecca Sharpe cruised into the 100 back finals as did Heyliger and Blackburn in the 100 fly. Ashley Irby had a solid swim but was unable to set the pace that she needed to repeat the PB she just set at the Coral Springs Invitational recently. “This morning’s session saw the team look a little flat in the heats,” said national coach Ben Smith after the morning events. “With a combination of no seats at the finals for the previous night and some adjusting to altitude the swimmers were tired and their times were a little off. Day three will be another busy one and we hope to see more personal bests and more swimmers in the finals.”  Medals (6) Day 1: Lisa Blackburn (gold in 100m breaststroke, silver in 200 IM); Stephanie Myles (bronze in 800m freestyle); Shannon Hassell (silver in 100m backstroke). Day 2: Lisa Blackburn (gold in 200m breaststroke); Rebecca Sharpe (bronze in 100m backstroke).

July 5. A $1 million grant from Government has made it possible for Bermuda to stage the NatWest Island Games starting next weekend. Wayne Scott, Minister of Community and Cultural Development, declared Bermuda ready to host an exciting Games. Close to 2,000 athletes and officials will begin arriving in the Island next week for the start of the Games on July 13 and Minister Scott and Island Games committee chairman Jon Beard, urged residents to help make the Games memorable. “This is the first time the Games have ever been held outside of Europe and we are expecting close to 2,000 athletes, officials and visiting spectators to descend on our Island,” said Minister Scott as he addressed the media at the National Sports Centre North Field as work was going on behind him to install a temporary volleyball pit in front of the club pavilion. “As you can see, the National Centre has taken on a new look with the installation of sand for beach volleyball. The Bermuda Government has wholeheartedly thrown its support behind the Games. We have committed $1 million to this event and have worked in partnership with the Organizing Committee to help them achieve their goals.” Added the Minister: “My message to all residents is simple ... it’s time to roll out the red carpet and to welcome the athletes who have worked so hard and made great sacrifices to participate in these Games. Many of the athletes have been raising money for four years for this opportunity to compete. It is a tremendous sacrifice for many and we want our visitors to enjoy the Games and of course our famous Bermudian hospitality. Today I am encouraging everyone to come and support the athletes and cheer on our local competitors.” The Games have demanded tremendous co-ordination of transportation and accommodation and Beard says hosting the Games is a huge undertaking. “We are in a stunningly, exciting time with 16 Bermuda national teams all competing in one week against visitors from overseas, the vast majority of which have never been here and this is a trip of a lifetime for them and we need the community out there,” Beard urged. “We know at times we are going to be disadvantaging some people in the slowdown of traffic for the cyclists and the half marathon, but we need you out there supporting our national teams. The stadium is the only place where there is going to be a charge — there are four sports going on here (track and field, football, volleyball and swimming) — and it will be $5 for adults and free for schoolchildren.” The visiting athletes and officials will be housed in hotels (Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Fairmont Southampton and Grotto Bay) and guest houses while Warwick Camp and schools like CedarBridge, Saltus and Warwick Academy will be used as dorms. “The volunteers are doing a fantastic job, and we can always use more volunteers,” said Beard. “There is a feeling that we want to show off Bermuda and we just want it to be right and put on a Games that everybody can be proud of. This, for me, is what the National Sports Centre should be used for. There will be 300 people competing for Bermuda in one week and that’s pretty incredible. We’ve got media coming in from all of these Islands, a couple of football magazines in the UK sending people out because they think it is quite a unique event and you’ve got the Prime Minister of Faroe coming in as well as sports ministers and people want to do documentaries of the Island while they’re here. I think it is just a great opportunity to sell ourselves for what we are, great people in a lovely place.” Beard admits the Island Games is a costly undertaking for the Island. “Obviously it is costing money and we’re still knocking on some doors trying to get that, because we don’t have a sponsor for volleyball and we don’t have a sponsor for basketball, the two sports that have been in just about every Games that we’ve done,” said Beard. “Government are the biggest sponsor, and then NatWest Bank from the UK. If Government hadn’t come in at the very beginning and offered this it would have been impossible for us to put the Games on. Our budget was close to $3 million.” Public buses will be used to transport the athletes and officials, an area that has taken much planning. “Darrin Lewis (volunteer) has done a fantastic job as transport director for us and PTB have been so helpful and without them it would have been awful to try to organize,” Beard concedes.

July 13. To the throbbing beat of Gombey drums, athletes from 22 islands got their first taste of Bermuda hospitality tonight. And if the smiles on their faces were any indication of what they can expect during the next week of competition, then both they and Bermuda are in for a treat. Opening the fifteenth Island Games at the National Sports Centre, Governor George Fergusson was greeted with rousing cheers from those in the stands, more than 1,500 competitors, coaches and officials along with a similar number of spectators. The culmination of more than two years’ of preparation, the Games were launched, not with pomp or ceremony, but with the welcoming warmth that Games Chairman Jon Beard will hope to extend throughout the biennial festival. The parade of athletes who will compete in 14 sports, represented islands as large as Greenland, 1.2 million square kilometres but with a population of just 56,000, and as small as Gibraltar, 7.2 square kilometres with almost 30,000 people. The Channel island, Alderney, have brought just five athletes but they were applauded as much as the rest during the opening march. Only two of the Island Games members, Rhodes and Sark, were missing. As expected, the hosts have the biggest contingent, 219, who between them will take part in all of the events. But they can expect some stiff competition from the party of 128 from Guernsey and the group of 80 from Jersey who host the next Games. Besides the Governor, Premier Craig Cannonier, Chairman of the International Games Association Jorgen Pettersson and Mr. Beard all extended their greetings but it was the athletes who stole the show as they will in their quest for gold, silver and bronze. Action begins in 12 of the sports on Sunday morning, the triathlon and the cycling road race both starting at 7.00, and finishing with the football match between Bermuda and Greenland that kicks off at 8.00pm.

July 15. The US Treasury Department says it will postpone enforcement of a new law that cracks down on offshore tax avoidance by Americans by six months to give foreign banks more time to figure out how to comply. The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, requires foreign banks, insurance companies and investment funds to send the US. Internal Revenue Service information about Americans’ offshore accounts worth more than $50,000. The United States has struggled to implement FATCA since it was enacted in 2010 following a scandal over secret Swiss bank accounts, Reuters reports, adding, that enforcement of FATCA penalties was delayed once already from an original 2013 start date and has now been pushed back to July 1, 2014. To help implement FATCA worldwide, Treasury officials last year started negotiating deals with foreign governments, Reuters said. Those efforts in part prompted the law’s delay, Treasury said. “We are providing an additional six months to complete agreements with countries and jurisdictions across the globe,” Robert Stack, Treasury deputy assistant secretary for international tax affairs, said in a statement Friday.

July 16. One of Bermuda’s most cherished traditions has been chosen to adorn a new set of Island stamps released this week. Gombeys are the subject of the third set of stamps issued by the Bermuda Post Office for 2013 and they are the first in a planned series focusing on folk life and arts of celebration on the Island. The brightly colored images will be seen around the world, on regular mail and by collectors who order first-day covers or sheets of stamps. “The Gombey dancers are something that are really Bermudian. They’re significant to our heritage and they have not been showcased greatly in past years,” said Stanley Taylor, Bermuda Post Office’s philatelic coordinator. He and his team have been preparing first-day covers to send out to many of the 700 to 800 subscribers who keenly follow Bermuda’s stamp releases some live as far away as Hong Kong and Australia. The stamps, and covers, will be launched on Thursday. Mr Taylor said it was pleasing to know that brightly colorful and iconic images of Bermuda would find their way to distant lands and give people a glimpse of the Island. Those who purchase the first-day covers will also receive liner notes about the Gombeys and their place in Bermuda history. And it is not only committed collectors who will be seeing the stamps: the new release will be on sale as regular stamps for customers mailing letters, parcels and postcards around the world. The Gombey stamps feature close-up details of the dancers’ costumes and dancing movements. It has not yet been decided how many parts the new folk life/art of celebration series of stamps will have, although future stamps may feature such Bermuda events as the recent Portuguese community Feast of the Holy Spirit celebration in St George. Stamp collectors can purchase first-day covers of the new Gombey stamps at the Bermuda Philatelic Bureau, in the main post office, from Thursday. The final new set of stamps for 2013 is scheduled for October and will be on the theme of Bermuda’s ‘mystery rose.’

July 16. Health Minister Patrice Gordon Pamplin refuted suggestions that FutureCare costs were being shifted onto lower-income policy holders. And she attacked the former administration for draining the consolidated fund, making it more difficult for Government to improve benefits. “Had there been money left in the consolidated fund by the previous administration that would have enabled additional benefits to be offered to all FutureCare clients, that would have been the first order of business. The prescription benefits had not been amended by the prior administration, notwithstanding the contention of the former Minister that benefits were running out. This OBA administration will re-evaluate the shabby treatment meted out to our seniors under the former administration and adjustments will be made based on actuarial extrapolations, which will include sustainability considerations.” The comments came in response to parliamentary questions, put forward by Shadow Minister for Health and Seniors Zane DeSilva. Mr DeSilva asked on July 3 what the effect of shifting the cost of premiums for the programme from high-income Bermudians to low-income Bermudians, if the Ministry is opposed to means testing and if prescription benefits would be improved. In a written response issued on Friday, Ms Gordon Pamplin said the cost of FutureCare was not being forced on lower-income policy holders. “When the higher FutureCare premium was instituted, there was no differentiation with respect to ability to pay, as the previous administration never implemented means testing.  Those who signed on to FutureCare in the second and third tranche paid $600 irrespective of their ability to pay. There is therefore no evidence to support the statement that premium has been shifted from higher-income Bermudians to lower-income Bermudians, as both demographics would have been included in the first tranche as well as the second and third. It is incorrect to suggest that those who paid the higher premium on the second and third intakes were financially better off than those who were included in the first intake because the previous administration made no distinction.” She also said the Government has no objection to means testing, but a proper structure must first be developed and put in place for such a scheme to be viable. FutureCare was first launched in April 2009 with a premium of $260, with only those enrolled in the existing Health Insurance Programme (HIP) and over the age of 65 eligible, along with seniors deemed to be “indigent”. In 2010 FutureCare became a two-tier programme, with early adopters paying a premium of $300, while those who joined the programme later paid a premium of $600. Premiums rose to $375 for the first phase and $635 for the second and third phases in 2011. Earlier this year Government announced that it would end the two-tier structure and implement a single premium of $440 for all customers — a cost cut for some but an increase for others.

July 18. One of Bermuda’s most cherished traditions was chosen to adorn a new set of Island stamps. Gombeys are the subject of the third set of stamps issued by the Bermuda Post Office for 2013 and they are the first in a planned series focusing on folk life and arts of celebration on the Island. The brightly colored images will be seen around the world, on regular mail and by collectors who order first-day covers or sheets of stamps. Gombey dancers are really Bermudian. They’re significant to Bermuda's heritage and they have not been showcased greatly in past years. Those who purchase the first-day covers also received liner notes about the Gombeys and their place in Bermuda history. The Gombey stamps feature close-up details of the dancers’ costumes and dancing movements.

2013 July 18 Bermuda Gombey stamps

July 24. The Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) today released its Eighth Annual Bermuda Economic Impact Survey results. The data show that ABIR members’ directly contribute $816 million dollars to the Bermuda economy, but also shows a continuing trend of job reductions in Bermuda. ABIR believes that the aggregate spin-off economic impact of our members in Bermuda is a multiple of that direct contribution to Bermuda’s economy. “ABIR’s members represent the largest business segment in Bermuda, directly and indirectly driving the preponderance of economic activity, jobs, and government revenues,” ABIR said. “As we explained last year, though, our employee headcount is slowly declining in Bermuda as jobs have been shifted to other countries. The detrimental 2010 payroll tax increase, historical difficulties with work permits, the high cost of talent and other matters in Bermuda and extraordinary competitive pressures in our business have all contributed to this.” Mike McGavick, chair of the ABIR Board, and CEO of XL Group, said: “We’re pleased with recent actions the government has recently taken to foster a competitive business environment, including rational reforms on the work permits for the high skilled employees that we need in Bermuda. For every employee we bring to Bermuda, we can create more jobs for Bermudians. We look forward to working with the government on additional changes that may improve our ability to maintain or grow our Bermuda employee base. The trend towards consolidation (five ABIR members have been sold in the last 18 months) will continue to affect our local employment.” ABIR president Brad Kading said: “ABIR’s members employ nearly 1,600 people in Bermuda. Nearly seventy percent of those employees are Bermudian. The Bermuda Monetary Authority has done an excellent job of creating a regulatory environment that meets international standards with robust prudential supervision. More broadly, Government continues to support the high levels of transparency, cooperation, and compliance standards which are necessary to compete in the markets we serve on the global stage. These characteristics allow our members to locate their groups here. Much needs to be done to help Bermuda recover from the extraordinary recession and the government is taking important steps to boost cooperation with the US and the EU, to eliminate red tape on work permits and to encourage residency in Bermuda. We applaud their actions. The total economic contribution is a sum of: travel and entertainment expenses, our payments for business services, our charitable contributions, our real estate costs including housing reimbursement, plus the payroll, noted Bradley Kading, ABIR’s President and Executive Director. ABIR represents 21 international insurance groups all of which have essential underwriting operations in Bermuda. Eighteen ABIR members participated in the survey. Here is a summary of the data:

July 26. Jones Lang LaSalle along with Rego Sotheby's International Realty and GARI Realty have been selected to market for sale the Coral Beach and Tennis Club plus Horizons and Cottages. According to Jones Lang LaSalle yesterday, the club and properties are expected to attract “significant international investor interest.” Asked what it is priced at, a spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette: “There is no set price attached at this point. It is whatever the market will bear.” She said the three firms were engaged by an international lending institution to market for sale the leasehold interest in both the Coral Beach and Tennis Club and Horizons and Cottages properties on Bermuda’s South Shore. The Rego Sotheby’s International Realty team is led by president Buddy Rego and executive vice president Penny MacIntyre. The combined team of Jones Lang LaSalle, Rego and GARI successfully marketed for sale the South Beaches site in Southampton, site of the former Sonesta Hotel, which transacted in March of this year, to the Green family. The resort and properties are set on a combined 52 acres with views and beach shoreline. “A broad marketing effort will occur within the coming weeks,” JLL said. Swedbank AB New York is the mortgage holder for the property and KPMG Advisory has been named Joint Receivers to Coral Beach. New York-based Brickman had purchased the resort plus Horizons from George Wardman’s company with a loan which ended up being held by Swedbank. As part of the lease purchase, Brickman had agreed to annual rental payments of $1 million for the Horizon lease and $1 million for the CBC lease for the next 45 years of the lease.

July 27. Lawmakers yesterday removed a licensing requirement for mixed-status couples who purchase land. Government described the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2013 as “housekeeping” measures. But the Opposition Progressive Labour Party — which had imposed the restrictions when in Government — opposed the move, citing the need to preserve property rights for Bermudians, lambasting Government for not providing relevant data to the House of Assembly and questioning what measures will be in place to prevent the practice of fronting. Introduced by Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley on behalf of Home Affairs Minister Senator Fahy, the changes repealed controversial provisions forcing married couples in which one person is a non-Bermudian to get a licence before purchasing land. “In practice, married couples, where one spouse is a Bermudian, will simply be allowed to acquire property in accordance with the rules and regulations that pertain to a Bermudian with no added regulatory requirements,” said Mr Dunkley. Much of the debate centered around the rationale and history of the licensing requirement. Opposition MPs led by Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban explained that the PLP had first introduced land licensing requirements for mixed-status couples in 2007 to combat the practice of “fronting” — where a Bermudian would stand in as the owner of a property for a non-Bermudian — and because it was unclear how much land was in the hands of non-Bermudians. The 2007 law proved controversial and sparked intense lobbying with opponents claiming it discriminated against Bermudians simply because of the status of their spouse. In 2012, the measure was amended to exempt a couple’s first land purchase from the licence requirement. But Mr Dunkley told the House that the law simply deterred property purchases and created an administrative burden." With the elimination of the requirement to acquire a license for a first property the opportunity to monitor land held by restricted persons using the licensing regime is greatly diminished. The estimated number of licenses ever issued for the purchase of a second or third property under the regime is in the region of three.” He added that in the event of death or divorce of the Bermudian spouse the law already provides for the non-Bermudian to obtain a licence to hold land. “Protecting the rights of Bermudians are paramount when it comes to land,” Mr Roban. He added: “ Any Bermuda Government has a duty to protect the property rights of Bermudians now and Bermudians yet to be born.” And he said that non Bermudian spouses can apply for status after ten years of marriage in any case — a period in which they are unlikely to have paid for their first property. He said the law limits non Bermudian held land to 400 acres per parish and that it was important to know how much land is currently in non Bermudians hands. Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz said the practice of fronting had been rampant before the 2007 legislation and that some companies continued the practice today. But he warned against an “us and them” paradigm and defended the new legislation as part of an effort to boost confidence in the community. “We’re trying to do a number of things to stimulate this economy to stimulate the confidence of Bermudians and non-Bermudians. We’re trying to stimulate inward capital investment and the investment of people in this community who have money. We’re trying to open up the economy and we don’t want people to be frightened by that.” Deputy Opposition Leader Derrick Burgess reminded the House that in 2007, 37 percent of land was owned by non-Bermudians. “We should have had the figures presented to this House today on what percentage of residential property is owned by non-Bermudians, how many non-Bermudians are married to Bermudians at this point, how many non-Bermudians own property,” said Mr Burgess. “These figures would have been most helpful to us.” He warned against “opening the floodgates” without having the data and called on the Government to rise and report progress. Shadow Education Minister Walton Brown rejected the measures saying it was “aided and abetted by the real estate community” and not sensitive to the needs of the vulnerable. “This particular piece of legislation will further marginalize those who are more financially challenged. Those who have will get more. Those who find challenges in this current marketplace will continue to see those challenges in place.” And he noted that the bill could be “effectively illegal” given that the data on non-Bermudian held land was not clear. “We cannot make effective policy in the absence of good data. How do you make policy without knowing what the facts are. Simply being lobbied by the real estate community is not sufficient justification for passing this bill.” Mr Brown rejected what he said were calls by the real estate community to bring prices back to the “unsustainable” levels of 2007. “Who loses in that, Mr Speaker? The average working Bermudian.  I go back to my parents. In 1972, a bartender and a waitress were able to buy a home in this country. What bartender and what waitress today can afford to buy a home in this country? If all you’re going to do is bring forward legislation to benefit the rich, to benefit those who are your strangest lobbyist, then you’ve shirked the responsibility that was given to you on December 17.”

July 29. A lease for Fairmont Hamilton Princess to build a marina in Hamilton Harbour has been given the green light in the House of Assembly. Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz conceded he wasn’t entirely happy with some aspects of the deal, which allows the foreshore to be leased for 120 years in 40-year increments. Government will get an upfront payment of $500,000, followed by a rent of five percent of the marina’s annual income for the first five years — and 7.5 percent for the remainder of the lease. Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean noted the marina had first been discussed under the PLP Government, and asked how much consultation with Marine and Ports had taken place. Shadow Minister Wayne Furbert gave his approval, saying it gave the Island “a new product” for mega-yachts. Mr Moniz told the House that Marine and Ports had been closely involved, adding that the 250ft marina was not considered a shipping hazard. Hinting that similar arrangements were in the works elsewhere in Bermuda, the Minister said: “We have done deals that have not been done this way before.” “There is a lot of risk. If they are successful, we are successful — but we do have the premium upfront.” Mr Moniz admitted he wasn’t “entirely happy with all the clauses”, particularly the breakdown of the lease into 40-year segments. Nonetheless, the lease — which covers 7.8 acres of the foreshore — won broad approval from MPs on Friday.

July 29. The Pink Beach Club is to be sold — and restored as a luxury hotel by 2015. The deal, approved by MPs during Friday’s House of Assembly, comes three years after the Tucker’s Town resort was placed in receivership. Sweeping concessions were offered for the $12.5 million sale, but Government defended its bargain as crucial for sealing the deal. The South Shore hotel has “long been synonymous with the storied success of Bermuda’s tourism industry”, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell told the House. PBC Holdings will purchase Pink Beach, which will be managed by the international chain Capella Hotel Group, in return for tax concessions totaling $6.5 million. The tax breaks add up to $1.3 million annually, spread across five years. Mr Crockwell said the Smith’s property will be converted to a five-star resort with more than 200 employees by 2015, adding: “They will endeavor to open next May, 2014, with most of the hotel.” The Minister called on MPs to act with “the urgency of now”, saying that with the Island’s hotels full but airlines coming in at 50 percent capacity, “something is wrong.” Shadow Minister Wayne Furbert said the Opposition welcomed the deal — but other Progressive Labour Party MPs questioned some of the terms negotiated by Government. Calling the tax breaks “a serious giveaway”, independent MP Terry Lister likened the arrangement to a “50 percent off sale”, adding: “Where do I sign up? This sounds like something I want a piece of too.” Mr Lister also queried how Pink Beach had obtained a more favorable deal than concessions offered to the Fairmont Group. However, the One Bermuda Alliance’s Grant Gibbons countered that the deal represented “a match made in heaven”, since Capella Group is known for high-end resorts. Dr Gibbons said the buyers would be acquiring a property currently in receivership and needed a “sweetener up front” — but that the new hotel would bring long-term revenue to Bermuda. “Even though we have had to provide more concessions, perhaps it’s wrong to say ‘concession’ — really, it’s financial stimulus.” In response to charges that the deal could have been negotiated better, Dr Gibbons told MPs: “One hundred percent of nothing is nothing. From our perspective, if these concessions were not given, we would not be getting anything.” PLP MP Michael Scott declared his support, telling the House that arguments over matters like entertainment spending should be left until later. “For heaven’s sake, let’s get the hotel up,” Mr Scott said, noting that concession legislation passed by the PLP was concerned solely with driving development. In response to questions from Mr Furbert, Mr Crockwell revealed that Pink Beach currently employs 35 Bermudians and eight non-Bermudians. In two years, it is estimated that the hotel will employ 192 Bermudians and 23 foreign workers, to a total of 215 — about 173 new jobs. “We need to welcome this development with open arms,” Mr Crockwell concluded. The order got unanimous approval by MPs. By press time last night, the Ministry of Tourism had declined to specify which investors made up PBC Holdings — but The Royal Gazette understands that the group isn’t linked to the Florida-based company of the same name. Who are PBC Holdings? A Butterfield Bank spokesman last night confirmed the bank had received a letter of intent for the sale of Pink Beach Club. The spokesman called the buyers, PBC Holdings, “a holding company established by a private investor group. We cannot speak for the purchasers or Capella regarding their plans or timeline for renovations to the hotel.” Capella Hotel Group has been appointed managers for Pink Beach, which is to undergo extensive renovations. Capella, founded in 2002, bills itself as a stickler for service. The company’s website lists five hotels of its own, in Germany, Mexico, Singapore and Washington, DC. Capella also specialises in hotel and spa management. The group is headed by Horst Schulze, former president of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Government MP Grant Gibbons called Mr Schulze “an absolute perfectionist” when it came to training. Under a deal approved by Parliament, the company has committed to training Bermudian employees up to a yearly amount of $346,125 for five years. Useful website:

July 29. Government had nothing to do with facilitating talks between developers Carl Bazarian and Nathan Landow over the former Club Med property, insisted Premier Craig Cannonier. Responding to questions raised during Friday’s motion to adjourn by Shadow Minister David Burt, the Premier said: “This Government has nothing to do with the two of them — Bazarian and Landow — coming together.” As reported in this newspaper on July 19, Mr Bazarian is hoping to secure investments for the new Park Hyatt Resort project from Nathan Landow — the Maryland developer who flew three cabinet Ministers in his private jet to a Washington DC meeting in what became known as “jetgate”. Mr Landow confirmed to The Royal Gazette that a joint venture was being explored but said that no decision had been made. And he revealed that both he and Mr Bazarian had submitted plans on the project. Mr Burt referred to the development as “quite shocking.” And he recalled that Mr Cannonier had insisted that no negotiations had taken place at the Washington DC meeting, and that Government had promised in its Throne Speech in February to repeal the Park Hyatt Resort Act and seek a new developer. “Now we hear instead of a repeal, that not only is the old developer still in the picture but the Premier, the Attorney General and the Minister of Tourism’s travel agent is also in the picture as well. This is shocking.” Mr Cannonier rose on a point of order to reject what he described as Mr Burt’s “insinuation.” “Mr Bazarian has the right if he wishes to, to come back and say, ‘I would like to redevelop that property’. It has nothing to do with us,” he added. But Mr Burt went on to quote this newspaper’s report in which Mr Landow said his group had presented a plan to the Government. “The Member is attempting to mislead folks. The timing of this is completely way off target to what he is insinuating.” In February, Government confirmed that it had no plans to invite Mr Bazarian back to the island to thrash out a new agreement. Instead, Government said it would get Parliament to repeal the Act which gave the developer a 262-year lease on the site, making the termination final But in mid March, E Michael Jones, a representative for Mr Bazarian, said that the developer was still in talks with officials — and was hoping to meet with Government. On March 20, Premier Cannonier, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and Attorney General Mark Pettingill were flown to a five hour Washington DC meeting with Mr Landow and his associates in Mr Landow’s private jet, staying two nights at Mr Landow’s expense. The trip sparked intense criticism from the Opposition Party which said it violated the Ministerial Code of Conduct. Government defended itself, saying the meeting was for informational purposes only, and no negotiations had taken place.

August 6. A recommendation by the SAGE Commission that Government implement the mandatory retirement policy for its workers has been met with dismay and a warning from advocacy group Age Concern. "Accepting the recommendation would retard the progress of human rights in Bermuda and could also sow the seeds of a long term social catastrophe," it said. "And Government may well pay a political price should it maintain the policy," added the organisations director Claudette Fleming. Topping the list of six recommendations in the Spending and Government Efficiency Commissions interim report released last week is a recommendation that mandatory policy of retirement at age 65 should be implemented immediately. "Such a policy would move Bermuda further behind Human Rights practices in the global community that legally protect work participation for persons 65 years and older as a core principle toward independence and financial security and thus would certainly not be a promise kept. The statement also seems a contradiction in light of other statements stating Government pensions are woefully under funded and unsustainable in the long-term. What then will be the fate of retiring civil servants after years of faithful service? The powers that be therefore should be duly cautioned not to turn the present spending crisis into a long-term social catastrophe because of a failure to consider the eventual unintended consequences of its action. Public policy is not the same as running private enterprise. When the going gets tough, older adults simply can't just pack up and go home, and they wont. But, they may walk straight to the polls and vote their way out of obscurity if that's what it takes. A thought well worth keeping in mind." Last week, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert called for the SAGE Commission to justify its recommendation. "What they should have recommended to the Government is if people are going to stay on until 70 then certain conditions should not happen. People are living longer and because they are living longer they want to stay working longer. And you don't know what commitments people have, and whilst I do believe that people should one day retire, I believe that people should be able to stay on the job until 70. Should they stay past 70? I think at 70 you should be able to go home. But I certainly believe that the retirement age should be extended on a year-on-year basis to age 70. They should have some documentation that supports why they are saying their recommendation should be upheld by the Government." We asked SAGE Commission chairman Brian Duperreault what findings justified the recommendation. "The fact is Government is spending more than it makes. Costs have to be reduced," Mr Duperreault responded via e-mail. "Adhering to its own policy of retirement at age 65 is one of several good ways to reduce costs. This is also the fairest and least disruptive to the individual employee. He or she receives a pension, and there is no redundancy cost to Government. Adhering to the retirement policy also makes room for others coming along in the system." Both political parties support prohibiting age discrimination in employment. But the workplace was not included in the age discrimination prohibitions of the latest round of amendments to the Human Rights Act. Government has said that it is researching the impact of the change on pensions and retirement. But it went ahead and relaxed the mandatory retirement policy for public school teachers who can now work until 70 with the consent of the Head of the Civil Service in line with the policy for civil servants. And in a cost-cutting deal with all public workers, Government is offering an incentive programme for early retirement targeted at the close to 500 pubic sector workers between 60 and 64. Mr Duperreault was off the Island and had not responded by press time last night when asked whether the SAGE Commission took into account the public policy and human rights trends affecting older workers. Last night, Government confirmed that it was still fully committed to banning age discrimination in the workplace, and that its research and policy considerations were ongoing.

August 7. An MP's claim that Government owes retired seniors a back dated pensions increase was based on a faulty interpretation of the law, The Royal Gazette can report. Shadow Finance Minister David Burt was wrong to claim in the House of Assembly that seniors were owed a $1000 increase, because the Pensions (Increase) Order 2013, which was passed in March, only applies to retired government workers and MPs. On July 26, Mr Burt told his parliamentary colleagues that retired civil servants had received their pensions increases, but other pensioners were still owed about $1,000 in increases, which were also to have been awarded retroactively. "As we approach Cup Match and we hear the chuckles going on, there are seniors who are on fixed incomes and pensions deserving of money that is owed to them by the Government but they haven't gotten their money.  These are not laughing matters. These are the things which we have to discuss." Yesterday a Government spokesman clarified the March Order. "This Order does not apply to all pensioners," said a Finance ministry spokesman. "It does not apply to pensioners under the Contributory Pension Fund." The PLP MP yesterday admitted his mistake over his interpretation of the Order, and promised that it would not happen again. "What I can say is seven months into this job, I'm sure I won't make that mistake again. I can't say that I won't make any more mistakes, but I'll be more careful and if I am wrong, I'll be man enough to admit it as I have in this case." However, despite his mistake, Mr Burt is insistent that all pensioners should receive a cost of living increase, and questioned why they had not yet been given one by the One Bermuda Alliance. Yesterday, Mr Burt said he had been approached by a pensioner who complained, wrongly, that he did not receive his increase as provided by the March Order, but now realized he had been mistaken in his effort to represent the pensioner's concerns. "This matter raises a very important point," Mr Burt told The Royal Gazette. "Although pensioners receiving Social Insurance are not owed any backdated funds as was claimed, they have not had a cost of living increase in their pensions since 2011. If social insurance payments would have been raised when former government employees and former Members of the Legislature effective 2012, some seniors would have been owed up to $946.48 in backdated funds. Even though the Pensions Increase Act requires that pensions are reviewed every two years, this mandatory review does not apply to social insurance. Therefore the question must be asked, when does the government intend to review and consider a cost of living increase to pensioners receiving social insurance? Though the laws that govern social insurance do not require a biennial review, the Progressive Labour Party gave social insurance recipients an increase at a minimum of every two years. It has been two years since the last increase so seniors are rightfully asking, where is their cost of living increase? Seniors receiving social insurance are not owed any backdated funds, but they are owed an explanation as to why the OBA government has decided to, for the first time in 13 years, not give a biennial increase to Bermuda's Seniors, many of whom depend on their Social Insurance receipts."

August 7. A veteran leader of Bermuda’s international re/insurance industry called on Government to enact bolder reforms to prevent further loss of job creators. John Charman, chairman and chief executive officer of Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd, said if executives continued to be treated like “second-class citizens”, then they would “vote with their feet.” While Mr Charman felt the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) Government had made some good moves since being elected last December, he said the Island’s leaders needed to make more substantive changes to improve the business environment in the economic interests of all residents. “The time for trimming around the edge has long gone,” Mr Charman told The Royal Gazette. “Business expects.” While he did not specifically outline the policy changes that he would like to see, he did refer to a 2012 study by the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), which showed that the five ABIR members who had traditionally had the largest Bermuda-based workforces had cut staff numbers by almost a quarter in the space of four years, as dozens of executives had left or been relocated. “We simply cannot afford to lose those people who create both jobs and prosperity,” Mr Charman said. “As I have said many times before, I do not want to be treated like a second-class citizen — if executives continue to be treated like second-class citizens, then they will vote with their feet.” When a C-suite executive relocates, other jobs are often lost to Bermuda, as entire teams relocate with them, and the support staff who worked with them are no longer needed on the Island. Many executives have privately stated that Immigration rules that create doubt over their length of stay on the Island and restrictions on property ownership do not give them a sense of belonging in the community — even when they are the co-builders of a companies that employ significant numbers and contribute strongly to the economy. Mr Charman founded Axis Capital Holdings Ltd in 2001 and led the company for more than a decade before he was ousted by the company’s board last year in a disagreement over his responsibilities as chairman. He was unveiled as the new man at the helm of Endurance in late May, having invested some $30 million of his family’s money in the company. Mr Charman is a strong supporter of Bermuda and has a home on the Island. He urged Government to act now to reinvigorate the international business sector. “For a number of reasons, I think the Bermuda market has been on the back foot for about three years,” he said. “Among those reasons are the global financial crisis, regulatory pressures and domestic political pressure. At the end of the day, Bermuda, its Government and its people either want to resolve or ameliorate these issues or they won’t. International business will react accordingly. It’s not for us to dictate what government policy is or does. But if there’s one thing that is as sure as night follows day, it’s that international business will continue to react to the business environment here. My personal view is that the Government is trying its best, having been dealt a very bad hand by the previous administration. My advice to them would be that you can’t be all things to all people. They were elected to lead. They should absolutely show their leadership qualities and they will be judged accordingly. They have significantly changed the direction and emphasis of government, but they still have so much more to do. There has to be fundamental and substantive change.” Mr Charman hopes to see a more proactive approach to enable Bermuda to compete more strongly against rival jurisdictions. “I think Bermuda is as well placed for growth today as it ever has been,” he said. “But it takes Government and business to work together to recognize opportunity and to seize it. Instead of sitting back, we have to understand that life is not about waiting for business to come to us. We have to go out there and show that we deserve to be a very important factor in the global economy. Otherwise, we’ll wither on the vine. And that is not what I, or my business, are going to do.” As a Briton who started out in the Lloyd’s market, where he built his reputation in the industry, Mr Charman watched with interest June’s events when Premier Craig Cannonier, along with other British Overseas Territories leaders, met UK Prime Minister David Cameron in London. Mr Cameron apparently stressed the need for more transparency, in no uncertain terms. Mr Charman accused the British Government of hypocrisy. “It looks from afar as if there is a substantial amount of hypocrisy being demonstrated by the UK Government in their relationships with Overseas Territories, as they have had for some time an aggressive marketing campaign for high net-worth individuals from all sorts of rather dubious jurisdictions who are now located — and to all intents and purposes tax-sheltered — in London,” he said. “All these individuals appear to have had to do was pay a rather paltry sum and be free of most oversight. This holier-than-thou attitude of the UK Government rings a bit hollow to me. So I commend the Premier of Bermuda in standing up and demanding transparency and fairness. In Bermuda we should be very proud of the fact that we have high standards of transparency and I see no reason to apologies for that. The standards of disclosure in Bermuda are very strong. My long-standing personal and corporate experience of Bermuda has been that it is among the highest standards practiced internationally in this regard.” Another major international challenge for Bermuda is the threat of legislation in the US that could damage the prospects for the Island’s insurance industry, such as the Neal bill, which would impose greater US tax obligations on some Bermuda-based re/insurance groups with US subsidiaries, for example. Mr Charman encouraged Government to tackle the issue head on. “I think the Bermuda Government needs to upgrade and modernize its trading relationship with the United States,” he said. “Bermuda needs to have some kind of all-embracing agreement on goods and services with the US, because it needs to be open, transparent and we need to move on. Otherwise we’re going to end up with an outdated and confused situation, which could become highly sensitive for the future. Government has a responsibility to deal with this. The best way to deal with an issue is to go headlong at it and get it dealt with." He used Switzerland as an example of the potential benefits of such an approach. “Switzerland has had problems with the high net-worth individuals who have failed to declare their assets to the US Government and have apparently been shielded by Swiss banks,” he said. “The Swiss are now in the thick of renegotiating their trading relationships and tax treaties with the US. And once it’s done, then they’ll be able to continue their business activity while the US will go and focus on somebody else — probably Bermuda.”

August 13. The organs of a British man who died in Bermuda were removed without the consent or knowledge of his family - and have never been found, an inquest in East Somerset, England, heard today. Construction worker Norman Palmer, 57, died in a hospital on the island, where he moved 30 years ago with his wife Kathleen, after suffering respiratory problems. When his body was flown back to the UK and his home town of Yeovil in Somerset a week later, it emerged many of his organs - including his brain, kidney and throat - were missing. An inquest held in Wells in Somerset heard Mr Palmer was not an organ donor and his family were not informed before or after the 'mutilation'. The organs have never been traced and no explanation given, though a pathologist in Bermuda later offered to return Mr Palmer’s throat to British authorities, the hearing was told. Mr Palmer died at Bermuda’s King Edward VII Memorial Hospital on April 12 2008 following a long-standing respiratory problem, caused by a combination of asthma and an old shotgun wound. His wife Kathleen Palmer told East Somerset Coroner’s Court her husband had been denied his final wish of a cremation thanks to the removal of his organs, which meant there was a potential need for further post-mortem examinations. Mrs Palmer told the hearing: 'I still cannot come to terms with the fact that Norman is lying in a grave in the UK. 'I cannot bring myself to think of what the pathologist did to Norman and how she brutally mutilated his body. It is beyond my comprehension. 'We didn’t bury a human being, we only buried a shell of the person who was my companion and soul mate. 'Someone needs to be held responsible for this despicable act. He need never have died. 'I cry myself to sleep every night. I can never come to terms with the fact that Norman need not have died and what happened to his body after his death.' The inquest heard that when Mr Palmer was 16 he suffered a shotgun wound when the weapon he was carrying accidentally discharged. He received lifesaving treatment but later developed fibrosis on the soft tissue, which led to the narrowing to his airway over the years. The long-term smoker, who suffered from asthma, began complaining of flu-like symptoms in 2007 and was treated by his GP of 20 years, Dr Marion Hoefert. On April 6 2008, he was admitted to hospital and was diagnosed as having an obstruction of his airway by Dr Ashfaq Syed. Dr Ashfaq Syed advised Mr Palmer to see on-call specialist Dr Wesley Millar, but Mr Palmer refused, as he wanted to see his own consultant, the inquest heard. Mrs Palmer said: 'We were never advised as to the seriousness of Norman’s condition, nor the consequences his decision would have.' Three days later, on April 9, Mr Palmer visited his GP, who insisted his breathing difficulties were 'asthma-related' and prescribed more inhalers for treatment. Mr Palmer followed Dr Hoefert’s advice and planned to attend a scan she booked on April 14. But on April 12, Mr Palmer began experiencing extreme breathing difficulties while at home with his wife. He decided to take a shower, hoping it would help, but he rapidly deteriorated 'in a matter of minutes' and Mrs Palmer dialed 911 at 4.45pm. The court was told the ambulance was delayed in reaching the Palmers' home - just a two minute drive from the hospital - as the driver decided to reverse into the lane. 'There was no sense of urgency,' Mrs Palmer said. 'I was watching my husband slowly suffocating. Mr Palmer arrived at the hospital at 5.07pm and 'in severe respiratory distress'. He went into cardiac arrest and died at 5.25pm.Mrs Palmer later returned to the hospital to visit her husband in the morgue but her request was refused. The family claimed medical staff were disrespectful, laughing in front of the family minutes after Norman’s death. Mr Norman, a long-term smoker, suffered from asthma. He began complaining of flu-like symptoms in 2007. 'I told her (a member of mortuary staff) I didn’t like the idea of him being alone down there,' Mrs Palmer said. 'I was told "I can assure you Mrs Palmer, he won’t be alone."' A post-mortem examination in Bermuda found the cause of death was respiratory failure. At an inquest in Bermuda, coroner Khamisi Tokunbo recorded that Mr Palmer died of natural causes, as a result of self-neglect. Mr Palmer’s family contested the finding and appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, who upheld it. Mr Palmer’s body was flown back to Britain on April 20 2008. But a second post-mortem examination carried out by a British pathologist found Mr Palmer had been repatriated with most of his organs missing. Dr Ed Cooper, a pathologist at Yeovil District Hospital, noted Mr Palmer’s kidney, spleen, brain, throat, thyroid, prostate, bladder, small and large intestine had been removed. He recorded the cause of death as respiratory failure caused by asthma related mucus plugging on the bronchi and laryngeal fibrosis. But East Somerset Coroner Tony Williams questioned the original finding as he recorded a narrative conclusion  'Self-neglect should only be recorded when there is a gross failure to obtain basic medical attention,' he said. 'Mr Palmer was taking medical advice and following the advice of his doctor.' Mr Williams said he was unable to include the details of Mr Palmer’s missing organs in his formal conclusion. But he added: 'I am satisfied that these body parts would have been removed in Bermuda because of the lack of the Human Tissue Act. That meant the family were not advised of the removal and it only came to light as a result of further examination in this country. I have to say it is not uncommon for bodies to be returned to this country with body parts missing.' Speaking after the inquest, Mr Palmer’s family said the inquest in Britain was a positive step but 'doesn’t finish the story'. Heather Carberry, sister of Mr Palmer, said: 'None of us have any idea what happened to my brother’s organs. We still don’t know what happened. 'All of his organs apart from one kidney are missing. They mutilated my brother. It is like a horror story. Where are his body parts? What did they do with them? What were they used for? Why didn’t they put them back? 'I believe that if this had happened in the UK it wouldn’t have come to my brother even needing to call an ambulance. He would still be alive.' The East Somerset coroner recorded a narrative conclusion, confirming he died of respiratory failure caused by asthma related mucus plugging his lungs combined with a build of scar tissue from his old gun shot injury.

August 17. The $70 million renovation of the Hamilton Princess is set to break ground in September. A spokesman for the Green family confirmed reports reaching our newsroom that work on the marina will begin next month — exactly one year after the family purchased the landmark hotel. “The Green family intend to commence initial work on the marina construction in September. It will have no impact on hotel operations or staff,” she said. Government has granted the Greens $14.2 million in tax breaks related to the facelift. Most of that will be spent on marketing the redeveloped hotel, while the remainder is slated for training Bermudians and local entertainment. Besides building a state-of-the-art marina and restaurant, the developers plan a new pool area and landscaping, and the refurbishment of 69 rooms and suites in the Poinciana wing, and expect to hire 120 people on the site by November. Work is scheduled to be completed by the beginning of next summer.

August 17. Tighter security, faster internet and a continuing push for academic excellence are top priorities for the year ahead at Saltus, said new Head Teacher Claire Charlemagne. Saltus's first female head also looks forward to strong push for professional development among staff through the schools partnership with the National College for Teaching and Leadership in the UK. Ms Charlemagne said the appointment of a woman to the top management role sends a powerful statement about the school. "It's making history, but it feels very natural. Sometimes people ask me things like what are you going to do for the girls? And the answer is nothing that I wouldn't do for the boys. It's about providing for the needs of our students, whatever they might be. I can be a good role model for our female students, but beyond that I should be judged solely by whether my leadership is effective or not." After 11 years at the school, including head of Modern Languages and Deputy Head under former Head Teacher Ted Staunton, Ms Charlemagne knows the school well. " My passion is the students, their achievements and making sure these fantastic children that come to us achieve what they are capable of, and more." The secondary departments exam results improved under her predecessor, from a GCSE pass rate of 76 percent in 2009 to 89 percent last year. The declining enrolment of the recessions onset is no longer of concern: Saltus has 948 students for this September. Ms Charlemagne said: "Ted Staunton made a conscious effort to right-size the school,  We had grown too big our ideal number is anything between 900 and a maximum of 960. The school has become much more selective of its students. That's not necessarily in terms of academic ability, but our admissions process is much more rigorous to make sure that Saltus is the absolute right fit, that were fully able to provide for students needs. Saltus had made a concerted effort to cater to students with special learning needs although the former Centre for Learning is now called the Academic Support Services, and there has been a deliberate step away from using separate classrooms to teach students with different needs. Two additional posts have been added to that department, using existing teachers qualified to give academic support where needed. As well as keeping abreast of the times with the appointment of Director of Educational Technology Jane Hizer, Saltus has enhanced security, with extra security cameras, a new front gate and a full-time security guard. I see my role as continuing along the path were already on. We've still got four years to go in our five-year strategic plan. The overarching goals are set. My focus is on teaching and learning."

August 19.  Government debt continues on an easy uphill climb, revenues were weaker than expected last year and the economy is limping along, according to the latest Government report. But the Finance Ministry manages a glimmer of optimism in its just released fiscal performance update and economic review. A total of 226 new Bermudian hires were recorded for the second quarter of this year. Their employers will benefit from the Government's two-year payroll tax holiday policy initiative announced in the Budget. And, reports the Finance Ministry, the first six months of 2013 saw 470 new international companies and partnerships registered in Bermuda, a 13.5 percent increase over the 414 registrations in 2012. Another positive sign, Government says, was a 0.5 percent increase in employment income in the first quarter of 2013, to $883.3 million compared to the same period a year ago. And, primarily driven by the redevelopment of the King Edward Memorial Hospital, activity in the construction sector in the first quarter doubled from an estimated value of work put in place of $23.2 million in 2012 to $46.0 million in 2013. But there is no expectation that the economy will begin to grow again before next year.  Overall, the Ministry of Finance anticipates that Bermuda's GDP will be flat to negative 0.75 percent in 2013, the report states. Higher costs for food, healthcare, overseas travel and accommodations have ensured a two percent inflation rate, and consumer spending in retail outlets between January and June is down $1.2 million or 0.2 percent to $514.0 million. Of that amount, approximately $487.2 million was spent locally while $26.8 million was spent overseas. The first quarter of 2013 also saw a 4.5 percent decline in the number of visitors to the Island. While air visitors declined by one percent, the decline in cruise visitors was more drastic at 45.4 percent, due to the fact that ships coming to the Island in 2012 had a much greater capacity. Total visitor spending was down by 4.5 percent settling, at $34.1 million. Bermuda's banks saw a 4.9 percent decrease in assets and gave out 7.7 percent less loans and advances in the first quarter of 2013 than the same period a year earlier. The Finance Ministry also gave highlights of the unaudited accounts of the Consolidated Fund. Fiscal 2012/13 $877.1 million in total revenue, down $37.1 million (4.1 percent) from the previous year's revenue ($914.2 million). Revenues were also below the original budget estimates by approximately $32.5 million (3.6%), primarily due to weak Customs Duty collections which were $28.8 million below budget estimates, the report states. The most significant generators of revenues for fiscal 2012/13 were Payroll Taxes, accounting for $339.2 million and Customs Duty, accounting for $171.2 million. But current expenses, excluding debt service for fiscal 2012/13, at $974.7 million, were down 1.6 percent, while total capital account cash expenditure at $63 million was $3.5 million higher than the previous year. Government paid out $81.5 million in interest on long term debt,  $31.5 million from the Consolidated Fund and $50 million from the Sinking Fund. Net Public Debt, which excludes guarantees and is net of the Sinking Fund, increased by $240.9 million (2012 ? $234.0 million) during fiscal 2012/13 standing at $1.477 billion (2012 ? $1.236 billion) at the end of the year. This represents a 19.6% increase from fiscal 2011/12. Revenues for the current fiscal year so far total $208.7 million ? $0.3 million higher than the first quarter of last year and on track with estimates. But current spending, at $247.3 million is $3 million lower than last year but above budget. First quarter capital expenditures were $17.7 million, roughly $9.5 million higher than in June 2012 -primarily due to expenditures related to the Heritage Wharf project. Total current and capital spending to date, excluding debt service, is $6.2 million higher than last year's spend. Government has spent $33.2 million in servicing the debt in the first quarter, $23.8 million was interest payments, while $9.4 million went into the Sinking Fund. Interest expenses are $15 million higher than 2012. This is principally due to a portion of the 2012 interest expense being paid from the Sinking Fund in 2012,? according to the report. On June 30, 2013, central Government gross debt, excluding guarantees, stood at $1.683 billion, while net debt was $1.586 billion. Government is aiming for $871.2 million in total revenue for its $1.1 billion budget this fiscal year. Capital spending is budgeted at $84.6 million. 

August 19.  An American couple took the plunge when they visited Bermuda to get married this week — by taking part in a spot of cliff-jumping after their wedding ceremony. Matthew Pelletier, 36, and Kim Turgeon, 35, from Portland, Maine, arrived aboard the cruise ship Norwegian Breakaway on Wednesday along with almost 40 wedding guests. Software development manager Mr Pelletier and his bride, who works in export operations, then tied the knot at The Reefs Hotel on Thursday evening. And if getting married wasn’t nerve-racking enough, the newlyweds decided to tackle another butterfly-inducing experience on their first full day as man and wife — by taking a 25ft leap of faith from rocks off Horseshoe Bay dressed in their full wedding ceremony finery on Friday morning. Having taken one big step into marital bliss, the couple showed no fear as they calmly held hands and took their second big step — this time into maritime bliss — and were cheered on by delighted crowds as they emerged from the water. The couple left Bermuda aboard Breakaway on Friday evening, arriving in New York yesterday evening. Back on dry land, Mr Pelletier last night told The Gazette that the decision to take the plunge had nothing to do with the Bermuda summertime tradition of cliff-jumping. Instead, the couple were continuing a family tradition of testing the waters during wedding ceremonies. “I’m not sure how it started, but we have a history of ending up in the water at weddings — believe it or not, we live near the water in Portland, Maine,” he said. The couple, who became engaged last September, had tried to come out to Bermuda on previous occasions but had been thwarted by bad weather. “We wanted a tropical location and Bermuda is so convenient as most of our family is in the northeast,” Mr Pelletier said. “We tried to go a couple times previously, earlier and later in the year, and got unlucky with the weather.” And he confirmed that last week’s regular downpours were the only cause for jitters on their big day. But that once the clouds had lifted, the ceremony — and their plunge into the ocean — went ahead just swimmingly. “The only nerve-racking part of our entire time in Bermuda was the weather the morning of the wedding. It started out foggy and rainy but ended up perfect for the wedding — complete with an amazing sunset. We absolutely love Bermuda.”

August 20.  Allowing gaming in Bermuda would make it easier for hotel developers to compete for investment funds, says one developer. But Craig Christensen who with Brian Dupperault, and Nelson Hunt, propose to build a $2 billion luxury resort at Morgan’s Point, indicated that gaming is not necessarily a panacea. “For the major development at Morgan’s Point, gaming would be extremely useful in expanding our potential market of investors,” Mr Christensen told The Royal Gazette. “In the absence of gaming, the playing field is tilted in favour of our Caribbean neighbours to our South to receive funding from investors and tourism dollars. Gaming would allow us to try and level the playing field. Without gaming, major developments in Bermuda are going to face an uphill battle. Gaming is not new, we would simply be catching up to other jurisdictions. Even with gaming, future developments will require far more vision and creativity to be successful and competitive.” Government is under pressure from the business community and developers to legislate gaming without a referendum. But, while there appears to be some division over the issue within the One Bermuda Alliance, Premier Craig Cannonier has said that his administration will stick to its election promise to have the people decide in a referendum. While Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell has said the referendum will take place by year’s end, Government is yet to pass the legislation which would set the stage for the poll. Nor has it launched any kind of awareness campaign to educate the public on what gaming would mean for Bermuda. But parliament reopens next month and a “full explanation” and update will be given then, said Mr Crockwell last night. A law would have to be passed to hold the gaming referendum and the Referendum Act 2012 requires that the Premier give notice of the poll within 90 days. The law also provides that the voter turnout must be at least 50 percent for a yes vote to prevail. Financing appears to be a major sticking point for at least three proposed developments. And Government has indicated a willingness to facilitate guarantees to help out. In the latest development, Finance Minister Bob Richards has announced that he is considering a guarantee so that the Morgan’s Point developers can engage in loan talks. Mr Richards said Government’s guarantee was necessary because the developers had told him that environmental remediation issues were making it harder to negotiate a loan for the first phase of the project. Yesterday, Mr Christensen clarified the position. “It is not the remediation process, but rather that many institutions will simply not finance any polluted site as part of their policy. Even though we have had a commitment from The Bermuda Government, this has not satisfied those lending institutions,” he said. Mr Christensen said whether gaming is legalized or not would not impact financing for the first phase of the project  The former Progressive Labour Party Government agreed to take responsibility for the clean-up after it gave the developer 80 acres of the 240-acre brownfield site in exchange for reserve land at Southlands in 2008. Government then spent three years in talks with the US Government in an attempt to persuade Washington to pay for the remediation work, but in March 2011 the then-Works & Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess confirmed that those talks had failed, and that the taxpayer would be hit with a cleaning bill in the region of $35-$38 million. The land swap agreement was legally finalized in June 2012 and clean-up work began shortly after.

August 27. SAGE Commission Chairman Brian Duperreault has defended its recommendation that Government implement its mandatory retirement age policy saying it would have the least economic impact on pension age civil servants and make room for others to move up Governments career ladder. The recommendation caused some concern at seniors advocacy group AGE Concern which warned that it could have unintended consequences and would retard the progress of human rights in Bermuda. But Mr Duppereault said the recommendation should be placed in its proper context as a short term issue to address a cost problem. "It's no statement that we think everyone should retire at 65. It's a context statement that says mandatory retirement at 65 is the policy of the government, we are saying adhere to that policy." Government has indicated its intention to ban age discrimination in the workplace, and is researching the impact of the change on pensions and retirement. It has already relaxed the mandatory retirement policy for public school teachers who can now work until 70 with the consent of the head of the Civil Service in line with the policy for civil servants. But in a cost-cutting deal with all public workers, Government is offering an incentive programme for early retirement targeted at the close to 500 public sector workers between 60 and 64. "If the policy should be changed, then address the policy. All we said was that's your policy, so stick to it," Mr Duperreault said. But he agreed that the financial impact of the recommendation was not a big amount. "It's just one suggestion among many for short term action, that's all this was." Mr Duppereault said the Commission did the necessary analysis but he was unwilling to provide concrete figures such as the financial impact of implementing the policy and its also unclear how many currently employed civil servants are 65 or over. Some high profile Government employees in their sixties are civil service head, Donald Scott, Assistant Cabinet Secretary Judith Hall-Bean, and Ellen Kate Horton who retired but was taken on again as a consultant. "This one has the least impact economically on the people who will be leaving the service because they have a pension," he said. "That's a reasonable thing to do. I don't think its contradictory." Mr Duperreault said he appreciated that the issue had stimulated discussion about Bermudas ageing population. "We are getting older. It's putting a big strain on our pensions. We have fewer and fewer younger people in our workforce. Our system is the young support the old. There are fewer young to support the old. There has to be certainly a dialogue about what this means to us as a community, and how we address pensions. So this question of living longer and working longer is I think very important to us. And is particularly important with respect to the pension obligation we have."

August 31. Plans are afoot to change a St David’s restaurant into a nursing facility for seniors. A planning application by the Kwaanza Trust, proposes turning a building at 11 Mount Road, which currently houses several apartments and the Lighthouse Grill restaurant, into a “nursing facility for senior care”. If approved, the “Wilbur Lowe Sr Nursing Facility” could house as many as 43 seniors, while offering day care and respite care. A business plan included in the application states that the home is hoped to offer long-term and short-term care for seniors and others who suffer “relatively stabilized chronic diseases” or a functional disability and require personal care. According to the application, renovations and additions to the building would include the instillation of several handicapped bathrooms and an elevator, along with the creation of 17 two-person bedrooms and three three-person bedrooms.

September 3. During the month of August several generations of the extended family of St George Tucker made a special visit to Bermuda all the way from South Africa and the United Kingdom. They are the third, fourth and fifth generation family members of the late Bermudian historian and author Terry Tucker and her husband Harry St George Tucker. A great opportunity to meet with their Bermuda relations this was a highlight of the Tuckers holiday trip. Terry Tucker and her husband Harry St George Tucker had one son who was also named Harry St George Tucker. Harry St George Tucker II was a Rhodes scholar and went to Oxford University. He afterwards joined the Royal Air Force, met an English girl and after the war raised four children in South Africa. One of his sons Colin along with his wife Helen and their four children and eight grandchildren were staying at the Coco Reef Hotel on the week of August 17th.

Tucker family in Bermuda in 2013

South African Colin Tucker, son of Bermudian Rhodes Scholar Harry St George Tucker II and grandson of the late Harry St. George Tucker and his wife the late Terry Tucker  is shown with his wife Helen Tucker and their four children and eight grandchildren at the CoCo Reef Hotel last month.

September 5. By Peter Hardy, a member of the Sage Commission. Census reports for 2000 and 2010 show that the number of Bermuda’s population aged 65 years and over (our “seniors”) increased from 6,722 in 2000 to 8,683 in 2010. This is an increase of 29.17 percent in ten years. During that period, the number of seniors as a percentage of the total population has also increased, from 11 percent to 14 percent. In 2000, the median age of Bermuda’s population was 37, but by 2010 it had risen to 41. By 2010, 67 percent of over 65s were retired. However, of those in the 65-69 age group, almost half (48 percent) were employed, one quarter of those working as shop and market sales workers and service workers which are generally the lower paid categories of employment. These statistics underscore the fact that Bermuda’s population has been part of an ageing trend. Government’s Statistical Office suggests that this trend will continue and, by 2030, seniors will comprise 22 percent of the total population. What is contributing to our ageing population? Reasons include fewer children being born to each mother, an improved lifespan for older persons (based on improved living conditions that incorporate better healthcare and housing standards) and improved social support mechanisms. Younger persons leaving Bermuda in mid-decade has also recently been identified as a contributing cause of the ageing trend. Why should the SAGE Commission, which was established to examine Government expenditures, be concerned about a population that is growing older and has increasing numbers of people past the age of 65? The age of 65 has been considered as a traditional retirement age since Germany’s Chancellor Bismarck promoted the concept of pensions in the nineteenth century, when the average lifespan was some 25 years shorter than it is today. While the lifespan in developed countries has increased, the “retirement” or “pensionable” age has remained the same. People now live well past 65 years, and in good health, resulting in many more becoming dependent on post-retirement benefits than ever before. More now find it necessary, as well as personally desirable, to continue to work past the traditional “retirement age.” However, not all ageing persons are able to provide for themselves. For more than a century, socially responsible governments have been introducing measures such as state pensions and benefits to sustain their populations. 

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT TO SENIORS. Benefits to seniors have often been provided by way of tax reliefs or subsidies which are equivalent to government spending. Others are provided by way of direct contributions to social support schemes introduced by governments and funded by taxpayers, most of whom are employees. There is no magic source of revenues for a government to spend on benefits. They come from taxes paid by the general population, and most from the working population. If the demand for government expenditures on benefits increases, changes in expenditure priorities have to be considered or adjustments made to the overall level of revenues raised. Problems arise when the long-term nature of retirement liabilities cuts across the lives of governments that may have different social priorities. If we accept that an increasing number of over-65s requires an increasing number of government services, an examination of a government’s expenditure profile on those services shapes its national ageing strategy. In Bermuda, we have heard calls for such a strategy to be formalized. The SAGE Commission is not designed to produce that strategy. It is, however, designed to look at Government’s expenditures. Some of the significant areas of expenditure that Government has incurred by providing subsidized benefits to seniors in Bermuda are:

• Healthcare subsidies to treatment at the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) and at the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute (MAWI), that begin at age 65 and increase with age.

• Land tax relief to persons on their primary residence, provided that its Annual Rental Value (ARV) is below a prescribed level.

• Relief from Stamp Duty on the value of the primary residence if included in an estate at death.

• Motor vehicle licensing relief for various classes of vehicles licensed by private individuals who are over 65.

• Free access to public transportation in the form of buses and ferries.

• Financial Assistance directly to those who can establish a need. Seniors feature among the beneficiaries. Fifty-six percent of households headed by over 65s are considered poor or near poor. These numbers are likely to increase as the general population grows older.

All of these benefits cost money to administer and undercut Government’s revenue base.


Social Insurance Scheme. 

The Department of Social Insurance exists to operate the Social Insurance Scheme. Each worker in Bermuda contributes to this scheme on the basis of his or her employment record. While the scheme provides retirement benefits to the over 65s, the benefits aren’t generally enough to sustain individuals who have no other source of income. Social Insurance benefits are not paid from the Consolidated Fund (the Bermuda Government’s general operating fund), but Government does contribute to the Contributory Pension Fund as an employer. Social Insurance is structured so that benefits from the Contributory Pension Fund are paid in relation to contributions. The NPP, with a defined minimum contribution, may have either predetermined benefits or benefits related to contributions. The Contributory Pension Fund is currently under funded by $2.06 billion. If current actuarial assumptions remain unchanged, resources will be exhausted by 2047. Government would be faced with a serious social problem if that were to happen.

National Pension Plan

The National Pension Plan (NPP) was introduced to assist employees in saving for retirement and to provide other income to supplement the Social Insurance benefit at age 65. The Pension Commission was established to oversee the NPP. Government contributes to its cost.

Government Employees’ Pensions

The Government contributes separately as an employer to the Public Service Superannuation Fund (PSSF), a pension fund established for the benefit of civil servants and other Government employees, and to the Ministers and Members of the Legislature Pensions Fund (MMLPF), which was established for parliamentarians. These groups receive benefits that are defined in advance of the number of contributions they make, and which are not dependent on the number of contributions. In addition, Government is obliged to pay into the PSSF on behalf of each of its employees on an ongoing basis. If the PSSF ever reaches a level that is insufficient to pay out the promised benefits, (and the PSSF is currently under funded by $973 million and, on the basis of current actuarial advice, will run out of funds in 35 years), those benefits would have to be paid out of Government’s Consolidated Fund — i.e. its tax revenues. The Government also contributes to the MMLPF on behalf of Ministers and Members of the Legislature (elected MPs and appointed Senators). Costs for this plan are higher than those for the PSSF participants. Its benefits also accrue faster. The costs of these pension funds and the potential liabilities that may be incurred through them are sound reasons why the SAGE Commission is examining the circumstances of these funds.


The ageing population places greater demands on pension funds as employees retire. An ageing population tends to reduce the number of employees contributing to pension funds and increasingly shifts the burden of funding a government’s ageing strategy to the taxpayers. Fewer contributions are made to pension and health schemes just as the demands on them are growing. Government projections anticipate that by 2030, there will be 62 children and elderly for every 100 persons of working age. There will be 36 persons aged 65 and over for every 100 persons of working age, or 2.8 workers for each person aged over 65. Estimates suggested to the SAGE Commission have shown that by 2051, there may be less than two contributions into the Contributory Pension Fund for every benefit payment. In Bermuda, the issue is aggravated by the fact that the funds were not fully funded at the outset and also that there are beneficiaries receiving pensions who did not contribute from the beginning of their working lives. Clearly, on the basis of all forecasts, there will be a community cost of sustaining the ageing population and it will apparently have to be met from a shrinking tax revenue base if Government is to carry the burden. Seniors have a propensity to consume more health services. Government is currently considering how best these should be provided and paid for. Opportunities will be created as demand increases for specialized services to seniors (the majority of whom will be women) and the private sector as well as Government should be alert to them. Arguments can be made both for the continued employment of the over-65s and the raising of the retirement age above 65. Ageing is an inevitable issue that Bermuda has to address. The SAGE Commission will look at a portion of it, making recommendations that are financially sound and supportive in respect of pension funds and Social Insurance. As the Commission examines the effect an ageing population has on the country’s benefits structures, some key questions arise that merit careful consideration:

• Should Government be carrying the principal burden of cost of our ageing population?

• Should Government be directing expenditures towards seniors or subsidizing services?

• Should Bermuda’s tax structure be reviewed in light of needs arising from an ageing population?

• Should Government’s ageing strategy incorporate amendments to immigration policy to provide more persons of a working age to support Bermuda’s retirees?

• Individuals now have some $2 billion in NPP funds to their credit. As the country moves towards the creation of and dependence on defined contribution schemes, do we need more community education on retirement matters?

In the final analysis, the Bermuda public has to consider the totality of the ageing issue, as it includes all of us, and we must answer some important questions in the immediate future. How will the population of Bermuda support itself as it grows older? Should the responsibility rest with individuals, a private sector collective, or Government through its taxation policy? These are complex issues that won’t be resolved easily. We need to work together to consider how to strike a sustainable balance between fiscal and social responsibility.

September 11. The Bermuda Hospitals Board could be in debt by $200 million within five years if nothing is done to curb healthcare costs, according to the board’s chairman. Speaking at a meeting of the Hamilton Rotary Club, Jonathan Brewin issued fresh warnings that the scale of the financial problem facing the board “should concern us all” and that changes to the healthcare system are “necessary and unavoidable.” Mr Brewin began his presentation by outlining a series of increased costs that the BHB was facing, including the withdrawal of a Government subsidy to pay for the $14 million-a-year Continuing Care Unit, construction costs for a soon-to-be-completed acute care wing, an increased cost base because of higher patient demand for services, and a new $650,000-a-year administrative bill to pay for work permit applications. “More money will be going out and, as the Board discovered in the month it was appointed, even less money was going to be coming in. Accepting the status quo is like sitting down in a leaky boat and not realizing that we don’t have long before we go under. We will sink if we do not swim.” Painting a grim picture of the state of health funding on the Island, Mr Brewin acknowledged that “the road ahead looks hard, steep and painful”, and that “we have a tough challenge.” But he also stressed that solutions could be found, and that the BHB was working in partnership with the wider community “to assist in developing a financial sustainability plan. We certainly are standing at a moment in history. Change is necessary and unavoidable, and our challenge is to ensure we work with community and overseas providers, the Ministry, insurers and the people who use and pay for our services to make healthcare more affordable and effective. We have a tough challenge, but it is widely recognized that the rising cost of healthcare is unsustainable and liable to damage our country, our businesses and residents if we do not address it. This brings many more people to the table, looking for solutions and seeking to cooperate and coexist, rather than compete, in order to ensure people in Bermuda can continue to access the right services at the right time at a price they can afford.” Mr Brewin added that a Financial Sustainability Steering Committee, comprising board members, community members and hospital leadership is already meeting, and subcommittees focusing on strategic, operational and structural sustainability are being established. “We are working hard to establish a new dialogue with all our partners in healthcare — community physicians, overseas affiliates, patients, insurers, the Ministry of Health and Seniors and the Bermuda Health Council — to ensure collaboration as we proceed to address urgently needed change in the overall healthcare system. Our aspiration is to build a safe, high quality healthcare system that always puts the patient, those who are less fortunate than ourselves, at its heart. If we want new hotels, new tourism services and new international business partners to regard Bermuda as a good place to conduct business, we need to address healthcare." Mr Brewin was joined by BHB chief executive officer Venetta Symonds, who reiterated the need for reform, but pointed out that patients and doctors could help bring down costs. “The chairman has spoken about involvement in BHB governance and strategic planning, but this must also take place at the bedside, and in the doctor’s office. People in the community also need to get more involved in their care and educate themselves on healthcare practices that are high quality and safe. However, we are absolutely clear on one thing — even though our most pressing challenge is financial, our most important and non-negotiable focus is on the integrity, safety and quality of healthcare services, and we will work with all our stakeholders, all the community, to achieve this.”

September 16.  The Royal Gazette's new online newspaper site NewsRack launches today. Chief executive officer Jonathan Howes explained the new e-Edition is an exact electronic replica of the entire physical paper. It includes the headlines, articles, photographs, graphics, display advertisements, classified advertisements and public notices, and it is viewable on any electronic platforms without having to install software. Mr Howes added: "NewsRack provides the stories exactly in context, where they appear in the printed paper. It also allows us to embed links in the text. For example e-mail or website addresses that are part of the story will become links, and we can also embed video or photography. It allows us to make an interactive version of the daily newspaper. We think there is value to the readers, and value to the advertisers. Other enhancements include NewsRack's improved search and zoom features, and access to The Royal Gazette archives in a format that reflects their appearance in the newspaper.  We acknowledge there are a lot of people who like to read The Royal Gazette, so with this, when they're travelling or living overseas, they can still see the complete newspaper every day in electronic form. Also, for students living abroad, parents can get their son or daughter a subscription to the e-Edition so they can read about what's going on at home." Commuters who enter Hamilton along Par-la-Ville road will see signage on the newspaper's Par-la-Ville Road office building and hear radio advertising on their vehicles radio, among the many cross media promotions launching the new product. Among other enhancements, Mr Howes said NewsRack is intended to make it easier for subscribers in respect to legal notices and employment advertisements. It will allow those companies or people who must run advertisements or legal notices and must prove that they appeared, to print the advertisements from the website. Mr Howes said a Royal Gazette app for iPad users will launch in the coming months. "This is very exciting. The Royal Gazette is moving forward and embracing new technology." There are special introductory prices for subscribing to the new e-Edition, and they start at 99 cents for a day or $9.99 for a month.  To subscribe, readers visit the Royal Gazette site ( where a large banner at the top of the screen, if clicked, will take the reader to the subscription page. There is also a link to NewsRack and the subscription page at the far right of The Royal Gazette home page along with the links to the newspapers sections. Mr Howes said:" If you are already a print subscriber, you can log in with your name and address, and it will know who you are. It will then guide you to fill in the additional information required to become a NewsRack subscriber." The Royal Gazettes circulation department will be on hand to assist with any questions.

Royal Gazette Newsrack

September 17. Multinational footwear giant Nike reportedly has $7 billion of profits parked offshore with 12 subsidiaries in Bermuda. “What is fun about this is that Nike apparently named its tax shelters after its shoes,” according to a Forbes contributor. Writing on the Forbes Tax Analysts blog, David Brunori says according to the Citizens for Tax Justice, ten of the Bermuda subsidiaries are actually named after Nike shoes: Air Max Limited, Nike Cortez, Nike Flight, Nike Force, Nike Huarache, Nike Jump Ltd, Nike Lavadome, Nike Pegasus, Nike Tailwind and Nike Waffle. “Yes, Nike has a shoe named the Waffle — which was designed on a real waffle iron.  Nike is very aggressive when it comes to sheltering profits overseas. My friends at the Citizens for Tax Justice released a report blasting the apparel giant for keeping many subsidiaries overseas for the sole purpose of avoiding US taxation. But having foreign subsidiaries for the purpose of minimizing tax burdens is neither illegal nor immoral. In fact, it’s really no different than any of you taking your home mortgage interest or charitable deductions. Nike’s savings are just bigger. Rational people — and corporations are people too — will always try to keep more of their own money in their pockets. I have no problem with anyone minimizing their tax burdens legally.”

September 20.  The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is reporting that Bermuda is struggling to attract the super rich — individuals such as Ross Perot and Michael Bloomberg — the demographic who have been the foundation of the island’s economic success. Headlined “Bermuda’s Search for New Wealth — Long a paradise for billionaires such as Ross Perot and Michael Bloomberg, can the quiet island of Bermuda attract the stupendously rich of today?” the story, written by Jose de Cordoba, describes stagnation in the high level real estate market. He looks at one of Bermuda’s few contemporary homes boasting a disco and other amenities including a private beach as one multimillion executive property that has sat on the market for a year. More than 50 of these homes were sold between 2007 and 2011, including the proudly named Castle Point ($21.5 million) and the slightly more modest Tradewinds ($11.5 million). Last year, there were 34 properties on the market that the island’s quirky and restrictive system allowed foreigners to buy. Of these, just one went into contract, in what was one of Bermuda’s worst real-estate years on record. And things have only started to pick up this year.” Mr de Cordoba writes that: “ ... after decades of reigning as a supreme destination for some of the world’s elite, Bermuda is having a tough time competing for the patronage of the stupendously rich, creating a classic tug of war over old and new money. The island, an easy two or three-hour jet jaunt from the US coastline, still attracts such billionaires as Ross Perot and Michael Bloomberg, who maintain homes here. But government officials and business leaders say they are worried that the mores of high-end tourism are changing, along with the wealthy themselves, and that this magical archipelago must now fight to follow the money.” The WSJ reporter stated “ ... the geography of money is changing — and at an unaccustomed velocity. According to an annual survey of global wealth by Boston Consulting Group, private wealth in the “new world,” primarily the Asia Pacific region, jumped around 12 percent last year alone, or more than double the rate of growth in the “old world,” including North America and Western Europe. “This new breed of nouveau riche tends to favour a lifestyle of supernova toys, with private elevators hauling sports cars into their living rooms and bar drinks costing thousands of dollars each. They like their homes to be modern, their nightlife late and their clothes as shiny as their jewellery. All of which has very little to do with sleepy Bermuda, whose nightlife shuts down at the stroke of 10 during the week and whose hotels haven’t quite caught up with the concept of in-room infinity pools or 24-hour butler service.” He said Bermuda is “ ... a place steeped in conservative traditions. Change does not come easy.” In this setting, the rich seem to get lost amid a population that could care less about them and local papers that ignore their comings and goings. “Bermuda is very unassuming,” says Neal Churchill, a private banker with Butterfield Bank (UK) Ltd., who lived here for three years and was back for a visit from Monaco. “You can mingle with wealthy people and not know it.” Pink from the sun as he sips a cup of tea at a hotel pool, Churchill says homes are the only status symbol here. “There is no showing off here,” he says. “There are no flashy cars, no super yachts in the harbour.” Drinking a rum punch on the terrace of the Mid Ocean Club, Nir Sadeh, chairman of the club’s membership committee who also heads private banking at Butterfield, concurs. “It’s not flashy,” he says. “You have people walking down the street in shorts who are worth billions.” The problem is this happens to be the polar opposite of what today’s new generation of global wealth wants. The 30-year-old Russian billionaire zigzagging around city streets in his new Lamborghini. The Chinese “whale” gambler giddy from another run of luck at the Baccarat tables in Macau. Bermuda doesn’t expect, or want, to attract all of this kind of wealth. But its government officials are staring down some awful declines in the country’s second-largest industry, tourism, that reflect Bermuda’s staleness. At its peak in 1980, Bermuda welcomed some 500,000 plane-arriving tourists a year, and counted on some 12,000 hotel beds, says Shawn Crockwell, the island’s Minister of Tourism. Last year, the island received about half that number by air, and had only 2,500 hotel beds to offer them. About 60 percent of last year’s tourists were low-spending visitors who arrived on the island on cruise ships. The remaining 40 percent arrive by air, a figure that continues to decline. “We need to reverse that ratio,” says Crockwell.” Reporting the Island’s $1.4 billion debt load, he said: “In response, the newly installed government, run by the One Bermuda Alliance party, thinks one solution is to send more positive signals to the international money elite, the people and firms who create the jobs and the lifestyle that spurs a stale economy. “I didn’t think the business community was feeling the love,” says Bermuda’s new premier, Craig Cannonier.” The WSJ reporter added: “Certainly, Bermudians will agree that the island, wrapped tightly in protectionism and red tape, has tended to irradiate a certain feeling of unfriendliness toward non-islanders. With just 69,000 souls jammed into its 21 square miles, the island has long feared that foreigners would push locals aside. So the country has done everything from setting time limits on how long non-residents could live here (six years) to at one point banning Bermudians from selling any real estate to outsiders. In an interview, Cannonier, a bearlike US-educated gas-station owner, says he is trying to put his foot down on a lot of this, quickly ending the residency limits. Members of his cabinet say it was a big move. “You would find that even if a top executive had term limits waived, there were term limits imposed on the nanny,” says Michael Fahy, Bermuda’s minister of home affairs. “If you are saying your nanny has to leave, then why stay?” “The rich are also getting a break on real estate now. Since 1926, Bermuda has imposed restrictions on purchases of land by non-Bermudians. Eventually, non-Bermudians were allowed to purchase only the most expensive of houses — those that have an annual rental value in the six-figure range. Today, that works out to homes worth about $3.5 million and up. What’s more, foreigners had to pay a 25 percent license fee on home buys, which can drive even a billionaire a little batty. The high-rental rule remains, but Cannonier has temporarily cut the tax on real-estate sales to eight percent of the purchase price, which then increases to 12.5 percent after 18 months. For now, a $4 million home no longer requires an extra $1 million, which MacIntyre, the realtor, says is “a very welcome change of pace. " But even government boosters say moves like these can only go so far in creating the kind of full-service playground the rich can so easily find elsewhere now. The island, for example, likes to boast that it has more golf per square mile than anywhere in the world. That’s fine, except that today’s rich — fitter and more active — want other options for high-end recreation, including celebrity trainers and yoga instructors working out of space-age gyms. In the Caribbean, it is possible to find a host of new private-jet airports, compared with Bermuda’s one commercial facility. And once upon a time, it was charming that the country limited residents to one puny car per household, a policy dating back to when Mark Twain and Woodrow Wilson teamed up to help get motor vehicles banned for decades. But it is not exactly comfortable for today’s stretch-limo crowd, which has to make do with the island’s sparse supply of Mercedes-Benzes, which are available to rent by the hour. “From a corporate standpoint — and the island is keenly aware of how many wealthy executives encamp here when business flourishes — Bermuda doesn’t even rate as an especially great tax haven. Sure it lacks taxes, but its conservative ethos requires a far more careful company-registration process than many newer and hotter resort countries have. Feeling the heat, the government two years ago extended the date that companies have before their tax-exempt status expires. Officials in Bermuda also argue that their island country maintains a programme for registering offshore companies that is respected around the world. Still, the number of tax-exempt companies in Bermuda has hovered around 12,000 over the past 15 years. In the Cayman Islands, by comparison, the number has nearly doubled in 10 years to more than 75,000.” The WSJ reporter asked: “How far into the fast lane will the island go to up its new-rich appeal, or will it just disappear someday off the high-end radar, like so many ships in the Bermuda Triangle? For some, the country’s best step may be just to concoct yet one more Bermuda miracle: a middle ground, way out here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where East meets West, where new money finds enough razzle dazzle but old money can still enjoy the very anonymity and British DNA they have so long cherished.”

September 21. Parliament has repealed the Park Hyatt (St. Georges) Resort Act, opening the way for Government to negotiate fresh development deals for the former Club Med site. The Opposition Progressive Labour Party lost no time in supporting the measures but demanded that Government tear up the lease of Daniel's Head as well, as the owners of the 9 Beaches resort had also failed to meet their obligations and owed money to Government. Government charged that the PLP had made mistakes in its handling of the Park Hyatt, sparking lively debate in the House of Assembly. And independent MP Terry Lister welcomed the bill saying its a chance to put the last developer, Mr Bazarian or whatever his name is, behind us and move forward. Mr Lister suggested that the golf course should be developed separately. "The efforts that have been made in the last two years to bring tourists from Dockyard to St Georges have faltered. They have not really worked. We need to do as much as we can to rebuild," Mr Lister said. Former St Georges Mayor Kenneth Bascome said he had spoken to prospective developers of the property and that a new project should begin soon. That led Shadow Attorney General Kim Wilson to question why it took so long to repeal the bill. "We are looking at and recognizing a decision that was made that was entirely inappropriate, that was ill advised, that we asked for the former government to consider carefully before encumbering the country and we got absolute total push back with complete 100 percent push back," responded Health Minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin. Developer Carl Bazarian won the go ahead to develop the 125 acre property in 2008 with a 262 year lease. But he was unable to secure financing and could not meet the agreed deadline to break ground on the project. And the former PLP administration terminated the agreement last year before losing the general election. The repeal Act finalizes the termination of the lease and formally returns the land back to the Government. Ms Gordon-Pamplin described the deal with Mr Bazarian as a mammoth mistake which had made no sense in the first instance and that PLP MPs had failed the country by not questioning it at the time. PLP MPs defended their party's actions, saying all parties to the agreement had acted in good faith, due diligence had taken place but the global financial collapse had soured the investment climate. I don't think we should cast an aspersion on the Government or the parties involved," said Opposition MP Glen Blakeney. But Government whip Cole Simons rose to say that the PLP should admit that it made a mistake as it had not done enough due diligence on the developer. He didn't have the resources. If he had had the money we would have a hotel today. There was no reason why they closed down that golf course when they were nowhere near developing the hotel. People lost jobs and we have nothing to show for it."

September 22. The lease of the City of Hamilton waterfront would be subject to parliamentary approval under new legislation reforming the municipalities. And the position of Deputy Mayor, as well as the titles of aldermen and common councillors will be abolished, effective at the next municipal elections to be held in 2015. The Municipalities Amendment Bill 2013, tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday, would give the Government strong powers over the Corporations of St Georges and Hamilton. It specifies that sales of land held by the municipalities and leases exceeding 21 years will have to be submitted to the Minister and approved by Parliament. And it ends speculation about whether the controversial 262 year lease of 26 acres of waterfront property will be impacted, stating that the provision applies to all land deals and related agreements entered into since January 1 2013. It provides for voiding the agreements if they are not submitted to the Minister within 14 days. But it does provide for compensation to be paid to people or businesses that are affected. Michael MacLean, the principal of Allied Development Partners which holds the waterfront lease, said he was yet to study the proposals and could not offer a comment on the development yesterday. The Corporation of Hamilton, meanwhile, said they had not had a chance to discuss the proposals, but would probably make a response to the proposed changes next week. The bill contains a slew of good governance provisions, including a requirement that the Corporations submit a code of ethics and conduct for the Ministers review but allowing for the Minister to disregard it and substitute it for another one if he considers it inadequate. And Government grants to the Corporations could come with strings attached the bill provides that the Minister can direct what taxpayers funds are to be used for and require evidence that the direction has been followed. An infrastructure management plan to be submitted to the Minister annually will also be subject to revision by the Minister. And Government would be allowed to temporarily assume stewardship of municipal infrastructure which falls into disrepair if it considers it in the public interest. Effective in 2015, municipal elections will be dual tracked one for business rate payers, and another track for residents. A Mayor and eight councillors will constitute the corporations. Instead of appointing a deputy, the Mayor would be required to appoint an acting mayor when absent, failing which the councillors will elect one from among themselves. As expected, the bill provides for the return of wharfage and port dues to the Corporations. And the Minister would have final approval over municipal ordinances as well as a requirement that all ordinances be vetted by the Attorney General. A separate bill tabled yesterday provides for a UNESCO World Heritage Fund for St Georges to be funded by a tax on gas and petroleum products landed at the oil docks in the eastern parish. The Corporation of St Georges (UNESCO World Heritage Fund and Levy) Act 2013 provides that the corporation will administer and manage the funds to maintain, develop and promote the World Heritage Site. However, it will be subject to the oversight of the Accountant General.

September 23.  Warwick’s Southlands estate is to be turned into a national park and could open to the public as early as next spring. The 37-acre site is to be the beneficiary of a fundraiser on October 18, to be held at the Bermuda National Trust headquarters in Waterville, Paget — the first of several events aimed at covering Southlands’ restoration costs. The site, which is roughly the size of the Botanical Gardens, sparked a furore in 2007 when Government obtained a special development order to build a resort there. Ultimately, developers Craig Christensen, Brian Duperreault and Nelson Hunt agreed to a land swap deal with Government and took 80 acres at Morgan’s Point, Southampton. The conversion of Southlands into a park will go before MPs in the House of Assembly in “a couple of months”, Junior Environment Minister Alexis Swan announced this morning, flanked by Deputy Premier Michael Dunkley and members of the group Friends of Southlands. Senator Swan said the group had been formed after concerns expressed by area residents that the site was being neglected. Government reiterated its commitment to turn Southlands into a park in the latest Throne Speech. “This is just the first step in a multi-stage project to restore this beautiful jewel in Bermuda’s landscape,” said Sen Swan of next month’s international wine and cheese tasting, which will charge $75 per person for general admission and $125 for patron tickets. Friends of Southlands spokeswoman Connie Frith-Black said there would also be a drive for volunteers to come to Southlands on Monday, October 21 through Wednesday, October 23, to assist the Department of Parks in cleaning up the estate. There will be an open house on Saturday, October 26, with tours conducted by former Government Conservation Officer David Wingate. Workmen have already removed litter and rubble dumped illegally at Southlands — but the site has to be cleared of overgrown vegetation. Environmentalist Stuart Hayward, head of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force (BEST) thanked Friends of Southlands for backing the project. “BEST has a special attachment to Southlands,” Mr Hayward said. “It was here that BEST cut its teeth in our role as environmental activists.” Southlands proved controversial for former Premier Ewart Brown when the proposal to develop the site provoked a storm of protest from BEST and others. Environmentalists protested again in 2010 when developers accused Government of delaying the Morgan’s Point land swap deal. There is no exact figure yet for the cost of turning Southlands into a park or for the first round of cleanup and restoration at the site.

September 24. BlackBerry has agreed to sell itself for $4.7 billion to a group led by largest shareholder, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. BlackBerry said yesterday that a letter of intent has been signed and its shareholders will receive $9 in cash for each share. Fairfax was in the news in mid-August for a complex deal to buy and then sell American Safety's Bermuda subsidiary, American Safety Reinsurance, Ltd to Catalina. The terms were not released. Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a financial services holding company based in Toronto, which has a Bermuda arm, currently holds ten percent of BlackBerry. Fairfax head Prem Watsa is a former board member who owns ten percent of BlackBerry. Watsa stepped down when BlackBerry announced it was considering a sale last month. Watsa is one of Canada's best-known value investors and the billionaire founder of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. He has been compared to Warren Buffett because of his investing approach. BlackBerry founder Mike Lazaridis recruited Watsa to join the company's board when Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped aside as its co-CEOs in January, 2012. Trading of the company's stock was halted ahead of the news. BlackBerry shares plunged after the company announced Friday a loss of nearly $1 billion and layoffs of 4,500 workers. The BlackBerry, pioneered in 1999, was once the dominant smartphone for on-the-go business people and other consumers before Apple's iPhone debuted in 2007. "We believe this transaction will open an exciting new private chapter for BlackBerry its customers, carriers and employees," Watsa said in a statement. "We can deliver immediate value to shareholders, while we continue the execution of a long-term strategy in a private company. BlackBerry said its board of directors approved the terms of the letter of intent. The statement said BlackBerry and Fairfax will negotiate and execute a definitive transaction agreement by November 4. Watsa said in April that he's a big supporter of current CEO Thorsten Heins and called his promotion the right decision in early 2012. He also said he's excited about the company's new BlackBerry 10 operating system. This year's launch of BlackBerry 10, its revamped operating system, and fancier devices, the touchscreen Z10 and Q10 for keyboard loyalists, was supposed to rejuvenate the brand and lure customers. But the much-delayed phones have failed to turn the company around. At their peak in the autumn of 2009, BlackBerry's smartphones enjoyed global market share of over 20 percent, says Mike Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. Their piece of the pie has since evaporated to just 1.5 percent. BlackBerry said on Friday it will lay off 4,500 employees, or 40 percent of its global workforce.

September 28. House of Assembly passes Tourism Authority Act. After a marathon debate, Bermuda's legislators last night passed legislation that forms the framework of a new Tourism Authority. Presenting the bill for debate, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell stressed the importance of revitalizing the Island's tourism industry in order to boost the local economy. He said that the previous administration had made positive steps, noting the National Tourism Plan, and said that while the Tourism Board was flawed by a lack of autonomy, it was a step in the right direction. However he said efforts have been hampered by political interference and the steady change of minister, noting that he is the fourth Tourism Minister in as many years. Mr Crockwell explained that the Tourism Authority Act would dissolve both the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Board and replace it with a single entity with significantly reduced need to seek the approval of the Government or Minister of the day. "The authority will be managed independently. It will be a modern, leading tourism enterprise. It will be dynamic, entrepreneurial and vibrant. The authority will be the singular voice that restores Bermuda as a world class tourist destination." Mr Crockwell also addressed public concern about the transition from the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Authority, promising that there would be no mass layoffs. "Should employees not transfer to the Tourism Authority, employment opportunities will be made available within government ministries and departments. My Ministry is currently and will continue to work closely with the Department of Human Resources and the Bermuda Public Service Union to ensure that the transitional process is inclusive and transparent. The Ministry fully understands and is cognizant of the staff's concerns, apprehensions and anxiety, and we will do our upmost to provide a smooth transition." Earlier, Shadow Minister of Tourism Wayne Furbert raised what he termed the age old issue of political interference. His main bone of contention was that under the new framework, the Minister has the right to pick the Chairman? He asked the House to consider the implications, most importantly the issue of influence on the part of the Minister of the head of the new board. He questioned the board's independence. He also questioned the Minister's assertion that the board will be totally funded in three years. But his biggest concern centred around the list of requirements in the advertisement posted this week for potential candidates to become chief executive officer of the new authority. Will the successful candidate be a Bermudian? Undaunted, Mr Crockwell responded: "We will be seeking the best person for this position. If that person is a Bermudian, then that's even more fantastic." The CEO will be put in place by January 1. Mr Crockwell also told MPs the authority's board, which would comprise eight members, did not have space for statutory members such as the head of the Bermuda Industrial Union to be put in place. Opposition MPs took strong exception to the authority's power to lease land or make investments under its own power, but Mr Crockwell maintained that the authority was bound by the stipulation that its actions remain within its mission objectives of promoting Bermudian tourism. Under fierce criticism across the aisle of a $5 fee for members of the public to check a register of board member's interests, the fee was dropped. Mr Crockwell also rebutted criticism from the Progressive Labour Party that the autonomy granted to the board's spending would lead to cronyism. "It needs to operate like a corporation. It will be receiving public funds, and this is the risk involved. But in order to engage in commercial activity, to be swift and agile and get the job done, it has to do that without having to seek approval for everything. I don't anticipate any malfeasance in the Tourism Authority at all."

October 1.  A pedestrian bridge over Bailey’s Bay is hoped to revitalize the eastern end of the historic railway trail. Tucker Murphy, of Friends of the Bermuda Railway Trail (FBRT), said that the Bailey’s Bay bridge project is the result of a partnership between Government and the group, with FBRT raising the funds for the around $500,000 project. “The idea of the Bailey’s Bay project is it links just over three, 3.5 kilometers of trail,” Mr Murphy said. “It would use the historical length of the railway trestles going across the bay, so we hope it would be very low impact on the costal foreshore area. The funding has been raised privately through FBRT, and it’s in partnership with the Parks Department, who are driving the project on the Government side. The FBRT has been working with Government for more than a year and a half on improving the trail, and has already seen some success in the western end of the Island. We kind of tested the relationship with improvements to the West end of the trail last fall. We put tons of mulch on some of the more traveled areas like Ord Road and by the Fairmont Southampton. We also put down wheeling ramps for cycles on some of the steeper areas. We put trash cans on the trail and we put benches. It’s grown from there. We’ve got a number of private donors who have joined us under the umbrella of FBRT. Research has shown that the more connected sections of the trail in Paget and Warwick receiving more than ten times the traffic than the section in Hamilton Parish. It’s probably 70 to 100 people per week versus more than 1,000 in Paget,” Mr Murphy said. “If you look at the length of each of the trails, it’s probably about 6km of continuous trail there, while the Hamilton Parish segment is much smaller. Around 2km, and it leads to a dead end. Connecting the segments that stretch between Crawl Hill and Coney Island will create an unbroken segment of trail more than 3km in length, which would hopefully encourage more people to use the trail for walking and cycling. In 2003, Government reconnected Shelly Bay to Flatts using these six prefabricated bridges. We thought that was a good example of a successful project on the trail, and we’re trying to replicate something similar in Bailey’s Bay. We think the trail is a great asset for free recreation and a place where people can go to walk or seek respite after work. We looked at studies in the US and the UK on rails to trails projects, and they found that for about every dollar you invest in a trail, you get about $3 return in terms of health benefits. Along with the health benefits, the trail also carries tremendous cultural and tourism value, noting that it links numerous historical sites and boasts fantastic views of the Island. We believe it’s not only a useful link, it’s also a beautiful section of trail and this link would give access to many more people. Mr Murphy also stressed they would be making the bridge as non-intrusive visually as possible saying: “Our view is to minimize the intrusion, to make it blend as much as we can with the natural landscape.”

October 1. Taylor Canfield and his US One Sailing team-mates will be gunning for more glory during next week's Argo Group Gold Cup. The US Virgin Islands skipper captured a maiden King Edward VII Trophy after recording an emphatic 3-0 win over Sweden's Johnie Berntsson in last year's best-of-three-final in Hamilton Harbor. The win was also Canfield's first on the Apalri World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) and since then he has added two more titles (Monsoon Cup and the Chicago Match Cup) to his resume. Canfield is currently second behind reigning world champion and past Gold Cup winner Ian Williams (Britain) in the ISAF WMRT championship standings after five of the scheduled seven events. The 24-year-old sailor has made two changes to his team from last year's that lost only three matches en route to Gold Cup glory. Josh McCaffrey and Mike Rehe have been replaced by Rod Dawson and Hayden Goodrick who have been sailing with Canfield on this year's tour. Dawson will serve in the dual role as tactician/main while Goodrick will work the bow. Trimmer Dan Morris is the only other surviving member from last year's team. "This is actually the team I've been sailing with for most of the tour events this year as well as at Monsoon Cup last year.  We're pretty well organized as a team together and have good chemistry so I think it (Gold Cup) should be a good event. Canfield insists there's no added pressure on his shoulders to defend his title. "As a team we just like to think of it as another event and go out and try sail the boat to the best of our ability in every race It's just going to be a matter of one race at a time and just try and keep our heads on straight and hopefully Hamilton harbour doesn't get the best of us." Canfield will have his work cut out competing in a formidable fleet that includes past winners Ben Ainslie (Britain), Mathieu Richard (France), Williams and Berntsson. Ainslie, who was a member of Oracle Team USA that retained the Auld Mug at the 34th America's Cup in San Francisco Bay, is one of only two skippers to claim back-to-back Gold Cups since the regatta was reformatted in 1984. "Ben Ainslie has been in the Gold Cup twice and won it twice so he'll definitely be a tough contender," Canfield added. "It's a tough line-up this year and you just have to keep setting yourself up to advance to the next stage." Another skipper Canfield could potentially come up against is local sailor Lance Fraser. Canfield was Fraser's supervisor during the latter's internship at the Chicago Match Race Centre this past summer. "Obviously Lance is a great sailor who has been working hard all summer sailing a lot match racing-wise," Canfield said. "We sailed against him a bunch in Bermuda before in previous Gold Cups and I think two years ago he beat us in the round robin which kept us out of the quarter-finals." Canfield always looks forward to racing in the Gold Cup and this year will be no exception. "It's a great event in a very friendly environment; everybody is really nice and involved in the Gold Cup which is definitely one of my favorite events on the tour. It's unique with the IODs (International One Design) and the beauty of Hamilton Harbour and great weather and we love coming."

October 3. Efforts to curb the prevalence of non-communicable diseases will begin in earnest next month with the commencement of Bermuda's first standardized national health survey. Chronic, preventable diseases contribute the greatest proportion of the total burden of disease in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Bermuda, said Health and Seniors Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin yesterday, announcing the start of the STEPs to a Well Bermuda survey. By implementing a simple, standardized method for collecting, analyzing and disseminating data for chronic disease risk factors, healthcare providers will have access to information on the prevalence of various health conditions and physical and biochemical characteristics of a population. The survey will also provide data on the relationship between the risk factors and selected conditions, and social determinants of health, said the Health and Seniors Minister. "Effective action to prevent and control these diseases depends on timely access to accurate and reliable information about the prevalence of these diseases and their associated risk factors. This information is vital to both informing where resources should best be targeted and also for monitoring and evaluating the impact of any actions taken. The objective of the STEPs survey the Pan American Health Organisations standardized methodology is to control epidemics of chronic diseases and avert these epidemics wherever possible and to control them as quickly as possible where they are already present," said Minister Gordon-Pamplin. The Minister added: "The basis of chronic disease prevention is the identification of the major common risk factors as the risk factors of today are the diseases of tomorrow." A total of 2,656 households have been selected using simple random sampling, while interviews will be conducted from October through December.

October 3.  Sweeping reforms to Bermuda's two municipalities were approved by MPs last night after a passionate debate in the House of Assembly. Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley steered the Municipalities Amendment Bill 2013 through Parliament, but Government came under heavy criticism from Opposition MPs, who described the changes as repugnant. The Bill introduces a slew of amendments to the operation of the Corporation of Hamilton and St George's due to take effect in 2015, including giving business owners in the two towns a vote in municipal elections through a hybrid version of proportional representation. The act also amends the hierarchy of officialdom, replacing deputy mayors and aldermen with councillors. The Bill gives the Government strong powers over the corporations, with sales of land held by the municipalities and leases exceeding 21 years having to be submitted to the Minister and approved by Parliament. But wharfage revenue and port dues would be returned to the two Corporations. Mr Dunkley defended the changes, saying that the framework of the municipalities was outdated and does not reflect modern good governance  And he defended the extension of the franchise to include ratepayers, claiming that they had a right to representation of their interests. "This is not a return to the historic property vote, there's no threat of a ratepayer advantage over residents, "he said, adding that the voice of business owners would compliment that of residents. But Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban described the voting change as repugnant saying that it was not in keeping with the principals of democracy. He said: "A franchise should be clear and universal and absolute.  This change is not in keeping with this principle and we're absolutely against this the Government's reasons doesn't hold water. Where Government saw this system as rational and legitimate I don't now we got rid of it because it is not. I don't see how they can suggest that any remnant of a ratepayer vote is a legitimate form of voting. A franchise should be clear and simple. It should be universal, not just palatable for the elite of society. We find the proposals repugnant to the principals of democracy." Shadow Finance Minister David Burt declared that the franchise change was evidence that the OBA was returning to the roots of the UBP and the UBP's dark past. Opposition MP Rolfe Commissiong said: "The UBP part of the One Bermuda Alliance is certainly shining through here. This bill is abominable. This is an abuse of Parliamentary supremacy. Might does not make right. This is shameful and extremist. We have a Government that is more interested in advancing the interests of its privileged base than doing what's right for the Bermudian. This bill is a regression for all of the reasons cited by previous speakers on this side of the House.  We have seen the fact that mostly black residents of back of town had finally come out of marginalization with respect to city voting and were able to exercise self-determination. It was a great night for Bermuda." Deputy Opposition Leader Derrick Burgess wanted to know:  "What's the rush in getting the legislation passed when there are so many other things to be rushed. There is no rush to get the retailers to put controls on the price of food, or to get Belco to bring their rates down. There's no rush on health insurance, that's increased by 20 percent. And there's no rush to go the banks and say look you guys need to lower your interest rates so people can pay their mortgages. Those are the critical things that we should be addressing in this House. In these difficult times we need to be concentrating on the people. Despite the history he said the Corporation of Hamilton is doing a good job. And he asserted that the previous city administration put $one million in trust because they knew the Government was coming to take over. Opposition Leader Marc Bean said in the final analysis, the One Bermuda Alliance will be judged not by their words by their actions. "Right or not the OBA is standing in judgment and what was hidden is now revealed. This is a sulphuric piece of legislation. It smells worse than the worse part of my constituency at Warwick Pond. It stinks to high heaven, it's unbelievable. This is the worse and lowest form of governance that we have seen for some time. This is a legislative travesty of epic proportions. The late Dr Roosevelt Brown would have turned this honourable chamber upside down if they would have dared to bring a piece of legislation like this to this chamber. Such is the gravity of what is being proposed today." But Health and Seniors Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin refuted Opposition claims that the bill was a backward step. Hoping to bring some calm and sensitivity to the debate, Ms Gordon-Pamplin pointed out that the amendment upheld the democratic principal of no taxation without representation. "Ratepayers have no say, I don't know how right the Opposition believes that to be but in my book, if I pay some money, I want to know how it is being spent.  I want to have a voice and the only way they can have a say as ratepayers is the same way in which taxpayers have a say which is through electing representatives. They [the PLP] took away peoples' votes so now what were trying to do bring something new in place to allow ratepayers who are paying the lions share of money to have some say and to be represented. There's nothing sinister, its pretty straightforward. We want things to be fair and if that's a foreign concepts in the eyes of the Opposition, were in a really sad state in this country. Only Bermudian, not foreign business owners who are on the electoral register, will be able to vote. We're not going to have aliens coming in to make sure that the city flies up on some cloud and there's no control by anyone who is right-thinking. The Opposition is scare mongering and politicking. I think we need to stand up and say enough is enough put the facts out there and let the facts state that this Government will continue to make difficult decisions."

October 4. The book "Peace, Prudence and Prosperity; a history of Bermuda from 1919 to 1939" was published abroad by Jonathan Land Evans. 140 pages. Beautiful, British and business-friendly, the jewel-like Atlantic archipelago of Bermuda was one of the 20th Century's great success-stories. This book examines Bermuda between the two World Wars, touching on most aspects of local life, with particular emphasis on its tourism economy, physical and social development, and public affairs. It also discusses the early days of offshore business, the decline of agriculture, the march of technology, and the island's prominent role in the arts and in marine science, as well as Bermuda's special place in the affections of its many well-to-do American devotees. Darker aspects of life, such as racism and crime, are also examined. The book is carefully indexed and extensively footnoted (mostly to original source-materials of the period).

October 7. Companies that play recorded music as part of their business operation could be hit with fresh fees or risk breaching copyright laws. And the new tariff could even apply to schools and charities that broadcast music, according to a lobby group seeking to get laws standardized. According to the Bermuda Music Users Group (BMUG), Island organizations are coming under fresh scrutiny from the UK's Performance Rights Society (PRS), whose mandate is to ensure that recording artists around the world are paid a commission on their work whenever it is broadcast. The PRS imposes a licence fee on companies that play recorded music, with revenues then being forwarded to musicians. Scott Pearman, of the BMUG, said that, under copyright legislation, even small businesses that play music for the benefit of staff or customers would be vulnerable to the charge. Almost every Bermuda business or organization is potentially impacted including Government, broadcasters, event promoters, restaurants, hotels, shops, charities, schools and even churches, Mr Pearman said. As an example, he said that a barber shop owner who had a radio playing on the premises while serving customers, would need to get a PRS licence. The PRS would argue that either the shops staff or customers are enjoying listening to the radio and as a result, the owner is gaining commercially from it, Mr Pearman said. Similarly, a hotel or guest house that played recorded music in a foyer or elevator, would also have to obtain a licence. Mr Pearman added that, although the PRS had always had the right to levy charges, Bermuda had apparently been off its radar for more than a decade. But recently a number of Island businesses had been approached by the organization and broadcasters were not the only targets. It is looking like a major campaign and they are looking to have someone on the ground here, Mr Pearman said. In the UK, PRS is understood to charge around $1,000 for a licence, which has to be renewed every year. But Mr Pearman said there appears to be no standard rate in Bermuda, and instead, individual companies appear to be negotiating separate terms. The message has been inconsistent, Mr Pearman said. It appears the PRS may be trying to get the best deal with the first company and then get everyone else to follow suite, Mr Pearman said. BMUG would like to see if businesses in Bermuda are interested in coming together as a collective to establish a set rate.  Mr Pearman stressed that the organization was not anti-musician and pointed out that, even if local radio stations played recordings only by Bermudian artists, they would not gain financially. "If we're going to be forced to pay a UK tariff we want to ensure that there's a direct benefit to Bermuda musicians.  But the total play list of Island stations pales into comparison to the 50 or more stations that they have in London alone, so we're not going to get a Bermudian on the top of the play list. It's only the top 200 artists on the play list that will benefit, and that means that money is going to be going out of the country and not coming back." BMUG will be holding a meeting to discuss the matter at 5.30pm tonight at the Chamber of Commerce office in Hamilton. "The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the impact of the Performance Rights Society of the UK entering the Bermuda market and implementing UK music licensing rates on Bermuda businesses and organisations that use music for public performance or the enjoyment of their customers or staff, " Mr Pearman said. The BMUG meeting will provide a forum for music users in Bermuda to gain additional information on PRS, register their experiences, concerns and discuss options with respect to a collective response.

October 7.  Government has confirmed it is considering plans for a new cruise ship terminal in St Georges in a bid to bring more passengers to the Island. Last week, St Georges MP Kenneth Bascome suggested that plans were in the pipeline for a cruise ship to make regular calls on the town, saying: "Hopefully there will be some negotiations going on in the very near future." The Government backbencher also refused to deny rumors that Disney Cruises is interested in developing a terminal in the East End. And Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell later confirmed the rumor. "We are in conversations with the cruise industry reviewing the options for a cruise pier in St Georges," he said in the House of Assembly last week. "That is something that's high on our agenda and something we have to do for that area." Responding to questions from The Royal Gazette, a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport said Government was hoping to bring 415,000 cruise passengers to the Island by 2015 up from an estimated 343,000 cruise visitors this year. The spokesman added that in order to reach cruise visitor targets, another cruise ship terminal is required. "The National Tourism Plan 2012 that will be implemented by the new Bermuda Tourism Authority recommends a target of 415,000 cruise visitor arrivals by 2015, and 422,000 cruise visitor arrivals by 2022.  This year's estimate for cruise visitors is 343,000. To date, the highest number of cruise passengers was in 2011 when we received approximately 410,000 passengers and the scheduled weekly callers included the Veendam which made 24 calls to Hamilton. It is unlikely that the Tourism Plan target of 413,000 to 422,000 cruise visitors can be obtained with just the two cruise piers at Dockyard, therefore consideration is being given to options for an east end, St George's cruise presence. At this stage no decision has been made." Despite its desire to bring in more cruise visitors, Government is still intent on bringing in even more air passengers in order to reverse present visitor ratios. Currently around 60 percent of tourists arrive on cruise ships, with 40 percent coming to Bermuda by air. Mr Crockwell said that ratio was not balanced, and that Government wanted to see a majority share of total visitor arrivals made up of air passengers. In his comments last week, Mr Bascome said that Pennos Wharf would be the likely location for a new terminal. He said that commercial activity currently taking place at the wharf could be shifted to Marginal Wharf once that had been upgraded and that the Town Cut channel would have to be widened to allow larger cruise ships access to the town.

October 7. Former Bermuda Premier David Saul's collection of Bermuda banknotes raised around 300,000 ($481,000) at auction in London, with the proceeds going to charity. The collection, amassed by Dr Saul over 40 years, included notes dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th century some hand signed by the Bermuda Monetary Authority signatories whose names were on the notes. The former finance minister said: It was quite apparent that all those determined to bid had already made up their minds on what they wanted, and how much they were willing to spend. Hence, the bidding moved at a very smart pace, with only a relatively small group of some two dozen in the room, but a good deal of activity on both the telephone and the internet. One of the more popular items was a 1941 brown 5 note, which he said was withdrawn from circulation after a short period because it was too similar to the five shilling note already in use. He said: "Businesses were being ripped off by customers, My collection had the first ever printed: it was number 0000001 and in uncirculated condition. It was well known by collectors around the globe, and fetched the fantastic winning bid of 38,000 [$61,000]." He said all of the 291 lots were moved within two hours, raising around 300,000 after expenses, and he credited the work of Spink's currency auctioneer Barnaby Faull for the successful auction. Dr Saul previously told The Royal Gazette that he made the decision to auction his collection because his children were not interested in inheriting it and he didn't want to leave his wife with the job of selling it if he were to die before her. He said that the money raised by the auction would go towards various charities and organisations, including the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Barnaby Faull, from Spink's, says in the foreword to the catalogue: "From the classic George V to the award-winning designs of the most recent issues, Bermuda banknotes cannot fail to enhance any Commonwealth collection. This is a unique opportunity to obtain notes from the finest collection of its kind."

money 1927 Bermuda pound note

One of the notes from Dr. Saul's collection

October 9. The head of the new Bermuda Tourism Authority revealed yesterday there had been a “high level of high-quality interest” in the recently advertised post of chief executive officer. David Dodwell, the authority’s chairman designate, would not reveal the salary for the position, other than to say it would be “market driven.” He said those interested in applying had until October 15 to do so. The CEO position is the only one so far advertised for the authority, which will officially come into being on a date yet to be decided. At that point, the authority will replace the Bermuda Department of Tourism (BDOT) — and Department staff will have to apply for positions within the new organization. Those who are unsuccessful will be offered other civil service roles. Mr Dodwell issued a press release yesterday praising the successful passage of the Tourism Authority Act through Parliament and noting the “long road ahead” for him and his team. “The Bermuda Tourism Authority team all appreciate the work that has gone into passing the authority bill through both Houses of Parliament. We now await assent by HE the Governor and the Minister posting the date the authority goes live in the official Gazette. We have started working through a transition plan. What we are working towards now is what the date [for going live] is likely to be. It will take up until the end of March next year to be finalized. By the end of March, we will have made all of the decisions." The hotelier, whose role is voluntary, said the Department’s budget would continue until the end of the financial year, as would the budget of the Bermuda Tourism Board, which will also cease to exist. He said much work had already gone into forming the authority but it was “going to take us some time” to finalize the structure, define new positions and conduct interviews.  “As we work through this process, the team at the BDOT will continue to undertake their normal work and any enquiries you may have in regards to Tourism should be addressed, as normal, to the Department of Tourism. The team there will be able to steer enquires through to the authority as we evolve. We are aware that there may be those who have received sponsorship of events and/or activities from the Department of Tourism in the past. While the process for consideration will be changing in the future, any and all applications should, at this stage, be made in the normal manner.” The former politician pledged to issue further statements in the near future, adding: “We remain committed to being as open and as forthright as we can be. Clearly, there has to be change. We have been clear on that already and we will be explaining that change in the coming weeks. All of us are now part of Bermuda’s tourism team. Everyone needs to represent Bermuda as best they can as they interact in any way with our visitors. Many long hours have been invested in creating the Bermuda Tourism Authority but the investment of time and effort really only now begins. We have a long road ahead of us — some might say a steep hill to climb — but we are determined to make that climb. We are focused on bringing tourism back, on bringing new jobs for Bermudians, new revenues for Bermuda and new opportunity for all. We need now to join together to be part of the solution.” The creation of the authority will mean a less hands-on role for Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and Mr Dodwell praised the MP for being “bold and courageous” in pushing through the legislation. He said the idea was to have "professionals running the authority and a Minister as a champion for tourism in this country. He’s doing himself out of the current job and taking much more of an oversight role. He’ll continue to be the Minister and we need a Tourism Minister for oversight. He will be a support to me and I will be a support to him.”

October 9.  Two top Foreign Office officials paid a flying visit to Bermuda to familiarize themselves with the Islands business environment. And Tim Colley and Marilia Astle took time to meet with Chamber of Commerce members who stressed that Bermuda was not a tax haven, as it has been portrayed in sections of the UK media in recent times. The meeting also led to an invitation to the Chamber to send representatives to the UK Overseas Territories business, trade and investment forum, to be held in London next month. Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said: "They were very interested in the Chambers position on the local economy and keen to receive an update on our current lobbying efforts. Our meeting was brief, but we were able to summarize a number of initiatives and report on a broad range of issues related to business in Bermuda. The issue of recent negative press in the UK was discussed and it is hoped that in the coming months the Bermuda Business Development Corporation will seek to address these issues head on and begin to generate positive press about our competitive advantages and favorable status as a transparent and well-regulated offshore jurisdiction that and the fact that Bermuda is very much open for business."  Deputy Governor David Arkley said the two Foreign Office diplomats had special responsibilities for the Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and Bermuda. Ms Astle, who has just taken over as team leader for the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda, was on her first visit to the island. Mr Arkley said: "It was a fact-finding mission just to get to know Bermuda. They will be looking after Bermuda in the London context and so it was a familiarization visit." The visit came after Bermuda hit the headlines again in a row over a tax avoidance scheme used by internet giants Google, which channels money through the Republic of Ireland to the Island in order to minimise its UK tax bill. Google last year only paid 2.6 percent tax in the US on sales worth $8.1 billion because it channeled most of its overseas profits through Bermuda, which has no corporate income tax. Previous revelations about Google's tax arrangements have led UK parliamentarians to denounce them as immoral and led to demands that the Island change its laws. Google said it follows tax rules in all the countries it operates in and pays little tax in the UK became its profits are not generated by UK employees. The UK arm of the firm, as well as other European operations, are designated as providers of marketing services to Google Ireland. But Google declares little profit in Ireland because it sends nearly all the cash it gets to the Bermuda affiliate, in the form of licence fees for use of Google intellectual property. The scheme although legal has attracted criticism in the recession-hit UK and led to the Island being branded as a tax haven. Mr Arkley said: "I would characterize this as something we are aware of and we have raised with the Bermuda Government. The characterization that comes out in the UK media is not always accurate. I know its something that Prime Minister David Cameron has made statements on and that's a more accurate portrayal of the UK government's position than that which appears in the newspapers in the UK."

October 10. Corporation of Hamilton officials have voted to give themselves massive compensation payments for attending council meetings that could cost ratepayers more than $100,000 each year. The vote came at a special meeting on Tuesday night, with a majority of councillors arguing that they deserved to be paid for carrying out Corporation business. Five of the municipality's nine councillors voted for a proposal to pay themselves a $375 stipend for attending monthly Full Corporation meetings. In addition, elected officials are to be paid $175 for turning up at committee meetings, which are held six times a month. It is understood that, on average, each councillor attends around four committee meetings monthly. And it was also agreed that the payments should be backdated to May 2012 when the current Team Hamilton administration was voted into office. That decision means that each councillor can now expect to pick up as much as $20,000 in back payments. The motion was backed by Mayor Graeme Outerbridge and Deputy Mayor Donal Smith, along with Alderman Carlton Simmons and councillors Keith Davis and George Scott. Alderman Gwyneth Rawlins and councillors Larry Scott and Troy Symonds refused to support the payments, while councillor RoseAnn Edwards was absent. Currently elected officials of both Hamilton and St George's Corporations receive no financial remuneration for their work. But under the Municipalities Amendment Act 2013, which was approved last week by MPs and passed by the Senate yesterday, municipality members will be entitled to payments for attending council meetings at the same rate that members of Government boards are paid $50 for regular members and $100 for board chairmen. Earlier this year the Corporation hired a consultant to examine the issue of salaries, with Alderman Simmons arguing that payments were deserved because current councillors had a far greater workload and more responsibilities than previous administrations. The report concluded that Mayor Outerbridge deserved to be paid $75,000 annually, and that aldermen and common councillors should get $42,000 and $30,000, respectively. Although the salary option was eventually dropped, speculation about a payment package was fuelled earlier this week by Mr Simmons. At a press conference on Monday addressing the Municipalities Amendment Act, the alderman said that Governments proposed $50 payment per meeting was in fact less than that paid out to Government Board members, and was disrespectful to elected officials. Mr Simmons complained that he had sat in the House of Assembly until 2am last Thursday listening to MPs debate the Act and yet his family had not received any financial compensation to put food on the table in his absence. "This speaks to a lack of respect and its very hard to believe that it doesn't have anything to do with race. The people of Bermuda need to know that the OBA Government has no respect for the small guy. People in Bermuda feel they are being trampled on." Tuesday night's vote is in marked contrast to the views of fellow councillors sitting on the Corporation of St George's. Town Mayor Garth Rothwell who currently receives no payment for his role as chief administrator for the municipality said that a number of his corporation colleagues had discussed the issue of remuneration, but it was decided that any compensation would be seen as inappropriate in the current economic climate. "We all knew when we took the job on that there was no pay and in fact we end up being out of pocket some of the time.  But I think, given the current financial crisis and the fact that we knew what the agreement was when we stood for election, it would not be right to start getting paid now." The Royal Gazette last night e-mailed questions about the payments to a spokeswoman for the Corporation, but she said she was unable to get any response from mayor Outerbridge. "Everyone is at an event which is why no one is answering my calls," the spokeswoman said.

October 10.  The Island's healthcare spending held steady last year, after several years of sharp increases. According to the Bermuda Health Council, Bermudians spent $678.4 million on healthcare the same as they did in 2011. The organization's latest National Health Accounts, for the fiscal year ending 2012, showed the Island's health expenditure amounting to 12.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product. That portion increased from the previous years 11.8 percent, due to the contraction of the Island's economy. The report attributed the level spending to an interplay of multiple factors including the reduced insured headcount, cuts in Governments health spending, claims management by payers, and the effects of a Memorandum of Understanding that capped the revenue of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. The Island continues to spend more per person than comparable Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with a lower life expectancy. The report shows countries such as Israel, Korea, Greece, Slovenia and Portugal spending less than half the amount paid out by Bermuda residents, but with a higher life expectancy. However, the trend remains worse for the US which leads the OECD in terms of spending. Bermuda's healthcare expenditure was split equally between the private and public sectors. Private sector funding rose by three percent from 2011, which public sector funding dropped six percent. Overall, Bermuda Hospitals Board accounted for 44 percent of the Island's expenditure, while 13 percent went into overseas care a drop of seven percent from the 2011 figures. Health spending per person added up to $10,562, the BHeC said.

October 10.  Senior Japanese bankers were in Bermuda yesterday as Butterfield Fulcrum Group (BFG) was officially rebranded Mitsubishi UFJ Fund Services. It is the first time the Mitsubishi financial group has made a wholly owned acquisitions of a non-Japanese business. "Our acquisition of BFG is a strategic move into the alternative fund administration business, " said Tasuo Wakabayashi, president of Mitsubishi UFJ Trust & Banking Corporation. He cut the ribbon at yesterdays ceremony and presented the Bermuda office with a painting of Mount Fuji. Mr Wakabayashi added: "We will be expanding our reach and breadth of services rapidly. Clients can look forward to the addition of numerous new services including banking, custody, trust, foreign exchange and securities lending." Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporations (MUTB) said the acquisition of BFG was completed on September 20. Established in 1927, MUTB is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), the second largest global bank holding company ranked by assets. Butterfield Fulcrum will become the global alternative asset administration platform of MUTB. And the senior management team, as well as all management and staff in all Butterfield Fulcrum offices will remain with the company, MUTB said. Butterfield Fulcrum employs around 40 staff in Bermuda and has offices on Burnaby Street. It has been rebranded as Mitsubishi UFJ Fund Services to reflect its new position in Japan's MUFG. "We will grow from strength to strength within the MUTB family, " said Glenn Henderson, now the CEO of Mitsubishi UFJ Fund Services. " The additional services we will be offering will allow us to continue our focus on excellent client service, expanded functionality and cutting-edge technology." Mr Henderson and Tim Calveley, deputy CEO, acquired Butterfield Fulcrum in 2011 in partnership with private equity firm BV Investment Partners. The acquisition included FORS Ltd. Butterfield Fulcrum was part owned by Butterfield Bank and private equity firm 3i Group. The company services more than $100 billion of client assets across 850 funds and has seven offices in six countries.

October 12. Premier Craig Cannonier has not ruled out future cuts in the Civil Service as the Island struggles to recover from recession. Mr Cannonier said: "As we move forward, we certainly cant make any promises in that area. The realities are out there, but we will always look out for people first." Both parties ruled out Civil Service redundancies in the run-up to last year's General Election. Speaking yesterday Mr Cannonier said: "Certainly, we could have come in and slashed, but there probably would have been unintended and unenviable consequences of that. That was why Government's first priority was to attract new business to Bermuda and boost tourism figures to create more jobs for Bermudians. We need to look first at incentives for job creators to come here. In the end, if someone is made redundant or doesn't have a job, they need somewhere to go. We will have to make tough decisions in 2014, that's why we had a SAGE Commission to look at where we can cut back without losing manpower. The independent SAGE Commission set up to look at reducing the cost of Government will report at the end of the month and may suggest Civil Service cuts. But Mr Cannonier declined to comment on how Government would deal with its recommendations. He said: "We will cross that point when we look at the SAGE report. We certainly cannot have the agreements we have with the unions all over the place. There are some unions, one particular union, that has unlimited paid sick time. One union has negotiated three weeks paid sick time. These are some of the recommendations that will come out of the SAGE Commission we will act on. We will look at the realities of where we are and we will make decisions in the best interests of the country. We need to be making decisions that are right for the people of this country we have got to do what is right for the country as a whole. When you start isolating different sectors and saying its politically dangerous we cant afford that any more. There are too many people suffering because we have made political decisions and not made decisions based on what's best for the country. Mr Cannonier added that Bermuda faced a declining birth rate, while many Bermudians had emigrated and residents had left the Island, which totaled 7000, maybe more people. He said that if 2,000 expatriates who had left spent a conservative figure of $1,500 a week on goods and services, the Island had lost a staggering $3 million a week and more than $150 million a year. "There will be fewer jobs if we don't get more people in the country. We want Bermudians coming back and those job creators coming back and investing and circulating these dollars in the country so we can get the Gross Domestic Product in the right direction. Every time we bring in a job creator, that's two Bermudians who get hired. We needed to stop the bleeding and put in place policies that would restore the country." Mr Cannonier said that when the OBA took power last December, they inherited a situation where no one knew exactly how many Civil Servants were on the payroll, and a huge $1.45 billion in debt. He added that, a few months later, the Governments financial situation was so dire, it came close to being unable to pay the Civil Service. And he said: "Financially, we can't afford to do anything right now we can't even afford to assist those in need because there is no money." Mr Cannonier was speaking after a Parliamentary session extended by four sittings came to an end and he said the next one would likely be extended to fit in new legislation. "Government legislative highlights included ending the controversial term limits policy for work permit holders, giving investors more security through the Job Creators Act and reducing or eliminating taxes on new Bermudian hires. Government had worked with cruise ship lines to hire Bermudians for on-board positions was also an important initiative. These are important objectives we had to embark on to show we are building a better Bermuda and getting people back to work. The new independent Tourism Authority was designed to bring back accountability in how the Island is sold abroad. We spent millions of dollars on tourism, but we have continued to fail year after year. That's unacceptable. I believe that, as the Premier of this country, we have to be accountable to each other. Future priorities included getting a hotel in St Georges and incentives for existing hotels to upgrade their facilities."

October 12. Thousands of Bermudians came together in 2006 to draft Bermuda's first national sustainable development strategy in an unprecedented consultation exercise initiated by then Premier Alex Scott. But today Government has nothing to say about the project in the aftermath of blunt criticism by a civil servant. Philip Seaman has not made any public comments in his capacity as Chair of the Sustainable Development Roundtable, despite repeated attempts by this newspaper to conduct an interview with him since his appointment in February. Neither Mr Seaman nor Environment Minister Sylvan Richards who has Cabinet responsibility for the Sustainable Development Department have responded to our request made several weeks ago for their reaction to a recommendation by SAGE Commission Award winner Magnus Henagulph that the department be shut down because it had nothing to show for the more than $500,000 of taxpayers money spent on it every year. Among the Department's core objectives is to produce an annual report along with a set of sustainable development indicators meant to measure Bermuda's progress. Department performance measures report that indicators were produced for 2009, 2010 and 2011, but no mention is made of the annual report. Other objectives include developing year round comprehensive public awareness campaigns on sustainable development (SD), conducting sustainability impact assessments of proposed Government initiatives and monitoring implementation of the national strategy. And the department is charged with embedding SD principles into government policies and programmes. Sustainability advocate Stuart Hayward, a member of the first SD Roundtable, said it was disappointing that the indicators have not been made public, and agreed that it did not appear that SD had been mainstreamed throughout Government seven years after the drafting of the strategy. "Of course I am disappointed, along with the hundreds and perhaps thousands of others who participated one way or another in the surveys, focus groups and Town Hall meetings that led to the drafting of the plan.  The sluggish progress of the implementation plan is disappointing and points to the need for reigniting leaders and the facilitators to regain the lost momentum. A first step would be to remove the structural obstacles, e.g. make the Roundtable a vibrant, deliberative body rather than merely an advisory body." In 2005, then Premier Alex Scott launched the sustainable development project with an Island-wide consultation which led to the drafting of Bermudas first Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan. The Department itself was created in 2006 and the SD strategy was approved by Cabinet in 2008. Three staffers are employed at the department, which now comes under the Ministry of Environment. And a 13-member Sustainable Development Roundtable, appointed by the Minister, is meant to function as an advisory body to Government and recommend sustainable development policy. In its original incarnation it was also supposed to play a watchdog role and was free to criticize Government if it felt necessary. "Unfortunately, the Roundtable is caught in no-mans land in that they have an expectation to be on the front line of the Governments SD policies and actions but they have no power other than to advise," Mr Hayward said. "A further and related handicap is that they are, or at least were, expected NOT to make public statements especially any that raised questions about government policies. Much thought and work has gone into the Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan and, while the momentum has obviously slowed, the concept and the need are undiminished if anything, they are needed more now than ever before." Mr Hayward and several other members of the Roundtable were dropped from the Roundtable by Mr Scott's successor Ewart Brown. He later went on to found the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Task Force. "The concept is worth more than lip service. Sustainable development is a mindset, a culture, a way of being that informs our ways of doing in the interest of long term economic and environmental prosperity," Mr Hayward continued. And he lamented the invisibility of the institutions that were created to lead the effort and called for a more open and collaborative process. "The work the SDD is doing may be great, or not much at all its unknown because of the secrecy/confidentiality built into its structure. But I do not agree that the Department should be dismantled. I would prefer a restructuring. There is a desperate need for a sustainability-centred culture and policies to be threaded through all Government departments, the business sector and the community at large. With the economic downturn comes the opportunity and the incentive to review and rethink the practices, especially the wasteful ones, that have contributed to our current woes. The SDD has a vast and valuable knowledge base under its belt, and plan for putting that knowledge into practice for the benefit of the entire Island. What is needed is a streamlining of the process and a re-energizing of the people." The Departments mission statement reads: To facilitate integrated and holistic decision making that sustains and improves the quality of life for current and future generations." The Department is leading public consultation on whether or not a marine reserve should be established in the offshore waters of Bermudas exclusive economic zone. But little else has been heard of its work since the One Bermuda Alliance became the Government nine months ago. In 2011/2012, the SDD conducted six SIAs in 2011-2012, responded to sustainability requests within five days 80 percent of the time and attended one overseas meeting. It also conducted 26 presentations media interviews, public speeches school visits, opinion pieces in print media, one PSA, one SD Resource Guide and one public meeting. It reported almost identical performance for 2010/2011. By the end of the current fiscal year the SDD is hoping to conduct 12 SIAs, make 10 public presentations and produce one set of SD indicators, according to the budget book forecasts.

October 12.  Internet giant Google has revealed its Dutch arm funneled nearly $12 billion to Bermuda to avoid paying tax on its profits. The latest figures show that Google Netherlands Holding, raked in $1.6 billion from its Irish sister company and $315 million from Singapore. Most of the money was then channeled to Google Ireland Holdings, a Bermuda-based firm. The scheme reduced Google’s effective corporate tax rate to five percent — most of which is paid in Ireland, which has relatively low tax rates. The figures were revealed in the latest filings by one of Google’s Dutch subsidiaries and means that royalty payments paid to Bermuda — where the firm holds its non-US intellectual property — have doubled over the past three years. Google’s tax arrangements — although legal — have been condemned in the UK and other European countries and prompted politicians to look at a crackdown on corporate profit shifting. Google, based in the US, uses differences between the US and Irish tax codes, which means it is seen as an Irish company by US tax authorities, but as a Bermudian firm by the Irish taxman. Google last year only paid 2.6 percent tax in the US on sales worth $8.1 billion — because it channeled most of its overseas profits through Bermuda, which has no corporate income tax. The UK arm of the firm, as well as other European operations, are designated as providers of marketing services to Google Ireland. But Google declares little profit in Ireland because it sends nearly all the cash it gets to the Bermuda arm in the form of licence fees for intellectual property. Westminster MP Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said Google’s tactics were “evil” and said the firm was “devious, calculating and unethical.” Google has insisted it follows the tax laws in all the countries it operates in and pays little tax in the UK because it profits are not generated by UK employees.


October 17. List of Newly-registered charities and de-listed former charities published. The latest roster registered charities in Bermuda shows 11 new names: ABC Football School; Bermuda Rowing Association; Bermuda Urban Park Association; Clara Mohammed School, IPTSA;  Melange; Raleigh International Bermuda (RIB); Ride the Wave Bermuda; The Bermuda Reading Association; The Lorraine Rest Home Amenities Committee; Transforming Arts Association and Ministry;  Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative of Bermuda . Twelve organisations have lost charitable status, as authorities review financial records in advance of tighter regulations for the Islands third sector. A further 13 charities have expired, according to the latest figures. Struck from the register is the Berkeley Institute Alumni Association, which last handed in financial statements five years ago. That charity is dormant and had no financial activity to report, according to a spokesman for the school. The Alumni Association has not been active for in excess of ten years, so they made the decision to allow its registration as a charity to lapse, the spokesman said. Also terminated was the Bermuda Hospice Trust, which has never supplied financial statements to Government. Bermuda Martial Arts Federation, which last submitted accounts for April 30, 2005, was taken off the list by the Commission. Other charities, which were due for re-registration and have dropped off the latest lists, are: Bermuda Pacers (accounted for up until October, 2011), Bermuda Physiotherapy Association (to August, 2012); Bible Broadcasting Network of Bermuda, a new charity; Bsmart Development Foundation (accounted to December, 2011) l Caledonian society of Bermuda (to March, 2012), and Child Watch (to March, 2012). The Denton Hurdle Memorial Scholarship Fund, which last sent in financials in June, 1993, has been closed by the Commission. Dynamic Debaters and Learners, a new charity, has not renewed its registration. Cancelled was the group Friends of Bermuda Cathedral, which has never sent its financial statements to the Registry General and which a member of staff at the office of the Anglican Cathedral said had ceased functioning. Jewish Community of Bermuda and Jiketsu Martial Productions Foundation both appear to have let their registration lapse. Also struck from the register were: Key Women of Bermuda, which submitted at the end of 2001; Kiwanis Club of Sandys, which submitted on September 30, 2007; Omega Phi Psi Fraternity, Incorporated, which submitted at the end of 2004; Operation Respect, which last submitted in October, 2001; Parents Anonymous of Bermuda, which submitted on March 31, 2008; The Smith Quintuplets Charity Fund which last submitted on December 31, 2000, and Special Olympics Bermuda, which last submitted on August 31, 2008. Orbis Founders Philanthropies was not renewed, as was the group Phenomenal People, the Tuleeni Charitable Trust, and the Touch the World Foundation. Including the lists 11 recent additions (see side article), this brings the Islands total number of registered charities registered in the Island to 363. However, more could be deregistered as the Charities Commission winds up its survey of financial statements a job expected to take around six more weeks. Not all charities that have fallen behind have been cut from the register. The Bermuda Police Benevolent Fund, whose most recent financials filed with the Registry General are from December 31, 2009, have been given extra time. A spokesman said the service was working on completing the required financial records, and expects to submit them very shortly. Others, like the Bermuda Fencing Federation which last filed on December 31, 2004 have been inactive, but are planning to start back up. This list was compiled from records compiled by the Registry General's office.

October 18. A new law aimed at reforming the municipalities may have inadvertently delayed a job-creating hotel project in the City of Hamilton. And taxpayers could end up compensating developers for damages relating to both the waterfront redevelopment project and the City hotel project, in the aftermath of the passage of the Municipalities Amendment Act 2013. Developer Michael MacLean, who is the key principal for both projects, has told The Royal Gazette that the hotel project is now compromised and any compensation for the loss of either of the leases will involve more than what he has spent on developing the two projects. But he warned that compensation could be due even if the leases are not voided. "The mere fact that the Act has been tabled and passed by the Senate prejudices our position. From an investor and developer's standpoint, if there's a piece of legislation hanging over the development opportunity, it puts the development in a compromised position. The development is no longer standing on solid ground." Government had agreed with the City of Hamilton that the law governing the municipalities would be amended to allow it to use its property as financial guarantee. This was crucial to the Par-la-Ville hotel project which needed a bridge loan of $15 million to raise full financing, and the City had offered to assist with a guarantee. Government lived up to its pledge to bring legislation to allow the City to guarantee loans with its property but another provision of the landmark municipalities reform bill, which was passed by parliament this month, requires all agreements involving City property leased for at least 21 years since January 2012 to be approved by Cabinet and ratified by parliament. The process could end in such leases being voided.  In July, Premier Craig Cannonier confirmed that his administration would be bringing forward the necessary legislative changes in order to assist with financing arrangements for the hotel project. "The promise that was made to Par-la-Ville and the public in July was not provided for in this legislation, because the Corporation of Hamilton was not authorized to pledge the property," said Mr MacLean. "One would have thought that the legislation would have made provision for the Corporation to pledge the property and Par-la-Ville would have been allowed to go ahead which is the understanding that everyone had. Par-la-Ville Hotels and Residences Ltd had renegotiated the lease for the hotel project in April 2012 with the City Council headed by then Mayor Charles Gosling. I have already expressed to the Government that my investors have lost comfort in negotiations with me and discussions with the Government because promises have not been kept." The developer said he and the Corporation became aware that there was a problem with the bill before it was tabled in the House of Assembly. "Ultimately, it's the lenders attorneys that need to be satisfied with it, not mine. And it's the lenders attorneys that said our client can't take a mortgage based on the way this bill is written." Efforts to reach Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy last night were unsuccessful. The developer said that amending the bill in November would be too late for his investors and another way forward must be found. Mr MacLean's Allied Development Partners won the right to develop waterfront property and was given a 262-year lease in a process which has been criticized as lacking in transparency. Mr MacLean revealed that the lease of the Par-la-Ville hotel site is for 120 years in the first instance but renewable to 262 years, pending Government approval as required by the law governing companies. He took a different tack for the waterfront property which is being leased for 262 years by a private trust he set up and not a company. He stressed that other City of Hamilton administrations and the Government had entered into such leases. "I can't put a dollar figure on it because I have professionals putting a figure on the actual dollar value," he said when asked how much compensation would have to be paid should his leases be voided. But he did state that the potential returns of his investments would have to be taken into account. "If you look at a billion dollar development and my potential for equitable interest, profit, construction work that I could get out of this deal if for some reason, anyone finds it necessary to take away my property, then under the Constitution I am looking for compensation. And reasonable compensation. You are looking at not just the loss of the property, but the damage that the bill does to my ability to develop this property. Whether or not the Government decides to move forward on taking the lease or leases away from us, there's still the damage to prejudices my ability to raise investment for this project. I cant go to investors and say this thing is subject to the Government taking it away from me at will and say lend me hundreds of millions of dollars. Unfortunately, investors are a lot smarter than that. Retroactivity in legislation is normally an extreme measure. I have yet to see the justification from (Ombudsman) Ms Brock or the Government in their due diligence process," he said. Ombudsman Arlene Brock has investigated governance issues at City Hall, with a particular focus on the processes involved in the waterfront redevelopment project. Government has indicated that it is waiting on Ms Brock's report before moving on the waterfront project. Asked if he was more concerned about the impact of the reform bill on the hotel project than on the waterfront project, he said that the hotel project could start much sooner. There's enough in place where a shovel can get in the ground within two months and if it was given the correct and the required support that it needed, then this project could be on the way to bringing in foreign capital and creating jobs for Bermudians which we desperately need right now." On the waterfront project, Mr MacLean questioned why the Government had not approached him to discuss any concerns or their preferences. "This is the most expensive and iconic project in the history of Bermuda. I've been awarded the project by the owner of the property and the Government has never sat and met with me once about it officially." Instead, he said, he had heard derogatory, second-hand comments about his ability to deliver the projects. "And that the Corporation has done something so wrong which till today no one can say what it is," he added. Mr MacLean bought some preferred shares in Par-la-Ville Hotels and Residences to secure a stake in what he felt was a promising investment. The investment was critical in keeping the $350 million project alive, and once the financiers became aware of his role, they insisted he take over the lead role from US developer Ted Adams. The 38-year-old entrepreneur then set about negotiating with Mr Adams and ended up with an 80 percent share of the company last summer. Plans for a hotel at the Par-la-Ville car park site were first announced in 2007 with Ritz Carlton attached. Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which owns the luxury St Regis brand, was named as a new partner in 2009 when it was stated the hotel would open in 2013. Mr MacLean was encouraged by the hotel project financiers to submit a proposal to redevelop the waterfront when that opportunity came up.

October 19.  Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy has rejected a claim by developer Michael MacLean that a mistake was made in the new law governing the municipalities. And, he says, Government is willing to hold talks with the parties involved in the City hotel project to work out the way forward. Mr MacLean, the principal shareholder of Par-la-Ville Hotels, the company behind plans to build a $350 million luxury St Regis hotel and condominium development, has warned that his investors have lost confidence in the negotiations and discussions with the Government since the passage of the Municipalities Amendment Act 2013 which now requires a proposed financing deal to go before parliament. The developer has claimed that it had been understood that the Corporation of Hamilton would be empowered to guarantee a $15 million bridge loan using its land, but another requirement that the deal go to parliament was not anticipated. "The bill does provide for, and allow for corporations to give guarantees using corporation land for developments subject to parliamentary approval," the Minister said yesterday. "That allows the people of Bermuda to understand how such lands are being used and guaranteed. Nothing wrong with that at all. The law reflects Government's intentions and no mistakes had been made in drafting the law. The Act speaks for itself. The Governments not made any mistakes, the Act is what it is." As to the reported reluctance of the investors to move forward under the conditions of the new law, he said: "We will continue to work with both the developer and the Corporation with respect to Par-la-Ville." He would not be drawn on whether he supported the deal. "I'm not going to say anything outside the Economic Development Committee in respect to any of this. The law requires all agreements for leases of land for more than 21 years have to be reviewed by my Ministry before being submitted to parliament. For me to comment any further is going to be premature until I see everything that's out there." But Mr MacLean has warned that investors for his City hotel project are disillusioned by what they see as yet another delay. "I wouldn't want to see any investors walk away, but to prevent something like that happening means open dialogue and conversation as to what the position of the Government is in respect to the development both the developer, investors and the Corporation, " Minister Fahy said. "The parties need to sit down and have a conversation about what is required. That's now what needs to happen. The Act is in place. Let's sit around the table and make Bermuda get back to work. That's what we pledged to do." Once the Act comes into force, the Corporation of Hamilton would have 14 days to submit to the Government all land leases for more than 21 years, as well as outright land sales, for review by the Minister who is then required to table them in parliament. Land leases for both the waterfront redevelopment project and the St Regis hotel project will be impacted because the requirement is retroactive to January 1, 2012. The Corporation of Hamilton entered into a 262-year lease of about 26 acres of its land to Mr MacLean's Allied Development Partners on December 13, 2012. And in April 2012, the City, headed by then Mayor Charles Gosling signed a fresh 120-year lease renewable to 262 years with Par-la-Ville Hotels and Residences, Ltd. It is unclear whether the Government already has all the relevant documents for the two projects. Minister Fahy indicated that the process could well be expedited if that is the case. Parliament reopens on November 8.

October 31. The St John Ambulance service is so short of funds that it can no longer provide medical support at public events unless it is guaranteed a donation. The charity is on hand to provide emergency medical treatment and an ambulance service at many public events free of charge, with medical professionals volunteering their time and expertise. It costs $250 just to get an ambulance on the road and as a result the organization is hemorrhaging funds. While organisations that ask the service to attend their events will often make a donation, that rarely covers the charity's basic expenses. Yesterday St John Ambulance Commissioner Stephen Gunn said that the service was in dire financial straits, and that in future it will only be able to cover a public event if it can be assured that it will receive a donation in return. Mr Gunn said that only two of the charity's five ambulances were roadworthy and that these were often loaned out to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, which is struggling to maintain its own fleet of ambulances. Last week The Royal Gazette reported that the hospitals four ambulances, which are just four years old, are being decommissioned because of repeated mechanical failure and the Bermuda Hospitals Board is having to rely on St John Ambulance to provide emergency backup. Mr Gunn said: "St John Ambulance is a charity organization, and like many other charities in Bermuda, we are suffering from lack of finances.  All of our medical staff are volunteers, and therefore they donate all of their time to St John. We have doctors, nurses, EMTs, advanced medic responders and first-aiders, and each of them work for free. However, the cost for putting an ambulance on the road is a minimum of $250 each time. This includes supplies, licensing and insurance for the vehicle as well as liability insurance and upkeep of the vehicles. Our two newest ambulances are now 9 and 12 years old but they spend most of the time supporting the hospital. Of the other three, one is essentially too large to be used as a response vehicle and was purchased/donated to act as a medical mobile base. Another was selected as a handicap transportation vehicle, which can accommodate wheelchairs and multiple stretchers, but the hydraulic lift is broken and I can't afford to fix it. The last one is defective to the point of being on blocks in the back yard and is beyond repair. The organization has additional expenses, such as the running of its Point Finger Road office, and has also had to chase organisations down for a promised payment after the fact, which has led to additional costs. For many years St John ambulance has asked for donations to cover community events, and many times we are given a donation.  However, many times we are not. St John Ambulance has supported events, that have lasted more than a week, ten hours a day with multiple ambulances, for less than a $300 total donation. Knowing the need for, and likelihood of, requiring medical assistance, we have traditionally volunteered without remuneration. Unfortunately we are not able to continue like this, and must ask for something in return. Mr Gunn acknowledged that many organisations that used St John Ambulance were charities which were themselves struggling financially. He pointed out that the organization did not expect to be paid the full cost of covering an event and that it would not charge for its services, but some financial compensation was necessary. "We ask for your help, it doesn't have to be much but it does have to be something. If one organization donates money for their event and another does not, whom should we support? St John Ambulance does not charge for attendance at events, we ask for a donation to cover our costs, and provide a figure as to what those costs would be for us. There is no other medical service in Bermuda capable of providing the care that we provide at community events at the weekly constant rate that we provide them. We are asking for the community's help to keep our organization alive. We are asking for sponsors and event organizers to understand that, without financial support, we have no fleet, and no supplies, and with no fleet or supplies we will not be able to attend events."

October 31. The Corporation of Hamilton is to mount a legal challenge to recent laws changing the way the municipality operates and is paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to retain a top UK law firm for the case. The Municipalities Amendment Act 2013 was passed in the Senate earlier this month, bringing in a raft of new rules governing the Corporations of Hamilton and St Georges. Among the changes is the introduction of a hybrid dual tracked electoral system which gives ratepayers the right to vote, while sales of municipality land and leases exceeding 21 years must be submitted to the Minister of Home Affairs and approved by Parliament. Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge has described the Act as very dictatorial and pledged to fight this thing all the way. And at a special Corporation board meeting last Friday, councillors agreed to set aside $250,000 as a retainer for the services of London-based law firm Blackstone to pursue all avenues of remedy and redress before the courts. The Corporation is also seeking to challenge amendments brought in by the former Government in 2010. Friday's meeting was attended by five of the Corporations eight councillors Mayor Outerbridge, Deputy Mayor Donal Smith, Alderman Carlton Simmons, and councillors Keith Davis and George Scott. They voted unanimously to support the resolution to hire Blackstone. Minutes from the meeting show that Blackstone was selected after members were sent copies of an independent review of top UK legal companies. Blackstone is the best law firm in public law and CoH was looking to engage them, the minutes state. The Council would be advancing their local attorneys [J2] an estimated sum of $250K as a retainer, doing half of that in the first instance ($125K) so that the process of engaging could move forward. The minutes conclude that the Board approve to engage J2 law Chambers in concert with Blackstone Law Chambers as per the terms of the letter of engagement dated October 11 2013 by J2 Chambers, to advance the challenge to Government on the 2010 and 2013 Municipality Reform Acts and their total impact on the Corporation of Hamilton on their autonomy and finance. Corporation accounts show that the municipality, which had allocated $105,000 for legal expenses for 2013, had already spent $120,000 in legal fees in the first eight months of this year. In addition, it funneled $850,000 into a Members Expenses account, which Mr Outerbridge later claimed was set aside for further legal costs. Records show that, by the end of August, almost $480,000 of that fund had been spent. Corporation insiders claim the funds have been wasted on boondoggles, such as sending a corporation delegation to a conference in Colombia, and while Mr Outerbridge insisted that the money has been spent on further legal costs, he has yet to provide a promised breakdown of how the money has been spent. Minutes from Friday's meeting state that Alderman Simmons pointed out that funding the legal challenge would have to be factored into the budget going forward. The notes added that the municipality would probably be spending close to $1M in this fiscal year to figure out what is going to happen with the Municipality side of things. The former administration ring-fenced $1 million to fund a possible challenge to new laws regulating the municipalities passed in 2010. The funds were put into a trust but never spent and were returned to the Corporations coffers after the new Team Hamilton administration was elected in May 2012. But insiders claim those funds have now been spent on other projects that have incurred heavy legal costs, such as the signing of a 262-year lease with a developer to upgrade the City's waterfront. Mr Outerbridge and Mr Smith were also in court recently on contempt charges brought by Ombudsman Arlene Brock, who alleged the two men had failed to cooperate with her investigation into the Corporations management practices. Ms Brock's allegation was upheld by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley. The timing of last Friday's meeting meant that none of the five elected officials who attended it could meet with Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy. The Minister had earlier invited all representatives from both municipalities to meet for a discussion on how the new law will be implemented. That meeting also took place on Friday afternoon, clashing with the Corporations own special meeting. Yesterday The Royal Gazette e-mailed questions regarding the legal challenge to the Corporation. In response Mayor Outerbridge said: "The City of Hamilton is currently in the middle of the 2014 budget process. No timeline was given to The Royal Gazette on when the figures will be shared. We will do so in due course."

October 31. The Island’s population is still growing year-on-year, according to the Department of Statistics. Despite reports of an exodus of foreign workers in recent years, the fourth annual Environmental Statistics Compendium released this week states that the population of Bermuda increased in 2011 and 2012. However the report also notes that all of its population figures except for 2010 — the one year it states the population fell — were based on population projections from 2000. “Bermuda’s population has continued to grow over time,” the report states. “This is attributed in part to natural increase, that is, when the number of births exceeds the number of deaths.” Charts within the report state that Bermuda’s population fell from 64,395 to 64,237 between 2009 and 2010, but the Island experienced consecutive years of population growth, jumping to 64,722 in 2011 and 64,867 in 2012. A spokeswoman for the Department of Statistics was contacted about the accuracy of the figures, but had not issued a response as of press time last night. Stuart Hayward, chairman of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) said the growing population shown in the report demonstrates the importance of forward planning for the Island. “We hope Bermudians appreciate that our population is still rising — yearly births are greater than deaths,” he said. “Even though we may be in a period when there is considerable out-migration of foreigners and locals, the number of people entitled to live in Bermuda is increasing. Also, while the rate of population growth may be slowing, growth is still occurring and should be factored in to social, economic and environmental decisions and policies.” The 98-page compendium also includes the results of a study on Bermuda’s air quality, which was tested at five separate monitoring sites across the Island between 2010 and 2012. The survey found that East Broadway in Pembroke regularly reported levels of airborne particles above those recommended by the Clean Air Regulations 1993. However the report notes: “Exceedances of PM10 (particular matter with a diameter of less than ten micrometers) can arise from natural sources (pollen, sea aerosols, dust) as well as from combustion of petroleum and other combustibles. The busy road at East Broadway fails the Clean Air Regulations limit for PM10 more often than other sites. The fact that the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) also exceeds PM10 highlights the potential natural sources that can contribute to PM10.” The compendium also states that the value of fuel imported to the Island increased from $85.6 million to $96.6 million between 2011 and 2012 after two consecutive years of decline, while the number of vehicles on the Island’s roads fell from 48,581 to 47,367 during the same period. Mr Hayward said it was nice to have such a collection of information in a single document, but he had some minor issues with the data as presented. “The compendium attributes the level of respiratory diseases to Bermuda being subtropical with high humidity,” he said. “Such an attribution would seem to discount the effect of airborne pollutants from vehicles and other local combustion processes. We would like to see more of the evidence that supports this thesis. And presenting data on fuel use by value (price) is far less helpful than by quantity. The cost of fuel consumed could rise even though the amount of fuel consumed was reduced.”

October 31. We generated 82,000 tons of waste in 2012,  and other interesting facts. The Environment Statistics Compendium, released by the Department of Statistics this week, contains a wide variety of figures about the Island. Here are a few of the statistics included in the overview. The number of Government private (GP) vehicles rose from 105 to 176 between 2008 and 2010, but subsequently fell to 165 in 2012. A total of 463.3 metric tons of fish were caught and recorded in Bermuda’s waters in 2012. Tuna and pelagic species were by far the most popular catch, representing 187.89 metric tons. The year’s catch was the result of a total of 356 registered fishermen in Bermuda spending a combined 85,729 hours at sea. 82,000 tons of waste was collected in 2012, 27,000 tons of which was household waste. Of the waste collected, 1,600 tons was recycled, 15,000 tons of horticultural waste was composted, 55,400 tons of waste was incinerated to generate electricity and another 10,000 tons of waste was land-filled. 71.72 percent of tourists in 2012 chose accommodations at one of Bermuda’s larger hotels with 27.62 percent staying in other types of accommodations. Only 0.66 percent stayed at a guest house. There were 5,947 reported cases of environmentally-related diseases in Bermuda in 2012, 5,091 (85.71 percent) of which were respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. More unusual ailments included three cases malaria and dengue fever in the last three years, all of which were contracted overseas.  $716,493 of fertiliser was imported to Bermuda in 2012, a decline of 13.05 percent from the previous year. During the same period the total cost of pesticide imported to the Island rose by 21 percent to $1,818,202.

November 1. Telecommunications Regulatory Authority commissioner John Cunningham has stepped down, it was announced on Friday. John Cunningham — a partner in specialist technology law firm Allen's who was appointed earlier this year for a four-year term — said he would quit at the end of the month. Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons, who is responsible for telecoms legislation, said: “It is with regret that we accept John’s resignation.” Mr Cunningham, will however, remain a commissioner on the Telecommunications Commission and the Broadcasting Commission. Dr Gibbons said: “We understand the increased workload of being a Commissioner and how that has impacted John’s already heavy workload in his private practice. We respect his decision, I would like to send my thanks and recognition for all the work John has put in, not just as a Commissioner, but also in the build-up to the formation of the authority, which was launched in January of this year. His contribution and wise counsel will be missed. We wish him all the best.”

November 5. The former chairman of Bermuda-headquartered drinks giant Bacardi has died, the company announced on Monday. Manuel Jorge Cutillas, the first chairman of the group of Bacardi firms that formed Bacardi Ltd in 1992, was 81. Facundo L. Bacardi, the present chairman, said: "The Bacardi family and employees are deeply saddened at the passing of Manuel Jorge one of the icons of our company. Manuel Jorge through his drive and leadership helped shape the global company that we have today. His pursuit of growth for the company took Bacardi from solely being a rum company to a diverse portfolio of premium brands which established us as a global player. His dedication to the dynamic Bacardi culture of passion, excellence and entrepreneurial spirit will be greatly missed." Mr Cutillas, a fifth generation Bacardi family member, was the great-great grandson of Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, who founded the rum firm in Santiago de Cuba. He was cited as a driving force in the formation of Bacardi Ltd, which brought together five separate companies based in several countries into a single firm based in Bermuda which became the largest privately-held spirits company in the world. He also played a key role in the firms first acquisition outside their own rum brand in 1993 the Martini & Rossi group, famous for its vermouths. It also added wines, cognac, Scotch whisky and liqueur to its brands, doubling the size of Bacardi Ltd. Mr Cuillas, who retired to the Bahamas, died on Friday while on vacation in Panama. He is survived by his wife and son. Mr Cutillas worked for Bacardi for 45 years, before retiring in 2000. He was President and chief executive of the then stand-alone Bermuda-based arm of the firm from 1992-97. He was a Maestro de Ron master blender an honour given to only a handful of experts in the company's 151 years in the business. Mr Cutillas started his career with Bacardi in 1955 as a chemical engineer in Santiago de Cuba. The firm was forced to flee Cuba after the Communist takeover in 1959 led by Fidel Castro.

November 5. East End residents have been left in the cold by Governments failure to speak out over the closure of the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre, the Opposition has charged. The Bermuda Hospitals Board announced last week that the centre will shut by the end of the month due to the high cost of running the facility and low usage. St David's MP Lovitta Foggo yesterday challenged One Bermuda Alliance MPs for the East End, Kenny Bascome, Nandi Davis, and Suzann Roberts-Holshouser, to speak up for the community over the closure. She claimed that, while the East End had provided the margin of victory for the One Bermuda Alliances Election campaign, the OBA had turned its back on the community. The Progressive Labour Party MP added that the OBA had last year promised to move more Government services to Southside, as well as accusing the PLP of neglecting the East. Saying the OBA had made petty promises before the election in a bid to win votes, she called on OBA MPs to stand up for the residents of the East End. She also said the closure had been undertaken with no explanation, consultation or consideration of any alternatives for residents. She said: "Bermudians deserve better. They deserve a Premier that wont turn his back on his community. They deserve better than Members of Parliament who can pose for photo-ops but are silent when the urgent care centre is taken from their constituents." Mrs Roberts-Holshouser, MP for St Georges West, last night said that as a St David's resident she and her family had used the Centre on a few occasions. "The convenience of having the clinic at our doorstep and not having to wait to be helped has certainly been a luxury and indeed I am saddened to have learned of the necessity of the Bermuda Hospitals Board to close the facility. But it is important to establish that such a matter as healthcare is not to be undermined by making political hay, but should lead us into further consultation and an action plan as how to best facilitate the needs of the community moving forward. I'm encouraged that the BHB said there was still an opportunity for the building to be used as a medical facility. The closure could provide an opportunity for a new private medical practice. As suggested in the recent press statement The Bermuda Hospitals Board will support Government in seeking solutions that best meet the country's needs, and as one of the Members of Parliament in the area, I look forward to working on an initiative with my fellow colleagues to see how we can make the best of this situation." Mr Bascome who represents St Georges North meanwhile said he had arranged to meet with Mr Brewin regarding the closure and would refrain from commenting until he had all the facts.

November 7. Elizabeth Parsons is one win away from an amazing feat that may never be matched ... three Bermuda Amateur Four-Ball titles before the age of 16! The 15-year-old Saltus student will join 2011 partner Ebonie Burgess as she chases three straight titles this weekend at Port Royal. The pressure she is feeling ahead of tomorrow's first round is not about the hat-trick but more about letting Ebonie down. Parsons is defending her title with Ebonie after partnering another Burgess, Tracy, to win last years event by one stroke over Katrin Burnie and Wendy Salvia and Kathy Lloyd Hines and Mary Kay Terceira. "I feel there is probably a little bit of pressure, probably because I am so young and going for this hat-trick", said Parsons. "Then there is also the pressure of playing with Ebonie again and she has won this tournament multiple times. I have played with Ebonie before but we have not played since two years ago and there is more pressure from I don't want to let Ebonie down rather than the pressure of the hat-trick. I feel like I have quite a good chance of winning, definitely on paper I have a very good chance of winning, but it is going to be quite difficult from the red tees because I am a long hitter and Ebonie is also a long hitter, so it will be a little different from the reds rather than the whites. The reds are probably going to play a lot easier and will give a lot of the other ladies a better chance. I would have rather it be off the whites but the reds will be good and it will definitely show who has the best short game. I think Ebonie and I do have a very good chance and it is a little scary to think I'm 15 and going for my third win. I have not really set a goal of what I think I should score, its kind of like go and see how it starts off. That's how it is with four-ball, especially with Ebonie. So to set a goal for myself is probably unrealistic, when we go out Ebonie and I have always said try to shoot as low as possible. There is definitely the goal of beating scores that we previously had." Parsons will rely on the experience of Burgess, though she does have the familiarity of playing on her home course. "We have a sister relationship, she keeps me calm but I also keep her calm", said the younger partner. "She also helps me with my mental game which is always a good thing in golf. She's been like the older sister, teaching me. I am the ladies champion at Port Royal so there is that little bit of pressure that I need to play well because it is my home course, which I try not to focus on." Parsons, who represented Bermuda at the Island Games in the Isle of Wight two years ago at just age 13, has a goal of attending college on a golf scholarship. That's my main thing, to play golf in college. I'm not one of those kids who you hear say I'm going to become a golf professional, because I am 15 and know that if I want to become a professional I need to be at a certain level and I'm not at that level yet and I know that. I'm at a level that I'm comfortable with and I'm setting myself more realistic goals. Because I did go to the Island Games and represent Bermuda when I was 13, I never really considered myself just a junior but one of the Bermuda Golf Association representatives and it never put the pressure in my mind."

November 7. The new Tourism Authority could be self-funding within two years, saving Government millions of dollars. The organization, which should be up and running by next March, will take over the management of the industry from Government's Department of Tourism in order to take politics out of the sector and put it in the hands of independent experts. Critics have argued that Government will still be able to influence the authority if it controls funding. Government spends around $30 million of its budget on the Tourism Ministry each year. But speaking at the World Travel Market conference in London, Mr Dodwell said he hoped the entity will be self funding within two years, freeing up millions of taxpayer dollars. He pointed out that taxes currently paid to Government by hoteliers will be channeled to the authority, which could eventually become an asset-holder in tourism products by investing cash into new enterprises. Then it will be partially funded by a separate tax a Tourism Authority tax on hotel occupancy. "But my goal is to self fund within two years. We want to be completely out of Government.  We're looking at ways creative ways to be able to raise funding. For example, the entity will be able to borrow money, lend money, invest, and I see the day when the authority will be an asset holder of certain entities in Bermuda." Mr Dodwell added that the authority could invest in tourism subsidiary businesses such as golf courses or transport products, but ruled out hotels. "One of the things we're going to try to do is stand up young product suppliers with tourism ideas that may not have the capital. They may have their own capital, they may have bank capital and we want to be the entity that gets them to the next level and then gets out of the way." He said the idea of the authority borrowing, lending and investing was unique and that Bermuda was leading the way in how jurisdictions manage the sector. He also praised Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell for being very bold and courageous for relinquishing control of the industry and putting it in the hands of an independent authority "It's creating a greater private sector involvement and it eliminates political interference.  I think it is different and I have had a few phone calls from other Caribbean countries that want to see the legislation and see how it works. I've been told it's leading legislation but as destinations become more competitive it won't be leading for very long. Somebody will look at us just as we looked at other jurisdictions to see what the strengths were and what the weaknesses were. I believe it is a first time approach to the depth that were taking it to get people involved."

November 7. A $2 million Government grant for the cash-strapped Sandys 360 centre remains under review, according to a Public Works spokesman. Unable to pay its electricity bills, the West End community and sports facility was this week forced to close its doors. Asked when the centre would reopen, acting chairman Stanley Lee told The Royal Gazette the facility will making that announcement at some later date, will not leave things as they are, cannot whether staff had lost their jobs, but would  just like to apologize to supporters and donors. Although the charity is registered through to May 2014, Sandys 360 has no audited financial statements on file with Government. The sports and aquatic centre, which just hosted a community forum on gang issues, has been hailed as a world-class facility since its 2009 opening but has persistently struggled to make ends meet. Government provided $1 million toward construction before Sandys 360 was built, followed by $2 million under a Memorandum of Understanding last year. But the latest allocation is on hold as Government discusses the centres future with HSBC bank. Exactly how much Sandys 360 owes has not been made public but electricity costs were said to run into tens of thousands a month, and Belco called the disconnection a last resort to be taken only when an account is seriously delinquent. The $10.1 million Somerset centre features a 25-metre heated pool and extensive air-conditioning. During the 2013 Budget debates, Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz told MPs that, although $2 million had been allocated for Sandys 360, the grant would go under a broader review to determine the best way forward in considering how the funds of the public are used. Mr Moniz said this will include meeting with the parties affected before any final decisions are taken. The funding would have been allocated incrementally, but has yet to be approved. Last night a spokesman said there had been much communication with Sandys 360 as well as with the lending institution in an attempt to agree a way forward. Sources close to the facility have said the lack of coherent financial statements have seriously hampered its ability to get donations. Earlier, Mr Lee indicated that Sandys 360 had embarked on a full restructuring over the summer and was readying its accounts with corporate assistance. As of yesterday the facility's website didn't name a fresh board of directors. Last night, Charities Commission head Cummings Zuill said Government could potentially already hold the required financial statements from Sandys 360. "It could be in our in tray, or waiting to be handed to the Commission, A recent call for charities to hand in up-to-date financial statements had resulted in a backlog." However, the Commission is not able to give comment on individual cases.

November 8. Bermudian war veteran Philip Lamb, who died earlier this year, is being honoured in a new exhibition at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum in London. The exhibition entitled "Pilots of the Caribbean" opened earlier this month and recognizes volunteers of African heritage in the RAF throughout the British Empire at the time of the Second World War, but most particularly from the Caribbean. Mr Lamb, known affectionately to his friends and family as Uncle Hunky died at age 90, in May of this year. He was the last of the four black Bermudians who served in the RAF during the Second World War. He joined the Bermuda Military Artillery (BMA) when he was 17, but after three years of drilling in the BMA camp in St David's, he became bored. He wanted to travel and put his training into action. He volunteered for the RAF along with Bermudians Randolph Richardson, Reuben Alias and Melvin Chesterfield Raynor. He completed his training in Moncton, New Brunswick. He arrived on a troopship in Liverpool, England, just before Christmas 1944. Although the war was almost over the air raids continued. Three months after arriving in England, he was injured during an air raid on an aerodrome in one of the last air raids of the war. He was hospitalized and spent ten days laying next to another patient who was a German prisoner of war. "The loss of other young men was one of the toughest things to deal with," he said in a 2004 interview. "I had a buddy from Canada who got killed. He took up the muster and he became a pilot in the last part of the war. He must have been around 22 or 23 years old. After they made that raid on us I got the news that Keith (his friend) was shot down and killed. I took it hard. He was like a brother." Mr Lamb rose to the rank of Leading Aircraftsman. After the war he could have returned home immediately, but volunteered, instead, for several clean up jobs. He traveled all over Europe, the United Kingdom and Germany breaking down equipment. He found he had a lot of free time on his hands, and so volunteered to go on patrol torpedo (PT) boats to look for and blow up mines. "It was a fast boat, he said. I stayed on it for six weeks, but it was too scary. All you had to do is strike one of those things and you were history." Mr Lamb finally returned to Bermuda after seven years and eight months of continuous service. He went to Canada to study diesel engineering, and then held various jobs and posts, over the years, including customs officer and immigration officer. Unfortunately, he lost his medals with the passage of time. Andrew Bermingham, author of Bermuda Military Rarities Revisited, was a long time friend of Mr Lamb. "I was very saddened when he passed away", said Mr Bermingham. "I met him first in 1984 when there was a tribute to veterans made by the Community and Cultural affairs Historical Heartbeats Committee at Commissioners House. I orchestrated that event. One of the people invited was Philip Lamb. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Mr Lamb was the only person present who did not have any medals pinned to his chest. He got up, with a tear in his eye, and said he lost his medals. They are long gone, he said." Mr Bermingham made contact with authorities in the United Kingdom and Mr Lamb was later presented with a replacement set of his lost medals. When Mr Lamb died earlier this year, he had a well attended funeral at the Chapel of Ease in St David's, and was featured in an obituary in the London-based Independent newspaper. This caught the attention of the RAF Museum in London. "It is a wonderful museum built in tribute to that service," said Mr Bermingham. Pilots of the Caribbean will be open at the London branch of the museum until the summer of 2014 when it will be moved to the Cosford branch. "I have seen previews of the exhibit," said Mr Bermingham. "It is very touching. It shows pictures of his funeral at the Chapel of Ease in St David's, his medals and his cap and a photograph of him with his other airman friends."

November 8. Throne Speech highlights. 

November 9.  Lower energy costs for consumers could be in the pipeline after Government pledged yesterday to open up the energy market to more competition. And the move could also make the Island more attractive to outside investors by lowering the cost of doing business in Bermuda. But a spokeswoman for BELCO which currently enjoys a monopoly position on electricity power urged caution in opening up the market. She said: "Movements toward competition in the electric utility industry need to be undertaken very thoughtfully to avoid bad outcomes for reliability and price." BELCO intends to continue to work very closely with Government on these matters. Delivering the Governments legislative programme for the new Parliamentary year in the Throne Speech, Governor George Fergusson said: "The high cost of energy is an important factor for residents and business alike and it is an issue that companies and developers consider when looking at the Island as a potential domicile." Following the successful launch of the Regulatory Authority in January of 2013, the Ministry of Economic Development will move the regulation of energy to this independent body. This move will involve changes to the Energy Act 2009 and the Regulatory Authority Act 2011. One of the aims of this initiative is to help lower the cost of energy for consumers. The Bermuda Energy Working Group has been formed and comprises a diverse group of energy professionals, independent engineers, non-governmental organisations and interested members of the public, working in collaboration to provide advice and guidance to the Department of Energy. One of their primary tasks is to develop equitable interconnection agreements for independent power producers to contribute to the production of electricity, a development that can lead to price competition, diversified energy production, increased use of renewable energy sources and the opportunity for lower-cost fuels such as natural gas. The BELCO spokeswoman said: BELCO is aware of all of these matters and is actively participating and working with Government on these topics. 

November 9.  The days of conscription appear numbered after the One Bermuda Alliance made a Throne Speech pledge to eliminate it during this legislative session. But the OBA was accused of delaying the issue by blocking the Progressive Labour Party's Abolition of Conscription Act, tabled shortly after Governor George Fergusson finished reading the Speech yesterday. In an exchange of statements, Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley and PLP Leader Marc Bean took issue with what they viewed as a lack of a collaborative approach on the matter. In the House of Assembly, the PLP's Bill was defeated by 19 votes to 14, with all OBA members voting against it. Mr Marc Bean said in a statement: "In an effort to do things differently, embrace the spirit of collaboration and change the toxic environment in Parliament, we attempted to bring forward legislation that would move Bermuda forward. Without even reading or considering the text of the legislation, the OBA blocked the PLP's Bill to end conscription. We believe that conscription must end. The OBA says that they believe in ending conscription and that they also believe in collaboration. Together we could have collaborated on something we agree on, ending conscription without delay and moving Bermuda forward. Unfortunately it was not to be. The OBA should have worked with us but instead they stifled debate and conscription will be with us for the foreseeable future." Mr Dunkerley responded: "Tabling legislation is end of the process not the first step. Collaboration means working together to achieve common ends. If the Opposition was serious about working together to end conscription they would have shared this Bill in advance of today's session of the House. They didn't and this Government will not go along with whatever is tabled without fully considering the effects on the public and the Regiment. Timelines pulled out of the air and without regard to the operational responsibilities of the Regiment could be damaging to the organization and disadvantage the very people we're all supposed to be representing." The promise to eliminate conscription is contained in today's Speech from Throne as well as an undertaking to table amendments to the Defence Act 1965 to address disciplinary practices within the regiment. The Minister added: "This Government is serious about collaboration but working together is not a game or subject to political stunts. Working together means having the courage to step away from the adversarial system under which we operate and engage each other in meaningful dialogue to produce work that reflects well on us as representatives of the people." Anti-conscription campaigner Larry Marshall condemned the OBA for voting down the Bill, saying he was skeptical of the ruling party's Throne Speech promise. In the Speech, the OBA stated: "During this legislative session, the Government will introduce amendments to the Defence Act 1965 to eliminate conscription. Additionally, further amendments to the Act will provide for a revised legal and disciplinary system for the Bermuda Regiment in accordance with EU standards for the modern military." Mr Marshall, spokesman for campaign group Bermudians Against the Draft, said: "I was appalled at Minister Dunkley objecting to a Bill he had not even seen. You have a situation where the Opposition is trying to do the right thing and the ruling Government is blocking them. In November 2011, when Mr Dunkley was the Shadow Minister, he had complained conscription was past its sell-by date. If conscription is past its sell-by date two years ago, then what is it now? Of the OBA's Throne Speech pledge, should have been done months ago to ensure the 2014 Boot Camp consisted entirely of volunteers. By the time it comes around, they will have had 13 months to make the transition from conscription to a voluntary organization." And while Mr Marshall noted the PLP failed to end conscription in its 14 years in power, he said: "I would prefer not to dwell on the past, but they have a new leader who has come out in the past and stated publicly conscription is wrong, the 21st Century slavery, and needs to be abolished." Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown said that the Regiment was a modern employer. It's a matter of the legislation keeping up with the Regiment's own desire to keep pace with international best practice. The Regiment works hard to ensure a fair, safe and rewarding working environment for our soldiers. Many such measures are already in place or underway we just need the appropriate legislation to reflect these changes. The decision to end conscription is a political one, which we will work hard to implement. It's not, however, something that can happen overnight without undermining the Regiments capability as Bermuda's Insurance policy. Detailed discussion has been underway with Government about the need for an orderly transition with a gradual phasing out of conscription, with the last conscripts potentially balloted in 2015 and those serving being obliged to complete their mandated service. But this plan was reliant on achieving a year-on-year doubling of the number of volunteers to reach the required annual intake of 100 new troops. Volunteers cost more to attract and Bermuda has some unique demographic challenges, with the Regiment requiring a relatively high proportion of our eligible youth. We have made a comprehensive recommendation to Government for the extra funding that will be required for recruiting initiatives, retention bonuses and increased spending on advertising. A US National Guard a part-time volunteer force pays bonuses of up to $20,000 to recruit personnel. The Regiment will never be able to match anything like that, but it gives an indication of the scale of effort required in other developed countries to maintain all volunteer reserve forces. Nearly half the Regiment's current strength was made up by volunteers despite the bulk of them having originally been conscripted. Those that try it, like it. The challenge, however, will be to transmit their enthusiasm for soldiering and service to those who have not been obliged to try it first through conscription."

November 13. A Government move to regulate the importation of expensive new healthcare gadgetry to the Island has been welcomed as a step toward reducing Bermuda’s escalating healthcare costs. The latest Throne Speech declared upcoming changes to the law would introduce controls on medical technology that has “contributed significantly” to rising costs. Unnecessary and expensive diagnostic testing has come under fire for fuelling the Island’s rampant growth in expenditure. “The Health Technology Reviews have been developed as part of the wider discussion on healthcare costs,” said Bermuda Health Council (BHeC) CEO Jennifer Attride-Stirling. “This particular initiative will introduce controls over what technology is allowed to come into our health system and what is not Bear in mind, the issue of appropriate capacity levels is not something particular to Bermuda — we are special in a lot of ways but not necessarily in this. It’s a worldwide pattern. When you have a lot of medical technology in the system, it’s going to get used. Who would invest in equipment and have it sit idly by and not generate a return on that investment?” Rather than lowering costs through increased competition, Dr Attride-Stirling said greater availability in healthcare inevitably translated into “increasing utilization — and, therefore, increasing costs.” “The per unit costs may vary with competition, but the amount used increases and the system as a whole spends more on healthcare,” she said. Changes to the law won’t cut down on overuse, Dr Attride-Stirling added — but will introduce limits when the Island’s technological capacity becomes too great. “In Bermuda, we have this issue, alongside other small island states: we are in the middle of the ocean and we’re isolated, and this can create diseconomies of scale. Our level of need is not going to vary much year on year, but what happens if equipment fails? We have to have some level of redundancy when it comes to some medical equipment. But in this context, we have to be especially mindful in how we manage our capacity. Anywhere in the world where you have excess capacity, it will be used. And as my friend and colleague Marc Roberts of the Harvard School of Public Health says, the only thing worse than unused, unnecessary capacity, is used, unnecessary capacity.” Residents and their insurers won’t see a quick drop in medical costs once the changes go into effect, Dr Attride-Stirling pointed out. “It’s not an initiative that can reduce existing capacity — what’s here is here, and addressing its utilization requires other measures,” she said. “What this will do is control what comes in from the time the legislation goes through. After that point, equipment will have to go through this review process, to make an assessment about whether the health system needs that extra capacity.”

November 14. Government expects to move forward soon with establishing land title registration on the Island, two years after legislation to do so was approved. The Land Title Registration Act, which allows the move from deeds-based property transactions to a parcel-based system, was approved in 2011, but before the legislation can come into effect rules and regulations covering the registry must be published. It is understood the Ministry has been working to draft rules regulating the registry and consulting with stakeholders since the act passed, and the rules will be published soon to allow the registry of private land. In Friday’s Throne Speech, Government said: “The Ministry of Environment and Planning, through the Department of Land Surveys and Registration, will also introduce land title registration to provide a transparent, accessible and effective land information system — something that has not yet existed in Bermuda. “The registry will compile and maintain an electronic record of land ownership, guaranteeing legal ownership, rights and interests in registered land. This will provide confidence in property dealings by providing electronic public access to guaranteed information on registered land, including detailed records of land owned by non-Bermudian individuals and companies.” The speech stated that the Land Title Registry Office will be self-sufficient and generate revenue. When the Land Title Registration Act was approved in 2011, land registrar Debbie Reid said land title registration would establish a definitive Island-wide record of land ownership. “For citizens this will not only give legal security but will also provide the necessary certainty that is required by lending institutions when attempting to secure a loan on a property,” she said. “For the banks and other institutions involved in the mortgage market land title registration will help facilitate more efficient procedures for creating and securing mortgages and other loans which in turn can act as a catalyst for the growth of small and medium enterprises.”

November 14. Just-released economic data shows that difficult conditions are persisting through 2013, Minister of Finance Bob Richards said in a public release of information about Bermuda's financial state. The data showed that Government revenues tracked higher than Budget estimates during the first half of the fiscal year through September 2013, but public spending was also tracking 2.3 percent higher than projections. Mr Richards added: ... "there are some positive signs that certain sectors of the economy are improving as we move towards the end of the year. The Ministry expects that the corrective measures outlined in the 2013/2014 Budget Statement, as well as other future initiatives, will result in improved economic conditions in the medium-term." The Ministry of Finance release of the economic numbers stated: In accordance with Governments commitment to effecting ongoing improvements in transparency and its reporting on the fiscal and economic affairs of the country the Ministry of Finance today (Thursday) reported on the 2013/14 first half fiscal performance and provided a midyear economic review 2013. The Ministry's press release stated that 2013/14 first quarter fiscal performance headline numbers for the 2013/14 national budget were: a revenue target of $871.2 million; current expenditure of $1.1 billion, including debt service; capital expenditure of $84.6 million; and a borrowing requirement of $331.6 million (equal to the projected deficit). Revenues for the six months ending September 2013 are $436.8 million; this is $7.6 million (1.8 percent) higher than in September 2012. They stated: "The primary reason for this increase is due to stronger Customs duty collections and this increase resulted in additional revenue of $10.5 million. Payroll taxes to date are approximately $2.6 million above 2012 collections while land tax collections are $3.2 million higher than 2012. These increases more than offset reductions in aircraft registration fees, telecommunication fees and all other fees. Revenues are tracking above budget estimates.  The primary reason for this growth relates to strength in the collection of customs duty and payroll tax. Custom duties are tracking six percent above budget estimates, while payroll tax is tracking two percent above budget estimates. Current expenditures, excluding debt service, for the first six months ending September, 2013 are $487.8 million; this is $10.9 million higher than was spent during the same period last fiscal year. Government current account spending to date is higher during this fiscal year when compared to the same period last year due mainly to an increase in employer overhead as a result of the Government making its contribution to the Public Service Superannuation Fund which was suspended in 2012/13. Capital expenditures for the period ending September 2013 are $6.4 million higher than in September 2013. This is primarily due to expenditures for the Heritage Wharf. Total current and capital spending to date, excluding debt service, is $17.3 million higher than last years spend. Debt service costs for the first six months ending September 2013 are $80.3 million. This represents $42.7 million in interest payments and a $37.6 million transfer to the Government Borrowing Sinking Fund. Debt service to date is $18.5 million more than last year's period. Interest expenses are $11.6 million higher than 2012. This is principally due to a portion of the 2012 interest expense being paid from the Sinking Fund in 2012 and also due to the Governments multiyear borrowing strategy, in which $750 million was raised in July 2013. In general, current expenditures are presently tracking 2.3 percent above budget estimates. It should be noted that in certain instances expenditures are not made evenly over the year which may distort actual figures when compared to budget. Due to the ongoing difficult economic conditions, spending pressures have continued in the social areas with increased demand for financial assistance. Expenditures were above budget in the first six months of 2013 also due to spending pressures in the Ministries of Public Works and Tourism Development and Transport." For the first six months of 2013/14 Government incurred a deficit of $146.7 million. On September 30, 2013, central Government gross debt, excluding guarantees, stood at $2.25 billion, $676 million higher than the level at the end of fiscal year 2013. Net debt was $1.77 billion. The year to date (September) average Consumer Price Index was 1.8 percent and the 12 month average rate was also 1.8 percent. The primary causes of inflation during the last twelve months were increased costs of medical supplies, prescription drugs and health insurance premiums in the Health & Personal Care sector, rising food costs and higher costs for local and overseas tuition in the Education, Recreation & Reading Sector.

Key points made in the report included:

·        Imports increased by 8.7 percent in the first two quarter to register at $479.4 million.

·        Air arrivals decreased by 0.5 percent in the first two quarters while the number of cruise passengers fell by 17.6 percent over the same time period.

·        Total visitor spending was down by 2.4 percent settling at $165.1 million.

·        A total of 725 new international companies and partnerships were registered in Bermuda during the first nine months of 2013 representing a 14.7 percent increase over 2012 registrations of 632. Of the 725 newly registered companies, 15 had a physical presence in Bermuda.

·        Total value of new construction projects started fell noticeably from $59.6 million in 2012 to $17.5 million this year.

·        The estimated value of construction work put in place was $80.4 million, an increase of 29.9 percent, which was mainly due to the redevelopment of the hospital.

·        Employment income contracted slightly to $1.659 billion, a decrease of 0.8 percent.

·        Total retail sales for the first nine months of 2013 fell by 0.7 percent or $5.7 million to register at $789.4 million.

·        Bermudas Balance of Payments in the first half of 2013 recorded a surplus on the current account of $980 million, which was nearly triple the surplus of $357 million that was recorded in the first half of 2012. The investment income account was the largest contributor to the current account surplus.

Based on figures released by the Bermuda Monetary Authority, Bermudas money supply contracted by 1.4 percent year over year at the end of the second quarter. The money supply has declined mainly due to a 5.4 percent reduction in deposit liabilities. The majority of the decline in deposits was the result of lower savings balances which fell by 10.6 percent during the quarter. The Banking sector's total assets decreased by 2.1 percent at the end of June 2013. The decline was driven mainly by a 6.4 percent year over year reduction in loans and advances, total investments fell by 3.6 percent at the end of the second quarter while customer deposits grew by 17.9 percent for the same time period and the number of standard work permits at the end of September fell from 9,863 in 2012 to 9,221 in 2013, a decline of 6.5 percent. Commenting on the reports, Mr Richards said: "Economic data for the first half of this year are consistent with the expectation in the 2012 National Economic Report of Bermuda that the current difficult economic conditions will persist through 2013. However, there are some positive signs that certain sectors of the economy are improving as we move towards the end of the year. The Ministry expects that the corrective measures outlined in the 2013/2014 Budget Statement, as well as other future initiatives, will result in improved economic conditions in the medium-term. 

November 19.  Ahead of the annual meeting of Overseas Territories leaders this month in London, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office is featuring an overseas territory on Facebook every day. Bermuda was today's selection. The annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council brings together political leaders from the Overseas Territories and UK Ministers. It will meet on November 26 and 27, hosted by FCO Minister for the Overseas Territories, Mark Simmonds. Governor George Fergusson hopes Bermuda residents will take time out to view the new Facebook page. He said: "The discussions going on in London at the end of the month will involve topics which are important for each Overseas Territory, including Bermuda. We can learn from some of their experiences and I am sure they can certainly learn from us." 

November 19. Ombudsman for Bermuda Arlene Brock believes a lawsuit against her by the Corporation of Hamilton potentially threatens the existence of her office in Bermuda. Appearing in the Supreme Court before Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman, who is debating whether to allow the Corporation to apply for a judicial review of her investigation into the City's governance, Ms Brock said: "This is really unprecedented this is a major, major case that determines whether the Ombudsman survives in this country." Ms Brock was yesterday given leave to continue with her investigation into the City's handling of a deal to redevelop Hamilton's waterfront but so far isn't allowed to formally release her findings. The development deal came under scrutiny by the Ombudsman earlier this year. Represented by lawyer Eugene Johnston, Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge and Deputy Mayor Donal Smith appeared in court with other members of their administration, seeking to challenge the Ombudsman's reasoning behind the investigation. Mr Justice Hellman told both sides he had no problem deferring leave for the City to apply for judicial review. "The difficulty is preserving status quo," he added, saying that in the meantime he would have to order that Ms Brocks report not be published. Ms Brock said she would respect the court's decision but said she would need to discuss with counsel the global implications of setting that precedent. She said the outcome of the case would not go unnoticed elsewhere in the world. Mr Johnston said the City's challenge to the Ombudsman's investigation sought to stop the report from being shared with anyone. "It's our position that the report should not even be given to us.  A finished report, once it gets to us, has to be acted upon." Mr Justice Hellman said he wasn't prepared to stay Ms Brock's investigation, however. "I'm not asking you to," Mr Johnston responded. "We're just trying to make sure that the actual report is not disseminated." In the City's November 8 writ against Ms Brock, the complainants cite the Ombudsman's decision to conduct an investigation in a particular manner. Ms Brock initially launched her exploration of the Hamilton Waterfront Redevelopment Project in the public's interest. The project was secretly negotiated by the City with Allied Development Partners last year, causing Ms Brock to look into governance under Mr Outerbridge's administration. Although City Hall initially indicated its approval of the case, both Mr Outerbridge and Mr Smith were later found to be in contempt of court for refusing to answer Ms Brock's questions. Asked last night to clarify the City's stance, Mr Johnston said the application was about the efficacy of her investigative process, and her decision to conduct an own motion into the Corporation. An own motion allows the Ombudsman to investigate even where no specific complaint has been issued. Mr Johnston told The Royal Gazette: "We are saying that the purposes for which she was supposed to act under the Ombudsman's Act is being infringed or violated. We're saying the way she conducted the investigation is flawed. You can't conduct an investigation with an eye to publishing it in Parliament. It should be with an eye on improving the efficiency of the organization in question."

November 19.  The Minister of Finance for Lucerne was in Bermuda's Supreme Courts commercial litigation suite yesterday testifying in a $100 million lawsuit, pitting a Swiss arts foundation against Butterfield Trust Bermuda Limited (BTB), as the case entered its second week. Pharmaceutical billionaire and philanthropist Christof Engelhorn's Bermuda-based Art 1 Trust was providing the money for a proposed state-of-the-art musical theatre, Salle Modulable. The trust's BTB trustee, and a former minister in the Progressive Labour Party Government, Patrice Minors, stopped the funding. Now Salle Modulable Foundation is in court seeking the reinstitution of the $100 million in funding they say was committed for their project. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, presiding over the case, unusually for a case in this jurisdiction, is wearing a business suit and not his traditional wig and gown. The multi-person legal teams are also wearing business attire for this case. The Lucerne Finance Minister Marcel Schwerzmann, whose first language is Swiss German, gave evidence in English, but with a translator in Bermuda especially for this trial on hand. Mr Schwerzmann required translations for English colloquialisms and multiple-part questions, but he translated some legislation and parts of documents into English for the court. A former Swiss Consul Leo Betschart was also in court to observe the proceedings. Consul between 1983 and 2005, he had been an executive chef in two major hotels before teaching culinary arts at the Bermuda College. Also observing the action yesterday was former Art 1 Trust trustee for BTB Graham Jack, Bermuda-based director of the Art Mentor Foundation Robert Stewart, and Rutli Stiftung's chairman Karl Reichmuth. Rutli was an intermediary organization sitting between Stiftung Salle Modulable and the Art 1 Trust. Mark Cran QC, who is representing the Bank, questioned Mr Schwerzmann vigorously about funding for the Salle Modulable operations and maintenance. The Finance Minister stated: "We had a difficulty with Salle Modulable we had the money to construct the building, but not money for operations and maintenance." Mr Cran asked Mr Schwerzmann about statements he had made that the city and canton of Lucerne would not give further funding for the operations and maintenance of Salle Modulable than 20.2 million Swiss francs. This, he said, left a funding gap of 11.3 million Swiss francs. The Finance Minister told the court: "We can reallocate funds from one organization to another organization. He said there was revenue from a National Lottery of about 20 million Swiss francs that could be used for the arts, culture and sports. You can spend this without asking Parliament. There was also an ageing theatre in Lucerne that needed major renovations which received Government funding. If the role played in the community of that theatre was moved to the new Salle Modulable, then that funding could also be reallocated to the new facility. We (the canton) pay 70 percent of the money and the city pays 30 percent of that money, he said. It was used for operational costs and for small maintenance. My function as Finance Minister is, I told them to recalculate have new ideas, to make it cheaper. We said only the canton will not advance any more money we were not willing to discuss about that until we had better calculations. The result was he first time I've seen a construction project so well calculated." The case continued with a discussion of the costs of construction, and a funding gap between the 120 Million Swiss francs from the Art 1 Foundation and the final price tag for building the facility. Mr Cran, who is with the Attride-Stirling & Woloniecki law firm, also raised the issue of the plebiscite with Mr Schwerzmann, where the people of Lucerne were to asked whether they supported the building of the new opera house in their community. He also questioned the Finance Minister about a document drafted by the Foundation detailing the project and whether it was a feasibility study, a business plan or designed to appeal to the voting public for the plebiscite. A feasibility study is an important part of the case, because of the question of whether it is a condition, and if so, if that condition was met, for the gift of 120 million Swiss francs from the Art 1 Trust to Salle Modulable. Mr Schwerzmann told the court: "In Switzerland, if the public doesn't know what the vote is about exactly, then they will say no. The whole document has a lot of important information that would be helpful to the public to decide the quality of the document is very, very good." The case is expected to continue for another five weeks.

November 19. Some civil servants are being awarded exorbitant benefits packages with overtime pay that is significantly higher than the norm in the private sector, according to the SAGE Commission. And Government employees have been able to secure generous deals through their unions because bosses negotiating contracts on behalf of the Government are often members of the union themselves, the commission revealed. In its 140-page final report, which was submitted to Government on Friday, the commission pointed out that six separate unions represented around 5,300 Government workers employed in a slew of ministries, departments and quangos which were not necessarily linked to Governments Human Resources Department. Agreements are reached based upon whatever each union can negotiate at the time, the report noted, adding that each union had attempted to negotiate to the highest standard of benefits available across Government. There is no strategic framework for contract negotiations with unions, and there is no standard across the Public Service for negotiating union contracts. Civil and Public Service employees representing Government, as an employer, in negotiations with the unions, are union members themselves. Negotiating with the very union of which they are a member is viewed by many as a conflict of interest. Government employees who are members of a union should not be negotiating on behalf of Government with the union of which they are members. According to the findings, managers find it difficult to manage employees with multiple agreements and provisions, while under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, BIU workers are not subjected to performance appraisals. "In numerous interviews, the SAGE Commission was told that Heads of Departments and managers were not consulted before agreements were reached and that the resulting agreements were difficult to implement," the report stated. The commissioners concluded: "Some of the negotiated provisions with respect to benefits are significantly out of alignment with best practices. The scale of benefits under the current Collective Bargaining Agreements are financially unsustainable. both wage rate increases and benefits.  All Collective Bargaining Agreements must be reviewed and amended to be financially sustainable. Where appropriate, standardized benefits should be agreed which reflect best practices. Negotiations should avoid pattern bargaining, a practice by which unions use a particular agreement as a model on which agreement for other employees are based. Union contract negotiations should be aligned with Governments stated strategic objectives." The commission recommended that an independent body conduct any future pay and benefit negotiations with the Bermuda Public Services Union, that some benefits should be harmonized, and that heads of departments and managers must be consulted prior to union negotiations. The report also claimed that staff were retained and promoted even if they were regarded as low performers, while high performers were not always rewarded. "Government employees are often not recognised for their performance good or bad," the report said. "There are examples of serious infractions for which there have been no consequences. Performance appraisals are not taken seriously and not utilized effectively to develop the Government workforces talents and career objectives. Discipline is not applied consistently or as often as required by the CECC [Conditions of Employment and Code of Conduct] as read with the Public Service Commission regulations." The Bermuda Trades Union Congress is expected to deliver its response to the commissions findings tomorrow.

November 19. Corporation of Hamilton councillor George Scott branded Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy a dictator and right-wing whatever after Government introduced new rules governing the management of the municipality. And he also warned that there could be some serious civil strife coming in this Country as a result of electoral changes that give businesses a vote in Corporation elections. At a Corporation board meeting held just days before the Municipalities Amendment Act was ratified in the Senate last month, Mr Scott told his fellow councillors that Government was taking a dangerous step backwards in introducing the business vote. He also questioned new powers allowing Government to review contracts and leases that run for more than 21 years. Earlier this year, the Corporation granted a 262-year lease to a contractor to develop the city's waterfront. Claiming that there had been no consultation over the amendments, the former Progressive Labour Party MP said: "The current OBA Government is taking a dangerous step backwards, not only for the Country in terms of free enterprise, but now they want to retroactively cancel contracts that are over 21 years. That is a slap in the face of free enterprise. I am surprised that the business community has not made a human cry for that particular piece notwithstanding the reason that I am here is for the people that nominated me and seconded me to be here. It is a slap in the face of democracy. It takes us back prior to 1968 and for anybody [councillors] that approves of that Ive heard that one or two approve of it I think that they should resign because they are doing dishonor to the people that nominated and seconded them and that they are here to serve. I am not here to serve any business people and people that own property. As of 1968, it was taken away from them. This is the last piece in the two corporations in this Country where it was taken from in 2010. If were going back there, I could see some serious civil strife coming in this Country. I am going to stand firm in what I believe in and I am going to support any action against this current OBA Government that is now in place. In particular, I want to say this. I believe [Home Affairs] Minister [Michael] Fahy is a dictator and right-wing whatever and someone, whoever can take that to the press." The Royal Gazette obtained a copy of the minutes of the meeting, which contain a record of Mr Scott's remarks in full. Informed of the comments, Mr Fahy insisted that the amendment did not restore a property vote. He added that he had met with Corporation officials since Mr Scott made his remarks to discuss the amendments. "Let me reiterate for the sake of clarity the Amendment Act is not restoring some form of historical property vote far from it", Mr Fahy said. "The checks and balances in place are very clear there will be a proportional rate-payer vote and residential vote. Since the date of the meeting as minuted, my technical officers have met with their counterparts at the Corporation of Hamilton and I have met with the Mayor of Hamilton and other elected officials of both Corporations to discuss the Act. I am certain that Councillor Scott is now better informed. As far as his comments relating to me there is nothing for me to say on this. I am more interested in getting on with what is in the best interests of the City of Hamilton, Bermuda and Bermudians."

November 20.  The Bermuda Hospitals Board will consider bringing Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute (MAWI) services to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. The suggestion was one of several made recently by the SAGE Commission, who said the MAWI site could be sold off rather than spending $40 million to renovate the Devonshire facility. A spokeswoman for the BHB said: "The board is looking at every way it can to run more efficiently while maintaining safe, quality services. MAWI is an ageing facility and a recent review of the MAWI estate estimates that a $40 million investment would be needed over time to maintain and upgrade its infrastructure and ensure it can continue operating as a psychiatric facility. We are currently reviewing the delivery of BHB services, and our Senior Management Team and Board will certainly consider the opportunities in consolidating the two sites in more detail as part of this process." The SAGE Commission Report, released on Friday said: Duplicated services are provided at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and at MAWI because the two facilities are operated on two separate sites. Substantial savings would be generated from operating both facilities on one site. It also suggested the BHB examine the possibility of erecting a new building adjacent to the acute care centre already under construction to house both psychiatric services and continuing care facilities for the elderly.

November 20.  Government today announced the members of a new committee established to modernize Bermuda’s labour laws. Lawyers Alan Dunch and Wendell Hollis, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert and Bermuda Public Services Union general secretary Ed Ball will serve on the committee. Carl Neblett of the Bermuda Police Service, John Harvey of the Bermuda Hotel Association, Keith Jensen of the Bermuda Employers’ Council and past BEC president Graham Redford are also members. Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy announced the members of the committee today. “As announced in the Throne Speech it is our intent to embark on a review of Bermuda’s labour laws this legislative year,” he said. “The Labour Law Reform Committee will look at the role that labour laws play in job creation and retention and seek to introduce a system which is fairer and more inclusive. Seven labour laws will potentially be impacted by the Review. And it is our intent to solicit the assistance of the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a part of the process. Members of the group are represented by some of our key workforce sectors, and we consider the Committee an excellent example of a collaborative approach towards addressing our current labour laws.”

November 20. Too tight regulation risks stifling economic recovery, a panel of international experts said yesterday. But the Bermuda Monetary Authority won praise from panelists, which included keynote speaker Dame Amelia Fawcett, a hedge fund chief, a US Treasury Department official, and senior member of the EUs European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). Tim Selby, president and director of the New York Hedge Fund Roundtable, said: "One of the things that Bermuda has done better than most is embracing the marketplace and trying to find out how they can be a better and more efficient regulator." Mr Selby admitted there were bad actors in the financial sector but that an international crackdown on the world of finance and more regulation may not cure the ills that were there in the marketplace that led to the global recession. William Murden, counselor to the Assistant Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, said the financial crisis that took hold was the biggest since the Great Depression and that trillions of dollars has been lost in the US alone, while unemployment had gone up to ten percent. He said: "I am confident Bermuda understands this ... Bermuda is on the right track and the Bermuda Monetary Authority has an excellent reputation. The Island and its financial regulator were promoting a race to the top, not a race to the bottom." Dame Amelia Fawcett, the chairman of the London-based Hedge Funds Standards Board and a non-executive member of the UK Treasury Board, added: "From a Bermuda perspective.....the fragmentation of markets and fragmentation of capital flows creates an opportunity for places like Bermuda. Although there were threats Bermuda could benefit as a place to do business as international regulations grow ever more complex." Mr Selby added: 2We have so much regulation coming from all jurisdictions regulation is not necessarily bad, but there has to be some reason to it." Gareth Murphy, Ireland-based chairman of the investment management standing committee of the ESMA, said that there needed to more harmonization on regulation but that at the moment there were a number of regimes competing with each other. And he called for a global drive to organize financial regulation because the financial services industry needs simplicity and it needs certainty. Mr Murphy said: "Until we have that way forward, we will have this hotchpotch framework of regulatory regimes." And Mr Selby said: "I'm really worried about how business is going to thrive and survive in this market. We need to remember there were relatively few bad actors, but globally, regulation is impacting everyone."

November 20. Morgan's Point developer Craig Christensen is calling on Government to introduce an economic citizenship programme to provide the tourism industry with the real game changer it needs. Mr Christensen told The Royal Gazette that finding overseas investors willing to plough their money into his proposed $2 billion tourism development on the former base land was no question, a challenge. After attending the Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, he is now convinced the Island needs to do something dramatic to raise its profile and entice investors here, such as selling passports to those willing to put money into new tourism properties. "Bermuda is a hard sell," said Mr Christensen, who co-owns Morgan's Point with fellow Bermudians Nelson Hunt and Brian Duperreault. "You would think, knowing Bermuda as we do, that Bermuda would be a prime opportunity, but many of the investors are looking at Latin American countries. They have heavy incentives in those locations that Bermuda does not enjoy. For any single project in Bermuda, you are really climbing up a significant mountain in order to turn around and attract investment. That being said, certainly investors that are familiar with the Island actually love Bermuda and what they say is we need a game changer in order to put Bermuda back on the map. I think that's why the economic citizenship issue would bode well for all projects being looked at in Bermuda right now. A number of Caribbean countries offer citizenship for a fee, as a way to boost their economies, and one tourism project currently under way in St Kitts allows investors to buy property and passports at the same time for $400,000." Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy told the House of Assembly in July, after attending the Eighth ILO Meeting of Caribbean Labour Ministers, that his counterpart in St Kitts had agreed to share information with Bermuda about its economic citizenship programme. It is understood the idea has yet to be discussed within Cabinet and Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell declined to comment yesterday. Mr Christensen said: "I know Government is considering this but I would encourage them to look at how this can really impact and benefit all of Bermuda and not just a select few. I think that this has got to be something well thought out for the benefit of all of Bermuda. I honestly think its a potential game changer for Bermuda, it really is. St Kitts has two hotels going up as a result of the economic initiatives. They funded one hotel purely on selling real estate attached with citizenship. To me, there is absolutely no question that the rest of the Caribbean are now reviewing economic citizenship as an incentive to get hospitality developments going. I think Bermuda should have an economic citizenship incentive within hospitality-designated areas to encourage investment into the real estate component, which is absolutely critical to support the economics of a tourism-related product. I think it's really a must. We have got an opportunity to do something right for a change." He said the conference he attended was really useful, very informative but really sort of pointed out that Bermuda is really not well-positioned on the road of tourism investment and ... hospitality. The focus was largely on Spanish-speaking countries, with Bermuda barely getting a mention. The financial woes of Tuckers Point and Newstead the Islands newest hotels had not gone unnoticed, he added, and had caused more concerns about Bermudas long-term viability. Mr Christensen said he had given the idea of economic citizenship much thought and realized many people would worry about an influx of new citizens affecting their job security and ability to buy property. But he said the number could be capped at about 1,500 and those buying citizenship would not be competing with the general population for jobs. "There may even be a positive benefit in that they may be able to create jobs for Bermudians and certainly speak highly of Bermuda elsewhere," he added. "When you recognize that these people will be spending $2.5 million or more its unlikely that they will have anything other than a positive impact.  The current laws surrounding the acquisition of property on the Island should be left alone and that economic citizenship should only be available to those investing in a tourism product. Government would need to flesh out the idea and decide whether citizenship would come with voting rights or not, and applicants would need to be vetted to ensure they were fit and proper persons." Government has recently formed the Economic Development Committee to try to reduce red tape for large development projects and Mr Christensen said he welcomed that. Giving an update on work at Morgan's Point, he said the remediation of pollution left by the US military continued and he still hoped the first hotel on the site would be opened in 2016, despite the challenge of finding finance. "We want to get things going as rapidly as possible because we recognize that Bermuda needs a project quickly and so we work 24/7 trying to expedite the process. There's no question that its a challenge. We are having challenges. I think other developers have even bigger challenges and therefore its necessary to make some bold steps such as economic citizenship. Introducing gambling for hotels here was a must but would not be a game changer. We are only trying to level the playing field. It doesn't give us a huge advantage at this point but it may attract some financing."

November 22. Minister of Finance Bob Richards has announced Bermuda has achieved a rating of ‘Largely Compliant’ from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Bermuda’s rating is the same as the United Kingdom and the United States. The Cayman Islands, one of Bermuda’s direct competitors for international business, also received a ‘Largely Compliant’ rating. Another Bermuda competitor, Isle of Man, was judged ‘Compliant,’ along with Japan, India, South Africa and South Korea, among others. However, jurisdictions including the British Virgin Islands and Cyprus were given a ‘non-compliant’ ratings. A Finance Ministry press release stated: “The OECD Global Forum has completed their assessment of 50 jurisdictions and announced the results of its assessment at a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia today.” The press release quoted Minister Richards saying: “These OECD ratings follow a similar tiered rating system as the IMF ratings; Compliant, Largely Compliant, Partially Compliant, Non-Compliant. I am very pleased Bermuda has received the rating of Largely Compliant, the same as the UK, USA and many other G8 nations. These ratings are comprehensive and carried out in an assessment methodology of total transparency as every country was assessed on its legislative and procedural regime for administering Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs).” 

November 22. Minister of Finance Bob Richards announced that the Government of Bermuda's participation in the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Assistance in Tax Matters (the Convention) has been officially notified to the Council of Europe and the OECD. A Ministry of Finance press release this morning stated the announcement took place at the 6th Annual Global Forum for Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes being held in Jakarta, Indonesia this week. It stated: "Based on the Conventions internal procedure Bermuda's participation will enter into force on the first day of the third month after the date the Council of Europe and the OECD were officially notified. The Convention is an avenue for one jurisdiction to exchange information with many jurisdictions simultaneously without the need for bilateral or one-on-one negotiation." Practically speaking, the adoption of the Convention by Bermuda means that for developing countries it is the most effective instrument they can use to combat tax fraud which, said the Ministry of Finance: ... is vital to their Government revenues. Although Bermuda now has a total of 65 exchange of information partners because of the adoption of the Convention, signatories to the Convention will work in tandem with Bermudas current treaty network of 40 bilateral TIEAs. Some 36 of the 40 TIEA partners are signatories to the Convention.

November 22. A green energy firm is to lease solar panels to homeowners, a first for Bermuda. The offer from Alternative Energy Systems (AES) allows domestic users to get six solar panels installed with no upfront cost. AES CEO Tim Madeiros said: "In the past year, we've seen a phenomenal move to solar power in the residential market in Bermuda. To continue the momentum, AES is introducing this financial mechanism to further encourage the transition to solar technology among Bermuda residents. It is AES's goal to make solar technology accessible to everyone in Bermuda, which in turn will reduce the Islands reliance on expensive imported oil that significantly drives up our cost of living and operating a business. Those who sign up will get six SunPower 240w solar panels and a web-based monitoring kit, fully installed and commissioned, as well as Government and permit fees paid. The kit, which takes up 80 square feet of roof space, 2,200 kilowatt hours of power a year and comes with a 25-year guarantee. The monitoring kit allows uses to keep track of energy production from anywhere in the world using a computer or mobile device. Mr Madeiros declined to comment on leasing costs but he said: "The costs will be less than energy saved so the customer can realise an immediate savings on energy. This leasing programme offers a fresh, modern approach to the energy industry in Bermuda." AES, founded in 2008 by Mr Madeiros, a former Belco employee, has installed more solar panels than any other firm in Bermuda. 

November 22.  Bermuda expects to see 21,000 more cruise ship visitors in 2014 than this year, Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell said today. Mr Crockwell said in the House of Assembly this morning that the Norwegian Breakaway will make 22 visits to the Island next year after a successful 2013 season. "Although we have not yet finished the 2013 cruise ship season, we had 292,533 cruise visitor arrivals through the end of the third quarter and are anticipating approximately 335,000 cruise ship visitors by the end of the season in December, " Mr Crockwell said. "The number of cruise calls for 2013 is anticipated to be 126. For 2014, we are anticipating a total of 132 cruise calls, bringing a total of 356,000 cruise ship visitors to Bermuda. We are also projecting that the cruise industry will contribute over $90 million to Bermuda's economy in 2014. This include fees paid to Government, expenditures made by cruise visitors and crew members while on-Island and shore excursions booked by cruise visitors, including taxi and bus tours, walking tours and water sport excursions. The Breakaway alone brought 90,000 cruise ship visitors to the Island making an economic contribution of approximately $26 million. Even though it was the largest ship to have docked in Bermuda, we accommodated the increased number of guests extremely well with both public and private transportation services operating efficiently and reliably. Also returning to Bermuda in 2014 will be Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Dawn, sailing from Boston with 22 calls; Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, sailing from Cape Liberty, New Jersey with 27 calls; Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas, sailing from Baltimore with 14 calls; and Celebrity Cruises Summit, sailing from Cape Liberty with 19 calls. We are also pleased that for 2014 will have three cruise calls from Charleston, South Carolina on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas, Mr Crockwell told MPs. We consider Charleston an important cruise market because cruises from there generally bring a different demographic to Bermuda, as compared to the traditional visitors from Boston and New York. Our experience has shown that cruise visitors originating from the Southeast United States have a better understanding of our unique culture and history, and often have more disposable income to spend while here." The 2014 Cruise Ship Schedule will be available from next Monday at the Department of Marine & Ports web page,

November 22.  Bermuda needs to face the facts about itself even the ugly ones if it is to develop a culture of business development. That was the message from Bermuda Business Development Agency's (BDA) new chief executive officer Stephen Lund, who was the keynote speaker at the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) annual general meeting yesterday. Mr Lund said:  "The Island had not been in the game when it came to connecting with corporate decision makers who might bring their business here. Solutions for Bermuda's international business sector include: One: get back in the game. I don't think we've been in the game. I don't think we've been front and centre for the decision makers for the last five to 10 years. In addition, there should be a single point of contact for people who are coming to Bermuda to investigate business opportunities, and during those visits, everything must go smoothly. Its curtains if you don't have it. It only takes one slip-up to lose a deal. We've got to have our act together. This was a marathon and not a sprint, it was important to talk to companies already here about what it would take for them to add people to their employment roster. Let's try and grow the base we have, and lets also try and grow international business. We need to get Bermuda in the game we need to enhance our reputation. It's very clear to me we have to leverage the skill-sets we have in Bermuda we've got to make these connections. I'm worried if we don't do this. We need to make it happen." BDA is a new name for the Bermuda Business Development Corporation, a change that was announced about a month ago. Mr Lund worked in Bermuda early in his career, but notably was CEO of Nova Scotia Business Inc (NSBI), the Canadian maritime provinces business development agency, from its creation in 2001. He spoke to an audience of Bermuda's leading international business executives during their lunchtime meeting. Returning to Bermuda after 20 years to take on the CEO's role of the Island's equivalent agency, he said he has discovered the facts about Bermuda as an international business centre can be divided into good, bad and ugly. The ugly facts encompass international business which drives the economy is down, and that people have left the Island. The bad facts includes that Bermuda doesn't have a culture of business development. "In other countries, business development is built into their culture. A lot of the companies are doing great things, but they don't have a culture of business development. Complacency is an issue, and plans for re-growth of the international business sector are disjointed. In the good column, Bermuda has a solid reputation, the Government is supportive of international business and people like the Island. When I was in New York, the comments were: We like Bermuda, but have not seen anyone in 10 years. In London, they say: Jerseys here, twice a year." He said at BDA, he wants to expand on what NSBI did for Nova Scotia. Before he left Nova Scotia, the NSBI had just completed drawing up their second five year plan, after meeting all the goals and objectives of their first five year plan. NSBI has helped attract some of the top companies in the world including IBM, Blackberry, CITCO, Marsh and Lockheed Martin to Nova Scotia. The organization also helped generate $800 million in direct client payroll between 2007 and 2012. Mr Lund told the ABIC audience: "You've got to have a value proposition you have to have something to sell. You have to think outside the box. Today, Nova Scotia has had the fastest growth in businesses as diverse as IT and hedge fund administration, and Nova Scotia can also boast the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. Nova Scotia has just been recognised as the best jurisdiction in North America for investment.  We were proactive, very proactive, explaining the process is all about relationship management. One-on-one short meetings are far more successful than big conferences. However, the process which led to locating a business in the jurisdiction took time to build. Frontier, the biggest gaming company in the UK, has just opened a game development studio in Nova Scotia. It took four years to get. IBM also has an office in the province. That took three years of meetings and plane trips. CITCO was a three year process. A meal in New York with the top executives of Cayman-based Admiral Financial Group which provides services for some Bermuda companies led to five years of meetings and relationship building. And they brought the entire operation up to Nova Scotia. The most important thing I learned is, we had to have a real red carpet service we did it better than any place in the world.  From a to z, it is how to take care of the company we are there to take care of the customer. NSBI had their own taxi drivers who collected potential clients at the airport, and the organization also worked with the provinces hotels. We made sure the experience was second-to-none. The people who came to explore doing business in Nova Scotia could count on seeing anyone with whom they needed to have a meeting, often within 24 hours including the Premier.  Connects was an important part of their equation in the Canadian maritime province. The ConnectNS website explains: Anyone and everyone interested in growing Nova Scotia's economy can participate. If you are a proud Nova Scotian, expat or alumni, please join the ConnectNS network and stay connected to what's going on in Nova Scotia's business community and receive ideas on how you can connect opportunities to the province. In Nova Scotia this has resulted in 60 CEOS and 2,000 people signing up from all over the world. There are lots of people from Bermuda, who like or love Bermuda, but they live somewhere else."

November 22. The Bermuda Digest of Statistics 2013 edition has been released today by the Department of Statistics. A compendium of more than 80 statistical tables, it provides a wealth of data about Bermuda’s social, demographic, environmental and economic conditions. Wherever possible, and space permitting, a time series have been provided for the period 2002 to 2012. The Digest has been revised and is structured into thirteen sections. Most sections include graphs and analyses to supplement the tables and identify trends in the data. Some tables from the previous edition have been removed because the data is no longer available or is in a different format. Similarly, tables have been modified or added to this edition to enhance the variety of data provided.

November 22.  A further $10 million in fundraising is needed to cover a $40 million payment for Bermuda's new hospital wing before next year's impending deadline. However, Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said she was completely optimistic and confident that the campaign by the Bermuda Hospitals Charitable Trust (BHCT) would reach its goal. BHCT launched its Why it Matters campaign in April 2011 to raise the capital due from Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) to project investors Paget Health Services. The money must be paid upon the completion of the new medical facility originally slated for April 1, 2014. BHB is liable for covering any shortfall in that one-off payment. Asked about backups in place for cash-strapped BHB which Chairman Jonathan Brewin has said might slip into debt by the end of the current fiscal year the Minister said: "While there is a contingency plan in effect, we are focusing on the positive, and will roll out that alternative plan should the need arise." Ms Gordon-Pamplin recently announced a slight delay in the April 1 deadline, which she said would allow the BHCT extra time to solicit donations for the cause. A spokeswoman for the Trust said the group had so far raised almost $30 million, and was confident of meeting its objectives. "At this time, we are solely focused on fundraising and will continue to rally support from companies, organisations and individuals. This is our Island and our hospital, and we all have a stake in the game." And a spokeswoman for BHB pointed out that the construction project for the $247 million hospital wing is backed by a Government guarantee. BHB Chairman, Mr Brewin said: "BHB has been very conservative in its planning to ensure both best case and worst case scenarios are prepared for. In terms of the one-off payment, we still have every confidence there will be a successful fundraising campaign where the generosity of individuals, families and companies of Bermuda are able to donate $40m. But we have potential plans should this not materialize and through careful planning and discussion with the BHCT and Government, we have a number of options to help us meet our obligations. We will continue to work closely with our partners and remain extremely grateful for all donations received. Every dollar raised helps healthcare and Bermuda." The $40 million one-off payment signals the start of an expensive year for BHB, as outlined for Wednesdays Senate by Junior Health Minister Lynne Woolridge. She said that Paget Health Services (PHS) was committed to maintaining the new hospital wing over the next three decades but added BHB will face significant payments. In the first year, the monthly payments to PHS are about $2.5 million, Senator Woolridge said. On top of this, BHB must cover general running costs such as staffing and cleaning costs which Sen Woolridge described as substantial. After the first year, 70 percent of the payments to PHS will remain fixed with the other 30 percent subject to variables such as inflation and insurance. This means there is significant pressure on BHB to manage the contract well, to ensure it is adhered to, and BHB is putting the necessary management arrangements in place, Sen Woolridge said.

November 22. Government has overruled a decision by hospital bosses to shut down the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre at the end of this month, saying the facility will now remain open until an acceptable and financially viable alternative arrangement is in place. Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said Government decided to step in following a public outcry over the controversial closure, which was announced by the Bermuda Hospitals Board at the end of last month. Yesterday Mrs Gordon-Pamplin said Government had initially endorsed that decision because data suggested the facility was being used for non-urgent patients who could be treated elsewhere more cheaply. "The clinic has been operating at a loss since it opened four years ago. With our commitment and mandate to reduce the cost of healthcare, there was not much option but to support that line of reasoning. With that said, having seen the public outcry and recognizing how important it is to them to have something available then I am not afraid to admit if I have to have a rethink in response to what people are demanding. That is what we do as a Government. The Government's primary mission and priority is to ensure the safety and security of the people of Bermuda. Integral to this mission is the need to make sure our healthcare system provides everyone with access to good quality care. The decision by the Bermuda Hospitals Board to close the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre on November 29 challenges the tenets of this mission. And the public outcry that has followed in its wake reflects it. It also reflects the very difficult challenge we face as a community between meeting peoples' healthcare needs while doing so in ways that are financially sustainable. My colleagues and I have paid very close attention to what people have been saying about the planned closure of the clinic. We have listened to their concerns. We recognize their needs and we understand their fears particularly as they relate to the needs of the east end in the event of a natural disaster that cuts off access to medical and hospital-based resources." Flanked by Premier Craig Cannonier and the Governments three east end MPs Kenneth Bascome, Nandi Outerbridge and Suzann Holshouser Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: "As a result, and in consultation with my colleagues, I have directed the Bermuda Hospitals Board to keep the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre open until an alternative plan is worked out that meets the needs of the people of the east end. An alternative facility could be in operation within six months. I want the people of the east end to rest assured that the facility will continue to be there for them until an acceptable and financially viable alternative arrangement is in place that meets their needs. We are going to make this situation work. "Earlier this month, Mrs Gordon-Pamplin said Government will continue to evaluate any recommendation put forward by the BHB and its Executive team to ensure that the health needs of our entire community are well served on an equitable and sustainable basis. But at yesterday's press conference, Premier Cannonier insisted that closure without alternative options, is not an option. "This Government has made a pledge to this country to leave no one behind and that means everyone, including the people of St David's, who have traditionally been left behind, he said. As you know, I'm from St David's and I grew up in St David's. I know what it feels like to be forgotten. Well today, your Government is here to restore that hope. I've said it before and you'll continue to hear me say it and demonstrate it we are all in this boat together we are all our brother's keeper. As we have taken a look at this particular situation I, without conscience, could not allow closure of the clinic without options. There will be no closure of the clinic without alternative options." Dismissing claims by the Opposition Progressive Labour Party that the clinic had made a profit last year, Mrs Gordon-Pamplin confirmed that the BHB will now be forced to operate the facility at a loss until an alternative can be found. Last night a BHB spokesman said the initial decision to shut down the clinic had been difficult, but that the Board was now working to meet the directive to keep the facility running. "The BHB made its decision to close in an effort to better manage the costs of BHB as we face grave financial difficulties. Keeping the urgent care service running will add more pressure, both financial and with regards to resources, as staff had been informed and arrangements entered into to implement the closure. We will work to meet the directive, however, and will continue to seek more efficient ways to continue the service." Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva said that the reversal was good news but expressed disappointment that it was only for six months. And last night Deputy Opposition leader Derrick Burgess confirmed that a planned protest march on Parliament today was still going ahead. "The people have spoken, the Premier has responded but the people have only won a temporary opportunity to keep Lamb Foggo open. The protest is set to continue in recognition that a permanent solution be found. The people of the east end deserve to be heard and when they march at noon to present their petition and push for a permanent solution, we believe that the OBA will be convinced of the need to keep this urgent care centre open permanently."

November 22.  Custodian Life Limited, as a class C insurer — the tier of licence for long-term insurers and reinsurers with total assets of less than $250 million — is the largest company to register in Bermuda during October. Custodian Life Limited is one of a total of seven new registrations for October, announced by the Bermuda Monetary Authority. They include MoonGate Insurance Ltd., which has registered as an agent, while another new registration, Tokio Millennium Re Ltd., has registered as a class 3B insurer, and so is required to maintain capital and surplus of $1 million. Tokio recently redomiciled to Switzerland, but stated at the time their collateralised and ILS solutions arm would remain in Bermuda Galileo Re Ltd., Silverton Re Ltd. and Fortius Re, Ltd. are all registered as a Special Purpose Insurers (SPI) and so have to meet the following criteria:

Galileo Re Ltd. (Series 2013-1) is also a SPI, and it is seeking to issue a single tranche of notes which will fully collateralize a reinsurance agreement with Catlin Insurance Company, the Bermuda insurance and reinsurance entity of Catlin Group. The deal is being marketed with a preliminary size of $175 million, according to Artemis, the catastrophe bonds, insurance-linked securities, reinsurance and weather risk transfer news and analysis online publication. Brown Water Insurance Ltd. is registered as a class 2, which according to the BMA means it is a multi-owner captive, defined as an insurance company owned by unrelated entities, and provided that it underwrites only the risks of the owners, and affiliates of the owners, and/or risks related to or arising out of the business or operations of the owners and affiliates. It may also be a single-parent and multi-owner captive writing no more than 20 percent of net premiums from risks which are not related to, or arising out of, the business or operations of their owners and affiliates. Class 2 insurers are required to maintain minimum capital and surplus of $250,000. So far 59 insurers have registered during 2013, along with 18 intermediaries: salesmen, brokers, managers and agents.

November 23. Getting Bermuda's ailing economy back on track could take a few years, the chairman of the Islands international business umbrella group said yesterday. George Hutchings, who heads up the Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) said: "More  than 5,000 jobs had been lost over recent years, while many people had their hours reduced and finding it hard to make ends meet. With this in mind, ABIC has been focused on a number of activities that will in the years to come be beneficial to Bermuda and to international business in the long term. ABIC members have highlighted the cost of doing business in Bermuda, immigration policy and the need for a business-friendly environment as crucial for success in the international sector. A rebound from recession depended on growing jobs in both the international and domestic sectors. Let's be realistic, there are no quick fixes to the problems that have developed over several years. Our initiatives may take a few years to be felt within the local community, but we are confident that in time Bermuda can thrive again. As I said, we are all in this together and ABIC is determined to do the things necessary to balance and serve the interests of Bermudians, while pursuing policies that enable our businesses to thrive." Mr Hutchings was speaking at ABIC's annual general meeting, held in Hamilton yesterday. He told members: "International business interests are inextricably aligned with Bermuda's. A healthy economy and social structure makes operating an international business in Bermuda easier. Airline schedules are more robust, there are more goods and services on offer to our businesses and our employers and their families, the cost of operating in Bermuda goes down, crime is likely to diminish, the list goes on. If international business is both locally and globally successful, Bermuda's economy will in all likelihood follow suit. Bermuda and the international businesses based here have been through stormy times over the past few years. As a Bermudian and an international business leader, I have to confess I've found it distressing. But we are in the this boat together and the only way to a successful future is together. Four years of economic contraction had led to levels of unemployment not seen since World War II. Much of that contraction has come as a direct result of a changing world for our businesses where we have had to make decisions to remain competitive in the global economy. As a result of both global and local pressures, international business economic contribution to the Island has shrunk and in the process it has had a significant effect on the level of employment on the Island throughout all sectors of the economy. ABIC had promoted strong relationships with Government, reforms to work permit policy and an end to term limits, as well as new incentives to attract overseas investors. ABIC had also consulted with Government on the rising cost of healthcare and continued to support scholarships for young Bermudian undergraduates with a $500,000 fund. The organization had also hosted town hall meetings on subjects like crime trends, Governments economic plans and immigration policy and carried out a major survey of its members in 2013. ABIC's mission is to promote and preserve a sound business environment for international business in Bermuda and to ensure that we continue as the business domicile of choice. We will continue to work diligently with Government to develop a business environment that will retain jobs and attract new business to the Island."

November 23.  Marchers who descended on the House of Assembly in a bid to save the closure-threatened Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in the east end said the service was a vital part of the community. Raine Burgess, 35, an insurance broker from the area, said: "I have two children that used the urgent care centre numerous times and I have a husband with heart disease. I'm here to represent them and their health. Its an essential service." Ms Burgess was speaking as around 100 people marched from the BIU HQ in Hamilton to the House of Assembly yesterday in a bid to save the clinic, scheduled for the axe by the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Premier Craig Cannonier who accepted a petition with almost 5,000 signatures from organizer Darlene Rogers pledged that the clinic would remain open. Former PLP Government Minister Wayne Perinchief said: "My son lives across the street from the centre. Its a very important centre which needs to be kept open. It can be made economical to run you just need the will." Louis Ming, from St Georges, a 76-year-old former beverage manager at the airport, said: "I'm here today because I feel the urgent care centre needs to stay open. I've used it myself often. I need to get my blood tested, I'm a senior and it saves me traveling into Hamilton or to the hospital. It's very important for seniors it saves them the expense of catching a bus or driving if they are sick. Its convenient for most east enders." St David's islander Peggy Burns said the clinic could be made profitable by transferring a Hamilton clinic to St David's and adding a pharmacy, which would replace the one lost when Whites supermarket closed. "GPs could also run their practices from the building, in tandem with the clinic. The urgent care centre came about as a result of the situation which resulted through Hurricane Fabian, when the bridge got washed away. That could happen again. Sailing events and motocross events were also held in the area and competitors might need urgent medical care if injured. It's a growing community and the airport is next door. We need the centre." St. David's MP Lovitta Foggo who organized a public meeting in support of keeping the clinic said: "We heard various testimonies at the public meeting about having the clinic there it was able to save many lives. It's also very strategically placed in terms of providing medical services to people in the eastern area, particularly in situations where we are cut off. It provides a vital service."

November 23. A Bermuda lawyer has won an X-Factor-style competition in the Caymans for lawyers working in business turnarounds and insolvency. Alex Potts, of Hamilton's Sedgwick Chudleigh, won the rising star award against tough competition from the UK, the Caymans, the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. Mr Potts was one of only a few Bermuda participants to be invited to speak at the conference, organized by INSOL International, a global group of lawyers and accountants specializing in business turnarounds, restructuring and insolvency. He impressed the 250-strong audience of voters made up of top judges, QCs, accountants, lawyers and insolvency professionals from around the world with a talk and written paper on the recognition of foreign insolvency proceedings, from a Bermuda and world perspective. Mr Potts said: "I am flattered and pleased to have had the chance to present to them." Sedgwick Chudleigh partner Mark Chudleigh said: "We are very proud of Alex's success at the INSOL X-Factor and for representing Bermuda so well alongside speakers from other offshore jurisdictions." Foreign insolvency proceedings is a hot topic as it has recently been considered in the highest courts in the USA, UK and Bermuda. Sedgwick Chudleigh's legal team are regarded as specialists in the area and have appeared in a number of the leading decisions on the subject in Bermuda courts.

November 25.  Minister of Finance Bob Richards today signed the UK FATCA Intergovernmental Model 2 Agreement, IGA Model 2 with the United Kingdom. Signing on behalf of the UK was the Secretary to the Exchequer, the Hon. David Gauke. A press release announcing the move quoted the Minister of Finance, who said: "The signing of IGA Model 2 is in keeping with the Government's international tax strategy which is to demonstrate our commitment to tax transparency and automatic exchange of information, and ensure Bermudas reputation as the premier international financial jurisdiction in which to do business. The significance of choosing IGA Model 2 versus IGA Model 1 means all Bermuda's financial institutions must identify all UK residents with interests in Bermuda and automatically report them to HM Treasury on an annual basis. HM Treasury will receive the information on those residents in bulk form and will be able to issue group requests for information in relation to recalcitrant clients of Bermuda financial institutions." Recalcitrant clients are persons who refuse consent to allow the financial institution to automatically share their information. Additionally, where HM Treasury initiate investigations on a person with respect to possible tax evasion, a request for information can be made under the UK Bermuda Tax Information Exchange Agreement. Utilizing this method of automatic exchange of information guarantees the rights, safeguards, and confidentiality of the information received in regards to those persons.

November 25.  Minister of Finance Bob Richards today visited the Polish Embassy in London to sign a bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the Republic of Poland. A Ministry of Finance press release announcing the bilateral agreement quoted Mr Richards, who said: "Signing a TIEA with Poland has been a long time in the making and represents the beginning of an official exchange of information relationship with Poland upon which the Government of Bermuda hopes to build a long and fruitful partnership." The press release stated that with these bilateral treaties Bermuda establishes a direct treaty relationship, which in this case, is with the Minister of Finance for Poland. "As Poland is a member of the European Union (EU) it is crucial that Bermuda signs this TIEA; the EU has always been one of the main regions with which Bermuda has a strategic and economic relationship and Poland is one of the many countries Bermuda reinsurers do business with in Europe. The benefit of signing the Poland TIEA is that it allows for tax transparency and information exchange on a by-request basis, where previously there was no formal avenue available." Bermuda now has bilateral TIEAs with 50 percent of the members of the EU.

November 25. Bermuda is leading the world in the issuance of insurance-linked securities (ILS). A report published by the Bermuda Monetary Authority shows that $3.5 billion of ILS, predominantly catastrophe bonds, were issued by Bermuda-based Special Purpose Insurers (SPIs) during the first three quarters of this year. That means the Island is on track to overtake offshore rival and erstwhile market leader the Cayman Islands which over the same period issued $1.8 billion of ILS to become the dominant domicile in the sector for the first time. The BMA released its first quarterly Bermuda Insurance-Linked Securities Market Report yesterday. The report offers a detailed picture of the ILS market, highlighting and listing deals done; analysis of the types of risks they cover, the investor base and cat bond returns; and the regulators overview of the market. In addition, there is a background section on the evolution of ILS, their benefits and drawbacks, and the structure of securitised risk. Impressive statistics pepper the report, depicting vigorous growth in the ILS market, both globally and in Bermuda. For example, the Bermuda Stock Exchange accounted for more than 40 percent of the global issuance of ILS by the end of the third quarter of 2013, with a total of 34 ILS, comprising 43 tranches, listed with a nominal value of $7.9 billion. Bermuda accounted for more than 62 percent of third-quarter global issuance of $1.7 billion, which was more than double the $804 million issued in the third quarter of 2012. The outstanding amount of ILS issued in Bermuda thus far represents more than 40 percent of the worldwide stock of ILS, the BMA report states. Given the rising demand for cost-efficient (re)insurance capacity, the global amount of outstanding ILS reached a record $19.5 billion at the end of the quarter, with $8 billion of this total having been sponsored by Bermuda-based SPIs. Since 2010, the BMA has licensed 87 SPIs, covering predominantly North American and European perils. The BMA adds that the Island is also host to foreign ILS listings, which augment the depth of the secondary market. The report notes the market for Alternative Risk Transfer (ART) instruments had grown and that some reinsurers had created capital market divisions to increase capacity. Capital market investors in search of higher yields and greater diversification for their portfolios had supported ILS growth, the BMA notes. However, it remains to be seen if the current demand will be sustainable when yields from traditional assets eventually normalise, the report adds. The ILS market remains relatively small, with a 15 percent share of the global reinsurance market last year. The majority of ILS account for North American perils, which make up 60 percent of total volume.

November 25. Longtime former Royal Gazette editor David L. White died on Saturday morning at his home in Paget following a long illness. He was 79 years old. Best-known as editor of the newspaper from 1976 to 1998, Mr. White also ranked among the Islands foremost and active patrons of the visual arts as well as one of the leading individual collectors of Bermuda-related works of art. "David was a colleague, friend and mentor for many years," said Royal Gazette editorial consultant Tim Hodgson. "He was always mindful of the fact this newspaper had a special obligation to the community it serves an obligation to not just publish the facts but to publish them with candor, to publish them with clarity and to publish them in the proper perspective. He was one of the most courageous individuals I knew, shrinking from no issue and turning away from no antagonist. David routinely encouraged his reporters to pursue subjects that some of the more conservative elements in Bermuda would have preferred the Press turn a willfully blind eye to. These ranged from Pentagon plans to stockpile nuclear weapons at the US bases in Bermuda during the Cold War without the knowledge let alone the assent of the Islands government to the decriminalization of homosexual activity between consenting adults to a whole raft of environmental matters which came to the fore during the construction boom of the late 1980s and early 90s. From time to time tremendous pressure was applied to him by vested political or business interests to rein in his reporters or to spike controversial stories they were working on. He never succumbed. His commitment to Press freedoms was absolute and unwavering. So was his loyalty to his staff." Mr. Hodgson issued his condolences to Mr. White's family on behalf of the management and staff of The Royal Gazette. "David was a complex, formidably intelligent and somewhat larger-than-life character," he said. "But beneath the silken, somewhat theatrical exterior he presented to the world, he was essentially a shy individual as well as an unreconstructed romantic at heart. And he had a life-long love affair with Bermuda and its people. That affection for the Island and its well-being was reflected not just in the content and direction of The Royal Gazette during his time as editor but in his world-class art collection of Bermuda-related works which he gifted to the Bermuda National Gallery last year." The only son of Leslie Arnold White, a self-made man who owned Freeza Fresh Foods, and Stella Hollis, Mr. White was born in Paget on December 15, 1933. He grew up in Paget and later Knapton Hill, when the family moved to Smiths Parish in 1952. He was educated at Mount St. Agnes Academy in Bermuda and Vermont Academy, Saxtons River, Vermont, receiving the latter's prestigious Florence Sabin Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994. After graduation from Vermont, Mr. White enrolled at Bard College in Annandale-on Hudson, New York, where his love of the written word flourished and he was actively involved with the colleges two publications, The Bardian (as managing editor) and Communitas, serving on the editorial board. He was recognised as a John Bard Scholar and received the Fairbairn Prize, the college's highest academic award, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours in history and political science. He then studied at the London School of Economics in England, before returning to Bermuda in 1956 to work full-time as a reporter on The Royal Gazette, having worked as a summer intern while a student. In 1967, he became the first Bermudian ever designated as a Commonwealth Press Union Fellow, the Commonwealth's highest educational award for journalists. He was appointed editor of the weekly Mid-Ocean News in 1968 and by the time he left to become assistant editor of The Royal Gazette in 1973, he had increased the paper's circulation from 2,500 a week to more than 10,000. He succeeded Eric Hopwood as editor of The Royal Gazette in 1976. During Mr. White's tenure, The Royal Gazette's circulation rose from 10,500 to around 17,000, as it covered some of the most turbulent events in Bermuda's modern history including the 1977 riots, the 1981 general strike and the devastating Hurricane Emily in 1987. He was also in the editor's chair for seven Bermuda general elections. As editor, Mr. White withstood often intense criticism from both Government and Opposition politicians but always backed his reporters and did not back down from defending what he regarded as right. On his retirement as editor in 1998, politicians from both parties paid tribute to him as a man of conviction and a defender of democratic principles. Indeed, in 1976 he had been awarded the Press Award of Merit by the then Opposition Progressive Labour Party for his outstanding, objective and meritorious journalistic coverage of the political life of Bermuda. He promoted free speech not only thorough the newspaper, but also through the arts as a patron of many different art forms, including painting, writing and theatre. He was among the key figures in reviving the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society (BMDS) in the 1960s, serving for many years as vice-president and chairman of the drama committee and helping to purchase and renovate Daylesford, a house on Dundonald and Washington Streets, which became the Daylesford Theatre. Although never a serious actor himself save for some memorable performances as the Dame in Christmas pantomimes Mr. White directed a number of successful plays, including Tiger At The Gates, A Streetcar Named Desire and The Killing of Sister George. The last was described by playwright Terrence Rattigan, a Bermuda resident at the time, as better than the West End production in London. He withdrew from active theatre work in 1976 because of his commitments as editor of the Gazette but maintained his interest in the arts as a patron and an astute collector. He built an extensive collection of historical Bermuda maps but sold it in the 1980s to finance a growing interest in paintings. In 1987 he bought a 1940 painting by the American artist Reynolds Beal of people waiting for the St. David's ferry in St. Georges and, in his own words, "I was hooked." From there he built up an extensive collection of more than 60 impressionist Bermuda landscapes by painters such as Ogden Pleissner, Prosper Senat, Adolph Treidler, and William Chadwick. In 2009, he published a book about his collection, Cross Currents Impressions of Bermuda (The David L. White Collection), with proceeds donated to the Bermuda National Gallery (BNG). The collection was featured in a special BNG exhibition, The David L. White Collection, in 2010, and in May 2012, he donated most of the collection some 62 works to the Gallery. Mr. White served as chairman of the Board of Trustees on the BNG from 1997 to 2008, overseeing five Biennial Exhibitions and more than 60 exhibitions that contributed significantly to Bermudas cultural diversity. He was particularly proud of Light Air and Colour, an exhibition of American Impressionist Paintings; Made in Bermuda; A Window on the Azores; and Living with Art, an exhibition of African-American Art. As chairman of the BNG's Collections Committee, he helped build the BNG's Permanent Collection and was instrumental in stewarding major gifts to the BNG, including the John Hinson Young II and Nelga Young Collection in 2006. When the Gallery was first opened in 1992, Mr. White donated several pieces, including an etching by American artist James Whistler and two original 1919 poster designs for the Folies Bergere. On his retirement, he presented the museum with an oil painting from his own collection by Mary Parker West of Hamilton Harbour (1876), one of the earliest known Bermudian landscapes. Outside of the arts, Mr. White was vice-president and then president (1993-1996) of the Bermuda National Trust. He spearheaded a successful $6 million fund-raising campaign to help restore Trust properties in St. Georges and later served on the Trusts National Advisory Board. He authored the Paget edition of the Trust's acclaimed Architectural Heritage series of books, and edited the editions covering Smiths Parish, Hamilton Parish, Sandys and St. Georges. He also served on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for 17 years and was a founding appointee to the National Alcohol and Drug Agency. He also served as president of the Bermuda TB, Cancer and Health Association. Twice married and divorced to Americans, Mr. White married Eva LaSalle in 1957 and Sarah Dey in 1972. Mr. White was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1994 for service to journalism and the community, and received the Patrons Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 2010 for his contribution to the Bermuda National Gallery. He is survived by former wife Sarah White and daughter Leslie.

November 26. A summit meeting of the Overseas Territories and the UK government will focus on economic growth and job creation, the UK government said yesterday. Premier Craig Cannonier and Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister for Home Affairs, yesterday arrived in London for the meeting, held by Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds. And the meeting, which starts today, will be followed for the first time by a business forum designed to promote investment opportunities in the UK's Overseas Territories. Mr Simmonds said: "Jobs and economic growth are fundamental to building safe, successful and sustainable territories." The year's joint ministerial council will focus on agreeing practical steps for the UK and Overseas Territories to work together to achieve that goal. According to the UK Foreign Office, the meeting will concentrate on economic diversification, attracting investment, vocational education and jobs. The FCO added: "There are also likely to be discussions on the environment, tax and transparency and the relationship between the Territories and the European Union." Follow-up business forum, to be held on Thursday, would bring together, for the first time, all the Overseas Territories with UK businesses and investors of all sizes to explore the numerous exciting investment opportunities available to the Territories. Mr Simmonds added: "I am delighted to welcome back the leaders from the Overseas Territories to the second joint ministerial council. We have achieved much by working in partnership towards our shared vision for the Territories as vibrant and flourishing communities in line with our 2012 white paper on the Territories." The council meeting will also discuss health, the environment, visas and passports and criminal justice issues.

November 26. Bermuda's international business pumped an estimated $1.47 billion into the islands economy last year, a survey released today said. The largest single contribution was salaries, with exempt companies paying staff a total of $433 million last year pouring $47 million into Government coffers through payroll tax. Another $10 million was paid in other taxes, while rents and services amounted to more than $50 million and charities got $8 million in donations and sponsorships. A further $7.4 million was spent on entertainment in Bermuda by international business. But Association of Bermuda International Companies (ABIC) president George Hutchings said that overall spending by international business had dropped in recent years, with only training expenditure increasing. He said: "The good news is that on a per company basis the financial contribution of international business to the Bermuda economy is holding, but with some changes. Overall, payroll tax, fees, rents, etc, are all down, only training expenditure is up. Bermudians are progressing in managerial positions with a significantly greater proportion of senior management and middle management positions being held by non-work permit holders." The survey also showed there were more women than men in the international business workforce but that men outnumbered women in managerial positions. Mr Hutchings added that the survey, compared to a previous one in 2004, showed that there had been a steady increase in the number of black people in working in the international sector up from 31 per cent to 35 per cent. The survey also showed that more than 50 percent of black non-work permit employees who were promoted moved into management positions. The findings report said: "This increase continues a trend that was noticeable in previous surveys. There was also evidence of an increase in the number of black work permit holders. However, a consistent reduction in work permit recruitment has had an impact on the wider economy. The profile of international business had continued to change, with firms once exclusively based or headquartered on the Island now having offices in other jurisdictions and able to choose where to place different operations. There has been significant expansion of company operations elsewhere, with US, UK/Ireland and Europe the most favoured. The survey confirmed that more work permit holders had left international business than had joined in the last five years, with a total of 64 percent of employees in the sector now being Bermudian, spouses of Bermudians or Permanent Resident Certificate holders." A total of 40 (35 percent) of the 115 ABIC members responded to the survey, while 51 (48 percent) of ABIC CEOs responded to a separate questionnaire on their opinions and outlook.

November 27. Bermuda's Freedom of Information law could finally be enacted next year, according to a report published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday. The report by the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council, on the Governments progress regarding commitments it made to the council last year, says the Public Access to Information Act, passed by Parliament in July 2010, is anticipated to come into force in 2014. When the bill was approved by MPs in the House of Assembly, then Premier Ewart Brown said it would take two to three years to implement across Government. But three-and-a-half years later, there is still no sign of it. Dr Brown's successor Paula Cox pledged that the legislation would come into force in the second half of 2012. And in July last year, Cabinet Secretary Donald Scott told The Royal Gazette: "The preparations for PATI remain on course for a planned go-live date later this year." That didn't happen prior to the December 17 general election, when the One Bermuda Alliance became the new government. There was no mention of PATI in the OBA's election manifesto, in the Budget Speech in February or in either of the 2013 Throne Speeches. Premier Craig Cannonier finally referred to it in a statement to the House of Assembly in March on spending plans for the Cabinet Office. Mr Cannonier said staff would be hired in the coming fiscal year, following changes to the PATI Act in the House. Asked in March why the law wasn't enacted in 2012, Mr Scott said: The House of Assembly convened only for one day on November 2, 2012, following the summer recess and then was dissolved for the general election in December 2012. As a consequence, there was no opportunity for Parliament to consider amendments and regulations pertaining to the Act prior to the end of 2012. It wasn't possible to reach Mr Scott for comment yesterday.

November 27.  The Bermuda Post Office (BPO) has advised the public to bring an invoice when collecting goods through the post office. As the BPO acts as an agent for HM Customs, anyone who has received a notification from the post office indicating “value required” must produce the actual invoice when collecting a package so the required duty can be paid. If an invoice is unavailable, a vendor or manufacturer-estimated retail value for the item or similar product must be provided. This can be obtained from the internet and presented in lieu of the actual invoice. Duty is not required for gifts valued at under $30 when sent from overseas. 

November 27. Investors interested in an expected near five percent annual return offered by a new Bermuda Government bond issuance can learn more at two public information sessions next week. The events take place next Tuesday, December 3, and Wednesday, December 4, at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, according to an advertisement in today's edition of The Royal Gazette. Both sessions, hosted by the Ministry of Finance, will start at 5.30pm. The Tuesday session will be held in the hotel's Princess Victoria Room and the Wednesday session in the Gazebo Room. The $50 million Bermuda dollar offering will commence next Monday and conclude on Friday, December 6. Butterfield Bank will place the offering. Government representatives will be making presentations to the public at next week's information sessions. Those interested are urged to attend one of them. A Preliminary Offering Memorandum and additional documentation will be available online upon the launch of the offering. Hard copies will be available at the information sessions for those who require them. Butterfield has already contacted some clients, urging potential investors to indicate how much they might be interested in investing.

November 27. Finance Minister Bob Richards has said there will be extensive consultation before Government carries out any cost-cutting recommendations made by the SAGE Commission. But in a statement issued this morning, he appeared not to rule out future redundancies in the Civil Service one of the central recommendations put forward by the Savings And Government Efficiency Commission. Government had initially pledged that there would be no job cuts in the Civil Service, although last month Premier Craig Cannonier suggested a shift in Governments position when he said he cant make any promises on jobs. And Mr Richards made no reference to the guarantee, saying only that consultation will anchor the SAGE process going forward. "The Government is sensitive to the concerns raised by the unions and, by extension, members of the Civil Service. I can assure civil servants and the public that consultation will anchor the SAGE process going forward. We will consult all stakeholders before recommendations are implemented. The process will also see the Government assess what recommendations can be implemented in the first year and the formulation of a timetable for recommendations that can be implemented in the following years. I have  made a Take Note motion on the report, which will be debated in the House of Assembly on December 13. I look forward to a full and frank debate in the House as we continue to work to revive our economy through policies and actions that grow the economy and jobs on the one hand and government efficiencies on the other. "

November 28.  The end is nigh for Bermudas legacy horizontal bank notes. Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) reminded the public today that the December 31 deadline is fast approaching. After that cut-off point, the old notes will no longer be considered legal tender but can be exchanged for new notes at banks and credit unions. The BMA cannot exchange notes and they cannot be switched at stores or other cash businesses. The switch to new banknotes was announced in June and the BMA's director of operations, Shanna Lespere, said the legacy notes had been gradually culled from circulation since, in tandem with local banks. Although the legacy notes will only be legal tender for a matter of weeks, the public has ten years to exchange them.

November 28. The cost of health and dental care helped push the cost of basic goods and services up 1.6 percent year on year, the latest Government statistics revealed today. A major factor was said to be a 9.8 percent rise in health insurance premiums and a nine percent hike in dental costs, while the total cost of health and personal care rose by 7.6 percent. The cost of food and education and recreation and reading also increased between October 2012 and last month by 5.6 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. But the rate of inflation dropped by 0,2 between September and October this year, settling at 1.6 percent higher than the US or Canada, but a percentage point lower than the UK. The news means that a basket of goods and services that cost $100 in April 2006 now costs $122.80. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) month to month figures show that the transport and vehicle sector rose 0.5 percent in October, following a 2.2 percent increase the previous month. The CPI report said the increase was largely attributed to a 1.1 percent hike in the average cost of premium fuel. In addition, air fares increased by 2.9 percent. The clothing and footwear sector jumped one percent between September and October but the average cost of accessories like jewellery and handbags went up by 4.5 percent. The cost of rent went up 0.1 percent in October, following no change the previous month, with the same increase being recorded for the rent controlled sector. Food prices in grocery stores rose fell by 0.1 percent between September and October, compared to a 0.2 percent rise between August and September. The price of tobacco and liquor remained unchanged month on month. But the cost of fuel and power fell slightly over the same period, down 0.8 percent, which followed the 0.8 percent increase logged in September.

November 28.  Former Hinson's Island resident William Stevenson, author of the best-selling A Man Called Intrepid, died on Tuesday evening at his home in Toronto. He was 89 years old. The British-born Canadian author and journalist was best known for his 1976 biography of near-namesake Sir William Stephenson code-named Intrepid, a legendary World War Two spymaster who retired to Bermuda in the early 1960s. Mr Stevenson's A Man Called Intrepid topped international best-seller lists for months and was turned into a TV miniseries starring David Niven in the title role. "Dad's was a remarkable life," said son Andrew Stevenson, founder of the Bermuda Humpback Whale Project. "He was the son of a Scottish merchant marine sailor and a French mother; he lost his mother and left school at 13 to help his father support his three younger siblings. Recruited at 17 into Britain's Fleet Air Arm, he was trained in Canada as a fighter pilot in World War Two, graduating from Gypsy Moths to Hurricanes and Marine Spitfires. He met my mother at 21, married her and after the war, emigrated to Canada to work as a reporter. Within a few years he became one of Canada's first foreign correspondents, posted to Hong Kong for six years before taking assignments in India, Kenya, London and Malaysia." Mr Stevenson later worked as a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before moving to Bermuda with his family in the 1970s to conduct research for A Man Called Intrepid. Shortly after Intrepid was released, he wrote 90 Minutes at Entebbe, the story of the audacious 1976 Israeli commando mission to rescue hijacked airline passengers being held hostage by terrorists in Uganda which rose to number one on the New York Times best-seller list. Mr Stevenson also wrote the children's classic The Bushbabies, adapted into a major motion picture in 1965 and later a Japanese television series. "He was a great dad adventurous, affectionate, supportive, and a great inspiration," said Andrew Stevenson. "Last year his autobiography, Past to Present: A Reporters Story of War, Spies, People, and Politics, was published, a poetic account of his remarkable career and life. He'll be very much missed by us all. Aside from his son Andrew, Mr Stevenson is survived by his second wife, Monika, and daughters Jackie, Sally and Alexandra. He was predeceased by his son, Kevin, former president of The Bermudian Publishing Company.

November 29.  Bermuda supports up to 100,000 jobs in the UK and trade between the two nations averages about $1.4 billon a year, according to a secret report seen by The Royal Gazette. The report given to the UK Foreign Office in the run-up to the Overseas Territories summit this week outlines the trade links between Bermuda and Britain. A report on the Island on the Foreign Office website, which used parts of the report, said: Bermudas expertise and capacity contributes directly to the UK economy from generating over 100,000 jobs on the UK mainland, more UK jobs that, for instance, of Japanese industrial investment in the country. The full report prepared for the Bermuda Ministry of Finance by a Washington-based consultancy said there were 52,500 posts backed by foreign direct investment from Bermuda, while 17,500 jobs were due to the export of services to the Island and between 10-22,000 jobs were supported from goods exported from the UK to Bermuda. The report lists the major economic sector as shipping and transport, business services and, above all, insurance and reinsurance. It added: "Most of the trade is due to an expanding relationship in insurance services trade between the UK and Bermuda that began to show up clearly in data by 2005 but had begun with investments made earlier that decade. Even during the global financial meltdown trade links remained strong, and remained at around the 1 billion ($1.63 billion) mark. Bermuda's relative economic significance with the United Kingdom compared to other developed and much larger economies grew enormously since 2000 and remained at a high level throughout the crisis." Overall, Bermuda ranks in the top 20 of the most important export markets for the United Kingdom. In fact, Bermuda accounted for 16-25 percent of the United Kingdoms cross border trade in insurance services for the last ten years and 20 percent of UK reinsurance services imports. The report said that two-way trade and investment flows between the two countries averaged about $1.4 billion between 2001 and 2011. It added: "The bulk of the UK/Bermuda economic relationship is in the export and import of financial and non-financial services including equally both cross-border trade and services delivered through UK subsidiaries of companies headquartered in Bermuda." In 2011, UK cross-border service imports to Bermuda amounted to GBP338 million ($552 million) and UK imports from Bermuda were GBP680 million ($1.1 billion). The report said that Britain exports on average around $81.7 million in manufactured goods to the Island every year, It added: "The chief UK exports are transportation equipment principally yachts, commercial ships and airplanes made or finished in the UK or Europe." Bermuda's partnership with the UK in trade in ships and jets is long-standing and based on shared commitment to regulation of air and maritime safety and strong environmental standards. The report also said that Bermudas financial services industry attracted UK investors partly due to its close links to Britain and similar legal system. It added: "First, Bermuda provides a global investment platform that attracts international capital. Second, investors from around the world view Bermuda as well regulated, primarily because as a territory of the United Kingdom, Bermuda has close legal and administrative affinity with the UK regulatory system." Financial stakeholders have recourse to UK courts and the UK Financial Services Agency has strong relations to the Bermuda Monetary Authority. Third, Bermuda's tax system is attractive to most global investors. Bermuda does not tax worldwide income and does not impose a personal or corporate tax. The upshot of this large-scale international economic activity of Bermuda as a financial entrepot benefits the United Kingdom as well as other jurisdictions. Minister of Finance Bob Richards, who was part of the delegation at the London Overseas Territories meeting, was yesterday en route back to the Island and not available for comment.

November 29.  Somers Ltd, owner of the Bermuda Commercial Bank, is seeking to buy out London-based broker Westhouse Holdings PLC. The Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed Somers already owns a 46.1 percent stake in Westhouse. Somers, formerly known as Bermuda National Ltd, is offering one UK pence in cash per Westhouse share. The offer is the first stage of an equity and debt fundraising of Westhouse, underwritten by Somers, which will include an open offer and placing to raise, in aggregate, up to £3.45 million ($5.64 million) before expenses. In a statement issued today, Somers said the offer was conditional both on gaining sufficient valid acceptances for Somers to hold more than 50 percent of Westhouse shares, and approval of the change of ownership from UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) by January 28 next year. The deal already has the support of major Westhouse shareholder SBS Nominees Ltd, on behalf of Ryan Anderson, which owns more than 3.5 million shares, representing a 10.7 percent stake in the company. Somers chairman Warren McLeland said: “We believe that this proposed fund raising, the strengthening of its management team and the recent cost reduction measures will enable Westhouse to benefit from an upturn in its targeted market. The last few years have been difficult for corporate brokers in London but there are signs from Westhouse’s recent trading performance that there is an opportunity to develop a profitable corporate and institutional stock broking business. The proposed offer and investment by Somers will significantly increase our holding in Westhouse and working together with the Westhouse management team will we hope drive value for all Somers shareholders. Somers has made a significant investment in Westhouse to date, of in aggregate £8.9 million [$14.54 million] and the board of Somers believes an additional investment is an important part of its strategy to continue to strengthen the Westhouse business and thereby create a well-funded corporate and institutional stock broking business, that is well placed to exploit a cyclical upturn in the UK financial services industry. Westhouse is a sectorally focused corporate and institutional broker. It employs over 50 employees and has 70 corporate clients listed on the London capital markets. Westhouse offers corporate finance, corporate broking, sales and trading capabilities, supported by equity research.” Members of Westhouse’s management team have undertaken to subscribe for £300,000 worth of Westhouse shares in the placing and a further £150,000 of Westhouse shares will be made available by the company to other employees on the same terms as Somers. “Westhouse will become a subsidiary of Somers following completion of the offer and conditional issue and Somers will therefore be entitled to determine the composition of the company’s board,” the statement adds. “However, the company will remain as an independent entity operating day-to-day functions distinctly and separately from Somers.” As well as owning BCB, Somers owns a 62.5 percent holding in J O Hambro Investment Management Ltd, a UK wealth manager with $6 billion in assets under management and a 66 percent interest in Private & Commercial Finance Group PLC, a UK asset financing company, and a 58 percent interest in Bermuda real estate company West Hamilton Holdings.

November 29.  Work on the creation of a National Agriculture Strategy has begun with international experts on Island to gather information. Agricultural Economist Ann Gordon and Dieter Fischer, a consultant to the World Bank on international agribusiness investment, have spent the week collecting data, holding meetings and speaking with members of the public and private sector as part of the project, highlighted in the Throne Speech. The National Agriculture Strategy is expected to be completed early next year with the goal of increasing the production of food by encouraging investment in farming and crop production. Director of Environmental Protection Fredrick Ming said: "The final details of the strategy are being mapped out following this week's consultation with overseas agricultural economists. We are seeking to create a vision for a new understanding of what agriculture is, what it could be, and the opportunities that are being lost by not bringing that vision into reality. If the public and private sector can implement the strategies included in the report, it would create new opportunities for investment, business and create jobs. Currently, we are heavily dependent on the importation of food, and would like to see an increase in food produced locally. Agriculture currently accounts for less than one percent of gross domestic product. This needs to change. Food security includes local production through agriculture, in addition to the provision of safeguards, laws and policies that would minimise the risk of interrupting access to imported food. It involves self-sufficiency in local production, but also having access to supply chains that can guarantee an adequate and continuous supply of food that is imported to the island. Everyone, regardless of living circumstances, can produce an edible plant. There is something in this for everybody."

November 29. While many scientists have been warning about potentially dire consequences of the oceans increasing acidity, a recent scientific paper suggested that coral reefs such as those around Bermuda might actually help offset ocean acidification. They point out the ocean is the largest natural sink for carbon dioxide (CO2), absorbing one quarter to one third of the CO2 produced by humans. However, as the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, fundamental properties of seawater chemistry are also impacted. Scientists have projected that waters in the open ocean will experience a decreased pH (the water becomes more acidic), as well as a reduced aragonite saturation state, meaning it will be more difficult for corals and other calcifying marine organisms to build their skeletons and shells. In a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change, a group of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) present compelling evidence that coral reef ecosystems may, in fact, modify seawater chemistry and help balance or even counteract the local impacts of ocean acidification. Lead author Dr. Andreas Andersson, a chemical oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and adjunct faculty at BIOS, said: Other researchers have shown that different benthic communities can alter the chemistry on the reef, but were the first to show it on this scale, the whole ecosystem scale, over five years of observations. Using a combination of seawater samples taken from across the Bermuda coral reef platform, time series measurements from the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) programme, and computer models, the papers authors found that naturally occurring reef biogeochemical processes act to modify the seawater pH and aragonite saturation state. The longer the water remains within the reef system (known as residence time), the more pronounced the offset on pH and aragonite saturation state. While its not known how these results translate to other reefs around the world, Andersson points out that some marine organisms may have tipping points, or certain pH thresholds below which they aren't able to survive. This reef feedback that we observed may buy them some more time. Professor Nick Bates, Senior Scientist at BIOS and co-author of the paper, said the study also highlights the critically needed value of sustaining observations over time for vulnerable marine ecosystems so that scientists and governments can better prepare strategies and mitigation approaches to cope with serious environmental challenges that are impacting both local and global communities.

November 29. A medical services subsidiary of the Bermuda Hospitals Board was dogged by serious concerns since it was created, Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin told MPs. Healthcare Partners Limited (HPL) had problems with governance and its overall operations from its September, 2008 inception, according to a review by the Department of Internal Audit. BHB announced in July that the subsidiary would be dissolved by the end of the current financial year. "The review found that as a result of an unclear operational purpose for HPL, the auditors were not able to determine how HPL fit into BHB's operational model and strategy," said the Minister. The auditors therefore could not determine the true organizational impact of HPL's existence on BHB's operations, or whether HPL was achieving its intended purpose. HPL was set up to generate revenue through public private partnerships, as well as providing BHB with the flexibility to provide enhanced medical services but it failed to live up to its financial expectations. HPL's physician billing business will transfer to the hospitals financing directorate, while the money-losing Medical Concierge is under review to see if the service can be retained by BHB. The subsidiary's third business unit, Ultimate Imaging Limited, is still in discussion with the board to allow HPL to be dissolved, the Minister said.

November 29.  The first phase of the Airport Runway Project has been completed on time and within the estimated budget, Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, Shawn Crockwell has announced. It took seven months and cost $4.9 million, said the minister. The result is a first class airfield infrastructure that meets advanced safety requirements. Phase two of the project which calls for improvements to the Approach Lighting Barrettes at the Clearwater end of the runway, will commence in the middle of next year. Following the introduction of new regulations by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2009, physical objects including roof tops, hills and trees along a portion of Ferry Reach that fell within the final approach path to Runway 12, were classified as obstacles that needed to be addressed within a multi-year timeframe. "Demolishing homes and removing hilltops on arable land was clearly not a viable option, so we looked at increasing the descent angle of approaching aircraft thus elevating them slightly higher as they fly in over Ferry Reach. This essentially takes those physical objects outside of the approach cone and they're no longer considered safety obstacles, " said L.F. Wade International Airport General Manager, Aaron Adderley. 

Airport approach

"By increasing the descent angle, planes will now touch down further along the runway meaning that all of the lighting systems and runway markings that guided approaching aircraft to the original touch down zone had to be relocated and the threshold displaced and repositioned 587 feet further down the runway. The project also called for the installation of enhanced taxiway and runway signage; and high intensity, LED runway centerline lighting" According to Mr. Adderley, use of LED lighting satisfies two of the Airports business objectives. "It helps realize energy savings and perhaps most significantly, gain a higher regulatory certification with an increased safety factor. International weather minima criteria set by aviation regulators, ICAO and the FAA, the airport is now equipped with the necessary lighting and navigational aid equipment to qualify as having a Category One Approach for the first time ever. Prior to the completion of the upgrades, our navigational aids and minimal lighting capability dictated that an arriving aircraft would have to circle until visibility on the approach improved to at least 1,200 meters. If conditions failed to improve, the aircraft would have to divert to an alternate airport along the East Coast resulting in flight cancellations," said Mr. Adderley. With the new runway centerline lighting, aircraft can now safely land at our airport with a minimum visibility of 800 meters, the type of conditions one could expect during a heavy thunderstorm for example, and not have to divert, said Mr. Adderley. Once phase one was completed, the airport was required to carry out a flight inspection to certify the new approach. Bermudian carrier, Longtail Aviation, was commissioned to conduct the work, marking the first time local resources were used for such a task. "Longtail Aviation is honoured and pleased to have been asked to assist with this project," said Martin Amick, Longtails CEO and Head of Flight Operations. "Mr. Adderley and his team did an excellent job managing a very complex undertaking. The result is a safer, more modern, more energy efficient airport. We are proud to call this airport our home base." Mr. Adderley added that while flight arrivals into airport are affected by low visibility conditions only a few times a year and the Category One status would resolve most of these occurrences, the new certification is a prerequisite for the recently announced airspace initiative that the airport is pursuing.

December 2. Government is considering rules which would require pre-certification before medical diagnostic procedures are performed in an effort to reduce unnecessary tests. Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said Government was currently in the consultation phase and stressed that only elective procedures would require certification, but Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva said such an initiative would amount to death by delay. The pre-certification is a move by the Minister of Health and the OBA Government to introduce management mechanisms for diagnostic testing and who knows how many tests, whether its X-rays, whether its ultrasounds. MRIs, CT scans. "That has yet to be seen," the Progressive Labour Party MP said. "Word is, and it's good word, is that if this legislation is passed, what it will mean is before any test can take place that your doctor may prescribe you, you have to get permission from someone else. Diagnostic tests account for only a small fraction of health costs and that Government should instead aim for bigger targets such as health insurance. With diagnostic imaging not even being two percent of the healthcare cost in this country, why are you going this way? he asked. It puts everybody at risk. Everybody. Bermudians are at risk." He also alleged that Cabinet had overruled recommendations of the Bermuda Hospitals Board and Health Council, suggestions that Ms Gordon-Pamplin said were patent nonsense. "The Health Council was tasked by me to advise me what does pre-certification look like and what do guidelines look like.  When the Health Council brought me the report regarding pre-certification versus guidelines, I weighed up the pros and cons of each and chose the situation regarding pre-certification for approval. The Cabinet overruled nothing. The Cabinet supported me. I put a position forward and the position was accepted. Government was currently engaged in the consultative process, saying: I don't make decisions or look at information in isolation. I consult with people who are in the field, hence the consultation process. I'm meeting with the doctors so I can hear first hand. There are some decisions that are too big to make in isolation and I don't want to go on that path." Ms Gordon Pamplin said, based on the information she received, that pre-certification would not apply to emergency procedures, only elective diagnostic tests, and said the system would be minimally restrictive and minimally time consuming. She also said that she was not ignoring health insurance as a major factor in the cost of healthcare on the Island, saying: "There is no stone that will be left unturned. When I hear that certain doctors are being incentivised when diagnostic testing is done, and these are comments that are coming from the staff that work with certain doctors, that gives me grave cause for concern because we have significant healthcare costs in this country, and we have to get a handle on it." PLP MP Lovitta Foggo expressed some concern that adding a certification process could increase the cost of healthcare, along with the potential impact on doctor-patient confidentiality.

December 2. Two-thirds of voters want to cut Cabinet from 13 to eight Ministers, according to a new poll. Sixty-seven percent of people want Government to take up the SAGE Commissions recommendation to reduce Cabinet by five, with 26 percent preferring the current size. The survey by Mindmaps shows support for a smaller Cabinet is strongest among whites, with 75 percent voting for a reduction, compared with 64 percent of blacks. Its estimated a smaller Cabinet of eight Ministers including the Premier would save taxpayers $750,000 in salaries and benefits. However, people are more divided over the SAGE Commissions proposal to reduce the size of the Civil Service. Fifty-one percent agree with that recommendation, with 42 percent disagreeing and the rest unsure. Whites are more supportive of cutting the Civil Service, with 70 percent in favour and 24 percent against. Among blacks, 42 percent are in favour and 51 percent against. A breakdown by age shows the older generation is more welcoming of a Civil Service reduction. Among over 65s, 65 percent want cuts, compared with 41 percent of the 18 to 34 age group. Cutting both Cabinet and the Civil Service were key recommendations in the 140-page SAGE report, published on November 15 in an attempt to maximize efficiency and get to grips with Bermudas debt crisis. The document claimed the Civil Service suffered from weak leadership, and called for poor performers to be fired. It suggested early retirement schemes and pay cuts, particularly targeting the highest-paid, and farming out many areas of Government to the private sector or turning them into quangos. However, some workers have reacted angrily to the suggestion of Civil Service reductions, with a number of concerns raised at a town-hall meeting called by the Progressive Labour Party last week. Finance Minister Bob Richards, who commissioned the report, has said Government will hold a debate on its recommendations in Parliament. Mindmaps survey of 404 registered voters took place between November 17 and 24, and has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

December 2. A $50 million bond issue was today launched by the Bermuda Government. The senior notes which will yield at least 4.75 percent and are denominated in Bermuda dollars are targeted at Island investors and Government said smaller, individual subscription applications will be given priority if the issue is oversubscribed. The Ministry of Finance will hold special sessions to explain the issue tomorrow at 5.30pm in the Hamilton Princess Princess Victoria Room and on Wednesday at the same time in the hotels Gazebo Room. The Bermuda Stock Exchange (BSX) said that Butterfield Securities had been appointed as the sole book-running manager for the issue. Applications for the issue are open to Bermuda residents subject to the laws of any applicable jurisdiction and persons with Bermudian status who may be permitted without further action by the Government and under the laws of their respective jurisdiction of residence to subscribe for securities of this nature. The BSX said the interest rate will be dependent on market demand, but will be at least 4.75 percent and that the minimum subscription will be $10,000. Butterfield will accept subscription applications from permitted purchasers until 5pm on Friday. Subscription applications are available at Bank of Butterfield or through personal application at the firms offices at 65 Front Street, or via a broker. The bonds are expected to be rated at AA-, negative outlook by Standard & Poors and at Aa3, negative outlook by Moody's, while Fitch is expected to give an AA-, negative outlook rating as well.

December 2. Three out of four voters believe the business community is not sacrificing enough during the economic crisis. According to a poll by Mindmaps, 76 percent of people do not think business is doing all it can to share sacrifices in the recession. Just 16 percent say business is doing enough, with the rest undecided. A breakdown by race shows dissatisfaction is strongest among blacks, with 84 percent wanting more from the business community, compared with 58 percent of whites. And its the younger generation that has the most grievance, with 87 percent of the 18 to 34 age bracket unsatisfied with the business community's contribution, compared with 62 percent of over 65s. The poll, carried out in mid-November, shows the economy is easily the number one issue on the minds of residents, with little faith in the One Bermuda Alliances ability to turn the situation around. Seventy percent of people describe the economy or unemployment as the top issue facing the Island, with crime second on 13 percent. Education comes next on five percent, with tourism on four percent, and a small handful of votes for other issues including immigration, Government corruption and breakdown of the family unit. Just 15 percent of people have confidence in the direction Bermudas economy is heading, with 48 percent saying they're not confident and the rest somewhere in between. Morale is highest among the 35 to 44 age bracket, of whom 25 percent are confident in the economy, and lowest among 55- to 64-year-olds, with just ten percent confident. Whites (20 percent) are more confident about the future of the economy than blacks (14 percent), while men (19 percent) are more confident than women (13 percent). Twenty-one percent of people say they are confident in the OBAs ability to turn the economic crisis around, with 45 percent declaring themselves not confident. Faith in the OBA is strongest among whites, of whom 32 percent believe they can fix the economy, compared with 17 percent of blacks; and 29 percent of men back the OBAs ability in this regard, compared with 15 percent of women. The poll was commissioned by The Royal Gazette, but two of the questions were set by the political parties, at the invitation of Mindmaps. The Progressive Labour Party asked whether people thought the business community is doing enough to share sacrifices in these economic times, and the OBA wanted to know public confidence in the ruling party's ability to turn the economy around. Mindmaps Director of Research, Dr Leslie Steede, explained: "We decided to include one question each provided by the Government and Opposition parties so they both had an equal chance to find out how the voting public feels about a top issue. Both parties chose to include a question about the economy." The telephone poll of 404 registered voters took place between November 17 and November 24, and has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.  

December 2. The salaries of hospital officials, which the One Bermuda Alliance pledged to make public, will not be released until hospital financial statements have been audited. Responding to Parliamentary questions by Opposition MP Lovitta Foggo, Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said the information would be released in the Bermuda Hospitals Board annual reports. However, BHB financials remain unaudited for 2011/12 and 2012/13. The Minister also reported nearly $400,000 in savings had been realized by the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre in St David's since BHB reduced the facility's working hours in April. The centre saved $196,523 on salaries, with an additional $200,000 saved on security services, Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House of Assembly.

December 2. Amendments to firearms legislation aimed at decreasing the number of feral chickens on the Island have been approved in the House of Assembly. The Firearms Amendment No 2 Act 2013, tabled by Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley on Friday, allows the Commissioner of Police to issue year-long licenses for firearms to be used for pest control specifically the targeting of chickens and pigeons. Under existing legislation, the Commissioner can only issue 60-day licenses. Recreational gardeners and commercial gardeners can all attest to the havoc caused by the growing number of free-roaming wild chickens and pigeons, he said. The regulated use of air rifles has proven critical in managing these pests, which are very difficult to control under any other means. The House of Assembly heard the legislation does not limit the number of licenses that can be issued, but currently there are only five licence holders. Environment Minister Sylvan Richards said the issue of feral chickens is a vexing one, with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 chickens running loose across the Island. He said the Ministry received between four and six online requests for cullings and, since August of 2011, a total of 12,137 chickens have been killed. Progressive Labour Party MP Rolfe Commissiong, however, said the Island might be fighting a losing battle, noting an outdoor press conference held by PLP MP Michael Weeks on the issue was promptly interrupted by a group feral chickens. "The war on drugs have not been successful, and I doubt that the war against chickens will be either. I just hope that your political career is not contingent on you winning this war, because we would hate to lose you." Other MPs agreed that the feral chicken population on the Island was increasingly problematic, but Independent MP Terry Lister said the legislation would not do anything to resolve the issue, only making it more convenient for those licensed. "We need something to be done about the feral chickens, and that's not this bill," he said. Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva suggested paying per head for the chickens, while Opposition Leader Marc Bean suggested incorporating the birds into the Islands agricultural strategy. Progressive Labour Party MP Dennis Lister said Government must also make strides to tackle the Islands feral cat population, saying: "The cat problem is getting just as bad as the chicken problem, and worse in some areas. I think we should use the same approach on the cats, and not just the chickens and pigeons." OBA MP Suzann Holshouser, however, said the feral cat problem has been caused because, unlike dogs, there are very few controls on the ownership of the animals, saying: "Right now people feel quite happy just letting their cats go and having organisations like The Bermuda Feline Assistance Bureau deal with it." Mr Dunkley closed the debate by saying that the MPs suggestions would be taken on board.

December 2. Legislation allowing liquor sales on Sundays was tabled in the House of Assembly. Amendments to the 1974 Act, once approved, will permit liquor sales from 8am to 9pm. The law applies to grocery and liquor stores. Christmas Day and Good Friday will remain on the schedule as dry days.

December 2. Parliamentarians have passed two Acts updating laws to “enhance Bermuda’s tax information exchange framework” in compliance with international financial regulations. But the Opposition warned that the amendments were further signs of a global “David and Goliath” battle in which “larger welfare states sat in judgment over smaller, weaker offshore centres”. The USA-Bermuda Tax Convention Amendment Act 2013, and the International Cooperation (Tax Information Exchange Agreements) Amendment Act 2013 were presented to the House on Friday by Attorney General Mark Pettingill. Mr Pettingill explained that the acts would ensure “consistency, transparency and compliance with international tax information exchange standards recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development”. Mr Pettingill said that an OECD peer review last week had given Bermuda a “largely compliant” rating in its handling of requests for exchange of information under TIEA”, but that further OECD recommendations needed to be “addressed” to safeguard and advance that rating. “These bills will address some of the recommendations by replacing the current practice of the Minister [of Finance] issuing a notice for information to the person in possession of the information with a new practice whereby the Minister would ask the court to issue a production order to the person in possession of the requested information. If Bermuda forwarded requests for information before court proceedings had begun, background details as to why the request was made could be revealed and confidentiality agreements would be breached. The amendments mean that arguments justifying the request for information will be heard in behind-closed-doors court hearings, and the courts will then have the authority to order the relevant information to be handed over." The Progressive Labour Party signed a slew of TIEAs while in office, but on Friday Opposition MPs expressed concern at what they saw as a creeping encroachment by G8 powers on the financial affairs of Bermuda and other offshore tax jurisdictions. They suggested that the US, UK and other nations were “continually moving the goalposts” in order to impose “tax harmonization” and limit the advantages of jurisdictions that did not collect income tax. Opposition leader Marc Bean said that the US and European Union states were carrying out “financial imperialism” in order to “restrict entrepreneurship and global capital flows.” “They are the prosecutors and we are the ones on trial. Just because they are our neighbours that doesn’t mean that they are our friends. We have gone too long appeasing these Goliaths.” Shadow Education Minister Walton Brown said that the issue of compliance “relates to powerful countries trying to attack the viability of our taxation system”, while Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban suggested that “they are playing a game with our livelihood. The developed nations are starved of tax revenue and are looking around for low-hanging fruit. We have been doing this for quite some time. Going back to 1986 we have been abiding by these guidelines and it could be argued that we have become a victim of our own success, which is why the IMF want to poke into our affairs.” But the Attorney General countered by suggesting that the Opposition was overreacting. “One has to know when to get into a good hard fight and when to dance around it a little bit and even retreat if necessary. Perhaps members don’t appreciate the in-depth nature of these TIEAs and the type of situation we find ourselves in and it is not the situation where we can stand up, stick our chests out and say ‘well you can get stuffed we’re going to do our own thing.”

December 3. A pair of Bermuda fish species have been recognised by the Smithsonian Institution as being unique to Bermuda's waters. The yellowfin chromis and the Collettes halfbeak have been classified as endemic to Bermuda in an update to the authoritative 1999 Fishes of Bermuda publication. Both species have been known in Bermuda's waters for some time but were only recently determined to be endemic. Report writers William Smith-Vaniz and Bruce Collette also identified differences between the endemic Bermuda Creole wrasse and its Caribbean relatives, suggesting they may also prove to be endemic. "We recently became aware of two colour photographs, one of a school and the other of a single individual ... of wrasses from Bermuda (Lucas 2012) identified as clepticus parrae," the researchers wrote. "Terminal phase adults are distinctive in having very elongate outer caudal-fin rays, mostly solid blue body and fins and a bright yellow snout. We predict that subsequent research will show these fish to be another Bermuda endemic. All records of clepticus parrae from Bermuda apparently are based on misidentification of this undescribed clepticus. They noted the terminal male yellowhead wrasse, called Redbacks locally, have different colouration than its counterparts elsewhere in the region. The Smithsonian also listed several species not previously known to reside in Bermuda, such as the white nose pipefish, the roughtail stingray, a deepwater opah and blackear wrasse. A Bermuda Zoological Society spokeswoman said: "In all, 24 new records were listed, and five older records have been discounted as errors, reminding us that we still have much to discover about life on our reefs and that diligent citizen scientists, fishermen and naturalists all have key roles to play." The research paper is available at the Natural History Museum Library at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo.

December 4. The book "A Colony at War. Bermuda in the global fight against fascism, 1939-1945" by Jonathan Land Evans, was published abroad. 450 pages. A wide-ranging study of the small but importantly-situated British colony of Bermuda during the Second World War. Includes references to and descriptions of the Battle of the Atlantic fought by the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and US Navy and their Bermuda bases, the creation of the US naval and military bases, the important Imperial Censorship station, and numerous practical issues including a union confrontation that faced British, Bermudian and American officials in this British Atlantic colony (the oldest, smallest but most affluent of the British Overseas Territories) as they sought to survive and win the war against Hitler's Germany.

December 5.  Air arrivals are continuing to climb with 82,819 visitors flying in during the third quarter this year. That's an increase of 2.4 percent compared to the same period in 2012. Figures show that that 80,852 people arrived a year ago and almost 2,000 more this year. That's partly attributed to the 1,461 more passengers from the United Kingdom, an increase of 20.4 percent. Visitors from all other countries rose 25.6 percent while arrivals from the United States, Bermudas largest tourist market, fractionally increased 0.6 percent compared to the third quarter of 2012. In contrast, air arrivals from Canada dropped by 12.2 percent or close to 1,000 fewer visitors. The Department noted those figures were reflected in the reduction of flights from the Canadian market. An analysis of visitors revealed that housekeeping accommodations saw the largest relative increase of 13.6 percent. The number of guests staying at private homes rose by 11.8 percent. But there was a worrying figure for resort hotels a dip for 1.8 percent in reservation bookings. Visitors staying at the smaller hotels increased 1.4 percent while the occupancy level at guest houses fractionally increased 0.4 percent. The statistics show that expenditure by air arrival passengers spent an estimated $120.2 million during the third quarter of 2013, representing an increase of $1 million or 0.8 percent. Visitors reported spending 26.1 percent more on shopping, entertainment and other services such as recreational and leisure services. This translated to an injection of $6.5 million to the economy. However, expenditure on accommodations and food declined 5.8 percent. Cruise arrivals in the third quarter of 2013 dropped by 12.1 percent to 157,373 passengers. This decline was attributed to 20 fewer cruise ship calls compared to the same quarter in 2012. Expenditure by cruise visitors on local goods and services, including entertainment, souvenirs, sightseeing, sports activities and transportation declined to $33.7 million. This reflected an 11.1 percent fall in spending level or $4.2 million less year-over-year. Hotel gross receipts were up $1.2 million reaching a level of $81.2 million. Sales revenue earned by resort hotels increased 1.4 percent to $72 million, primarily due to a modest increase in room sales. Cottage colonies experienced the largest relative growth in sales revenue of 4.1 percent. Other guest accommodations registered a 2.8 percent rise in sales receipts while sales revenue earned by small hotels increased 2.4 percent.

December 6.  Laws granting police the power to detain gun suspects without charge for up to 28 days which were due to expire at the end of this month could be extended for another three years under new Government proposals. And police could also be granted an extension to clear-up policies which allow them to disperse unruly crowds who threaten neighborhoods with antisocial behaviour. Announcing the moves in the House of Assembly this morning, Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley said the laws first granted in 2010 had enabled police to interview witnesses to gun crime who might otherwise be intimidated had a suspect not been detained. The Minister added that the proposed extensions demonstrated Governments resolve to provide the police with all reasonable means by which to fight crime. He said: "This Honourable House will be invited to consider extending provisions of the Firearms Act 1973 and the Criminal Code Act 1907 which were approved in this Honourable House as deliberate measures designed to tackle antisocial behaviour and violent crime in this country.  Honourable Members will recall that the Firearms Act provisions allow the Police to apply to the Supreme Court for warrants for detention of suspects without charge for up to 28 days while awaiting the results of forensic analysis relating to an offence under the Act or a serious arrestable offence involving firearms or ammunition. By virtue of section 17 of the Act, the provision would expire on 31st December 2013 unless the Minister responsible for justice extended their duration by Notice published in the Gazette. Since 2010, police had made 12 applications for warrants of detention without charge, all of which had been successful. Eight of those cases had resulted in convictions. The benefit of this section is seen in the ability of the police to interview witnesses who might otherwise be intimidated if a suspect is on bail and conversely, it disrupts the cycle of gang violence by keeping suspects safely out of circulation where someone has been shot or killed. Honourable Members can rest assured that the police have exercised restraint and made good use of the provisions to apply for warrants of further detention. All applications have been successful, having withstood the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. This Government is committed to supporting the Police and to providing the legislative tools necessary to facilitate the important work of law enforcement. In addition to the Firearms Act provisions, Mr. Speaker, this Government also seeks to extend the powers under section 110 of the Criminal Code. Honourable Members will recall that these powers permit the police to disperse individuals and clear-up and area where residents are harassed intimidated or feel their neighborhood is unduly and negatively impacted by antisocial behaviour. In one case, in response to calls for action from residents in the area of Cambridge Road, these provisions were activated and had the desired effect of dispersing the antisocial elements that had so dominated the area as to make residents and their guests uncomfortable in the area. These provisions under the Criminal Code are directly aimed at promoting safer neighborhoods and in practice the police have activated their use only when supported by the residents of an affected area. This section of the Code gives teeth to the Community Action Teams around the Island and provides some comfort to residents that something can be done to reclaim communities and promote safer environments for our families. This fight against guns, gangs, drugs and violence is by no means at an end. In any period of relative calm the Government and law enforcement must capitalise on the results of strong enforcement to reverse trends and demonstrate that zero-tolerance is not just a buzz word but an unwavering approach to this kind of lifestyle and its effects on the community."

December 6. Electricity bills for just three Government buildings are costing taxpayers more than $230,000 a month, it has been revealed. And a further $200,000 of public money was squandered by the former Government after it failed to taken advantage of a discount given to customers who pay their Belco bills promptly. Public Works Minister Trevor Moniz announced the cost in a statement to MPs in the House of Assembly this morning. The Minister added that Government is now investigating ways in which it can reduce fuel consumption and has also become more efficient in paying its bills in order to cash in on the early payment discount. The electricity cost for the Dame Lois Browne Evans Police and Court Building, Global House and the Government Administration Building together totals over $230,000 per month, Mr Moniz said. "Cognisant that these buildings are fairly large and house a number of Government departments, the Estates Section has been working very closely with the Electrical Section within the Department of Works and Engineering, as well as the Department of Energy to find ways to reduce energy consumption. A pilot project is currently being developed for the Dame Lois Browne Evans building that will involve an audit of the electricity use with monitoring equipment over a period of a few months. Since this is a relatively new building, it will make a good test bed to measure the cost effectiveness of any innovative energy reducing technology or processes implemented and will act as an exemplar for our other buildings. Our intent is to then identify the main electricity demands and introduce both technology and use changes to reduce the costs. It is anticipated that significant savings will be made and that the project can then be expanded to other Government buildings including the public schools. Bill discounts had not been taken advantage of by the former Progressive Labour Party administration which could have saved the taxpayer $200,000 had it promptly paid bills for the court building and police station in 2011 and 2012. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the Ministry has become more efficient in paying its utility bills in a more timely fashion. The Belco bills for the three main buildings of Dame Lois Browne Evans, Global House and the Government Administration Building offer a discount of approximately $16,000 per month, if the bills are paid by their discount date. For your information, the Dame Lois Brown Building had missed $200,000.00 in discounts from the beginning of 2011 up until the beginning of this year. Whilst in the past we did not always meet the discount date owing to delays in the accounting process among other factors, Ive challenged the team to streamline the payment process and make meeting the discount deadline a high priority. This streamlined process now sees the Department making the discount date and saving on average $16,000 per month as stated previously. Also, Government had been able to cut its rent bill by more than $2 million after renegotiating leases with landlords. Whilst the Government owns a large portfolio of properties, it is not enough to house all of these departments and their specific needs. These needs are very diverse and Island wide ranging from marina berths for the Police in St. Georges, office space in the City of Hamilton to the Hazardous Waste Site in Dockyard. For the fiscal year 2013/14 a total of $13.2 million was budgeted to rent properties from which Government departments can fulfil their mandates. It has been the goal of the Estates Section to reduce these rental costs through a combination of bringing departments into Government-owned buildings where possible, carry out rent reviews or lease renewals and negotiating rent reductions to reflect the current market values for those departments that must rent from the private sector. The savings in rents has primarily been achieved through renegotiated leases to current levels of rental value. However, moving Government Departments in house has also assisted with reductions. As an example, the move of the Department of Labour and Training into the old Magistrates Court Building has resulted in a savings of $409,000 per annum alone. In addition, the Estates Section reviews the various departments actual use of real estate to ensure the space occupied is being used efficiently, is fit for purpose, and that space exceeding operational needs is given up. By a combination of these actions the Estates Section has reduced the outgoing rent in this fiscal year from $13.2 million to $11.02 million a total savings of approximately $2.2 million or 16 percent."

December 7. The use of generic drugs could cut the cost of healthcare in Bermuda, an insurance company said. Naz Farrow, chief operating officer for health with the Colonial insurance group, said: "Overall, the generics are less expensive than the brand. In order to be considered a generic, the drug must be able to perform the same function of the brand and the [US] Food and Drug Administration regulates how much variability is acceptable for a drug to be approved as a generic medication to the brand medication. Some doctors may not want to use generics for some medications for medical reasons. However, for the majority of people a generic medicine, once you are stabilized on it, is very effective. The cost of prescription drugs was a significant component of the overall spending on the healthcare system around eight percent of claims costs in Bermuda in 2012." Ms Farrow pointed out that the Government's Throne Speech last month had committed to mandating the use of generic drugs unless a doctor specifically orders a brand name in a bid to cut costs. Government said it would introduce amendments to legislation to increase the use of generics over more expensive brand names. Ms Farrow said: "At a time when healthcare costs are escalating, this is an initiative to be welcomed. By itself, it will not bring premiums down but it will go a long way towards helping to stabilize them. We are very supportive of the efforts being made by Government to control spiraling healthcare costs by looking at various factors, such as a greater use of generic drugs. And we are committed to working with Government and providing them with support needed to tackle the challenges that are ahead of them." Colonial highlighted the price difference between some drugs. For example, brand-name medicine for treating high cholesterol was $77.75, while the generic equivalent cost $41. And a platelet inhibitor medicine which helps prevent the formation of potentially deadly blood clots costs $112.50 for a brand name and less than half that for its generic equivalent.

December 7. A proposed pedestrian bridge over Baileys Bay has been approved despite several objections from residents. The bridge is intended to create a new amenity by linking sections of the Railway Trail, but some residents expressed concern the proposal would prove an eyesore and reduce privacy for those who live next to the trail. While the plans for the bridge were submitted by the Department of Parks, the project will be funded through private donations through the assistance of the Friends of the Bermuda Railway Trail. Tucker Murphy, a spokesman for the group, said in September that the bridge would create a 3.2km unbroken path which will increase the usage of the eastern end of the historic trail. He said the completed project would not only encourage exercise but carry cultural and tourism value, noting that it links numerous historical sites and boasts fantastic views of the area. However the application received a total of nine objections with a list of complaints. Main areas of concern listed by the objectors included the negative visual impact of the bridge, increased noise and activity caused by people using the trail, environmental impact and increased illegal activity. As a result of the planning objections, the application was revised to reduce the visual impact on the surrounding area. Along with reducing the height of the handrails from 54in to 42in, the revised application proposed reducing the height of the pylons by two feet. The revised plan also proposed that the bridge be raised further off the foreshore area outside of one property to allow improved access to the foreshore area beneath the bridge. And regarding security concerns, the landscaping plan was modified to create a natural barrier of Spanish bayonette, prickly pear and natal palms where the bridge is close to residential properties to deter illegal access to the properties. One of the objectors however reiterated her concerns, stating that the bridge would still be an eyesore and the natural barriers would not deter criminal activity. "I cannot say I am reassured that the planting of prickly pears or other thorny plants will afford much security to potential break-ins at cottages," she wrote. A planning assessment included in the Board Report stated: "The proposed development has been kept to a practical minimum and is sensitively designed to consolidate only the areas needed to connect the Railway Trail at Winton Hill and Baileys Bay." The proposal is considered reasonable and will provide a new amenity to the community. During a meeting of the Planning Board earlier this week, Board members questioned if the addition of the bridge could cause waste dumping in the area, but the technical officers responded that increased foot traffic would mean more people to report any infractions and actually deter illegal dumping.

December 7. Premier Craig Cannonier has disclosed the salaries of his personal staff in response to questions from the Opposition. Questioned by Shadow Finance Minister David Burt, Mr Cannonier told the House of Assembly that a total of six people are employed under the Premier and Opposition Leader Personal Staff Act 1983. Mr Cannonier said chief of staff Dale Jackson receives $122,064 per year, while the Premier's secretary and administrative assistant, Judy Benevides, is paid $77,254. The Premier's press secretary, Charmaine Burgess, receives $113,480 per year while special advisor Don Grearson is paid $105,765 annually. Mr Cannonier also told the House that a housekeeper for Clifton, the official residence of the Premier, is included under the act and an hourly fee of $35. One person is employed by the Opposition under the act, receiving $33 per hour. Asked for the difference in the roles of Ms Burgess and Mr Grearson, Mr Cannonier said: "The special advisor is just that, a special advisor on many issues concerning politics, the history and the past. It is important to me to ensure that I look at trends of the past so I can continue to make good decisions today and for the future. The press secretary does all of my press releases on a day-to-day basis and handles the media. Mr Jackson and Ms Burgess were announced as the Premier's chief of staff and press secretary respectively in February, while Mr Grearson was reportedly hired by the Premier in July.

December 9. Expert Opinion. The November 19, 2013 article in The Royal Gazette by Nathan Kowalski entitled “Make Bermuda healthcare a free-market product” highlights one of the key flaws in health insurance design. That flaw is that rather than “insurance” — ie a financial product designed and purchased to cover largely unpredictable and hopefully rare catastrophic events — many healthcare policies resemble more closely a prepaid healthcare debit card, incenting the user to perhaps spend too freely, especially when the “card” is largely paid for by someone else. Health insurance companies and employers in the US are moving rapidly to embrace so-called “consumer-directed plans” which feature a large deductible to be met before insurance kicks in and are usually linked to a “health savings account” or “health reimbursement account” where pre-tax dollars may be used to pay down the deductible amount and where unspent dollars roll over and accumulate tax-free each year. Such plans were in existence well before the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) but will increasingly be offered consequent to that legislation and the individual mandate to either obtain insurance or pay a penalty. When first introduced by this author’s employer in 2006, such plans held healthcare expenditure annual growth to less than two percent on average over the next four years with no demonstrable adverse effects on access or outcomes. However, none of us should expect the free-market to address all of the issues driving unsustainable growth in healthcare cost. Market failures in healthcare will always demand government intervention and a taxation-based general revenue stream for funding. Markets may fail for many reasons, but let’s explore the top five reasons why they are destined to fail in healthcare.

Please do not misinterpret the above as an indictment of leveraging market principles to lower healthcare costs. Price transparency, valid information regarding outcomes and redesigned insurance products that put more accountability for choices made in the hands of consumers can help moderate the cost curve. However, the safety net backing up this flawed market will never be “free” and government and regulation will always have a role.

December 9. The updated code of conduct for Civil Servants has been released as part of the SAGE Commission’s major report into Government efficiency. The code — amended last year under former Premier Paula Cox — refocused on “values and behaviors that underpin good governance and ethical and accountable public administration” rather than conditions of employment. The document tells Civil Servants: “You should be aware that breaches of Financial Instructions are subject to disciplinary action including possible surcharge (a requirement to re-pay any losses to government from your own resources) and/or dismissal.” And it adds some breaches of Financial Instructions could be classed as criminal offences. The code warns Civil Servants that Ministers should not ask members of the public service to behave in “illegal, improper, immoral or unethical” ways.” It added that Ministers should not expect Civil Servants to follow instructions that breaches the Constitution or professional codes or rules and legislation on good government. The code also tells Civil Servants that they should not “misuse their official position, for example by using information acquired in the course of your official duties to further your private interests or those of others, especially family friends and associates.” And it warns that Civil Servants should not accept gifts which could be seen to compromise their integrity or disclose official information without permission. The code added: “You should exercise particular care to avoid using public money for your personal purposes and moreover to avoid the perception that you are doing so. Government credit cards need to be handled with particular sensitivity, especially when used in connection with official travel, on order to avoid the impression of unwarranted extravagance. You must serve the Government, whatever its political persuasion, to the best of your ability in a way which maintains political impartiality and is in line with the requirements of the code, no matter what your own political beliefs are.” And it warns against ignoring any restrictions placed on political activity outside work and that “public servants should not accept invitations to conferences or meetings convened by, or under the aegis of, party political organisations.” But it added that attendance of officials at party events when required by a Minister on Ministry business was excepted. The code also lays out a complaints procedure if Civil Servants believe they have been asked to break the rules. The document said that managers should be informed or reported to the Assistant Cabinet Secretary. If a complaint is not resolved, public sector staff can appeal to the Secretary of the Cabinet. And the code said that “whistle-blowing” legislation had been passed to protect the public service if they raise problems in the workplace covered by the code or by good governance legislation.

December 9.  The non-Bermudian house market has five completed freehold contracts so far this year and there are several others at varying stages of contract. John Sinclair of Sinclair Realty, the Bermuda Affiliate of Christies International Real Estate, said that after a quiet 2012: "Even by pre-economic-downturn standards, 2013 has proved to be a healthy average year. The good news for Bermudians and Bermudian companies is that several of these are tear-downs and there were will be quality residential construction projects coming on the boards. And prices for these properties are at record levels. The new ultra high end price range spans from $25 million to $45 million.  Since the mid-1990s, a number of very substantial, high value estates and compounds have been and are being constructed around the Island, most of which are on spectacular waterfront sites occupied by older homes that had seen their day. These rebuilds have created a new international standard for Bermuda luxury real estate. As life and family requirements seems to change in 12- to 15-year cycles, these properties are now beginning to come on the sales market. But with the highest price ever paid in Bermuda so far being about $22.8 million essentially a land-value sale with a dilapidated dwelling so there are no comps yet for this new inventory. Some of these are truly world-class estates that stand among the finest in the world. Chelston Estate on Grape Bay Beach in Paget, listed at US $45 million, is an example. The change in Bermuda Government policy, particularly the lowering of the non-Bermudian licence fee has been a motivating factor in several of the 2013 non-Bermudian sales, but so far the tangible impact has been in the mid high-end market, from about $5 million to $15 million. But again, were talking about a handful of sales. There's more policy revision work that needs to be done in order to attract the world's wealthiest to Bermuda. While the average prices in this ultra high-end luxury market have not risen higher, the real story is that Bermuda's high-end real estate is undervalued when you consider buyers may now purchase these properties for less than the replacement cost of buying the land and building the house anew. The Island's challenge is to better market itself internationally so that the rest of the world knows the value of our internationally available real estate. Key selling points for Bermuda are location with proximity to gateway cities, infrastructure and civilized, developed business community. The first house to break the $1 million dollar ticket price was Atlanta-by-the-Sea in Tuckers Town. That was more than 30 years ago. Today, there's a For Sale sign in Tuckers Town on the lawn of a $38 million dollar property, one of a small handful of Bermuda properties which have reached stratospheric price levels. Described on the Knight Frank website as: "This waterfront gem in Tuckers Town, Idolwood Lagoon Estate, is set on 4.27 acres and comprises a beautiful main house of approximately 10,350 square feet. and three separate cottages together offering an additional 4,000 square feet. This stunning main residence was completely rebuilt in 1997 includes five bedrooms suites, a study with half bathroom, a spacious two-storey entrance hall, grand living room, formal dining room, kitchen, family room and two-storey library. Adding to its desirability are four garages, gym, tennis court, an extensive orchard, nature trails with ravines, two docks and moorings." While Idolwood Lagoon Estate is in a very small club that includes the former US Consul's residence Chelston, in Paget, which is listed at $45 million, houses priced in multiple millions are not uncommon. Knight Frank has five homes priced between $15 million and $20 million on its website, and four in the $6 to $10 million bracket. And Rego Sotheby's lists 15 homes at $5 million and above. One, priced at $19.5 million, is a beach front home in Paget. Realtor Margaret Young said of the house: "Agapanthus is perfect for a larger family. Agapanthus is the epitome of elegance both inside and out. Every detail of this grand estate has been carefully crafted with superior materials and workmanship, all paying homage to traditional Bermuda architecture. The main house includes four spacious bedrooms all en suite, a vast formal living room, an informal living room/movie room with wet bar, dining room and library all with fireplaces, an office wing, a conservatory, two wine cellars, elevators and a two bedroom staff apartment. The grounds are beautifully manicured and feature a beach pavilion, two bedroom guest cottage, separate gym, pool, tennis court and putting green. This incredible property also enjoys a manicured trail leading to a secluded, private and peaceful beach." Buddy Rego, president of Rego Sotheby's International Realty, said "high-end properties at $10 million and more account for 37 percent of the international market properties with annual rental values at $177,000. He said 30 percent are located in Tuckers Town; 10 percent in Point Shares; 30 percent in Paget, 20 percent in Warwick and 10 percent in Southampton. So far, within the 10 months since the change started, the new land policies for international buyers have had little effect on the sales of very high-end properties." Statistics show that the number of for sale inventory of these high-end properties ranges from 25 to 30 at any given time and the current inventory is on par with those statistics. John Sinclair of Sinclair Realty, the Bermuda Affiliate of Christies International Real Estate, said: "Even in the best economic times, Bermuda's luxury real estate market is, and always has been, razor thin with literally only a handful of properties selling in any given year. As such, there simply is not enough volume to create meaningful statistics and their use can be misleading." He referred specifically to the sale of freehold houses and estates or fee simple as it is known in the US which are eligible for sale to international purchasers as well as Bermudians, due to the property having a qualifying ARV, most of which are found in Tuckers Town, Paget, Warwick and Somerset. "The other critical point to remember is that Bermudas luxury real estate market is artificial because it is totally dependent on Bermuda Government policy, which can and does change. Because of these changes, comparing year-over-year sales is like trying to compare kiwis and eggplants. The most responsible study of the market and value comes from analysis that is conducted transaction by transaction. The condominium market, even at its high end, is a very different animal, and it can be misleading to lump them together in a market analysis.  If one examines the last 20 years of non-Bermudian category freehold house sales and removes those that were actually purchased by Bermudians, a startling fact remains: in most years, only four to six non-Bermudians buy a house in Bermuda. So this is a highly specialized market and, contrary to popular belief, the annual number of sales has actually held amazingly steady through all sorts of Bermuda Government policies. Again, taking a 20-year view, the average sale price of a non-Bermudian estate has steadily increased throughout this period and now stands at about $8.5 million. no big bubbles or bursts. The notable exceptions were 2009, with no new non-Bermudian house contracts, which reflected fallout from the world financial crisis; and 2012, with only one new sale, which reflected Bermuda's economic and political vacuum in the lead-up to the December election. The time frame for the sale of one of these properties is as individual as the estates themselves, especially at the ultra high end. Sinclair Realty's 2006 sale of the eight-acre Frick's Point peninsula in Tuckers Town, which at the net equivalent of $22.8 million represents the highest price ever paid for Bermuda residential real estate, was never even on the market. But if forced to generalize, the Island-wide average for non-Bermudian category property sale is about 16 to 24 months and this has been true over the last 20 years. In other international jurisdictions, it's certainly not usual for properties worth $25 to $50 million to take three or four years to sell."

Agapanthus for sale

Agapanthus for sale for $19.5 million, see above

Chelston for sale

Chelston for sale for $45 million, see above

December 9. The Island's top spectator event of the year, the Christmas Boat Parade, finished with a bang over the weekend, treating 20,000 viewers to a stunning fireworks display. A casino-themed boat decked out with slot machines, glowing dice and a Vegas-style sign advertising Hamilton, took the overall top prize. The boat, dubbed Warlock, was a labour of love by staff from Crisson Construction and Bermuda Blueprinting Ltd. Worker bee Valerie Crisson said it took a huge collaborative effort to wire up the floating gambling den. "We worked together, but the Blueprinting guys came up with the theme.  A warm, still night made for ideal conditions. We couldn't have had better weather." Some 50 boats checked in for the parade, currently held biennially. "As always, it was amazing how creative they got," organizer Norma Thomson said. "People just go way out in decorating their boats." The parade struggles to keep a good number of entrants, but Front Street and Harbour Road teemed with spectators. And, at 8.30pm, pyrotechnics launched from Whites Island lit up the skies. Meanwhile, 19 categories ensured that everybody won something for taking part. In top place for Best Commercial boat was Playmate, entered by Playmate Fishing Charters. Spirit of Bermuda won Best Sailboat, and Bermuda Pest Control's Blue Heron was the top corporate entry. The Caledonian Society of Bermuda won Best Non-profit with Naughtiness, while Bill Pitman's Sylvester took Best Powerboat under 25ft and James Boyce's Dutch Courage won the over-25 category. Best Bermuda Themed boat was Full Hott Scott, entered by Corey Masters-Brown; Jamie Chaters Megabucks won Best Community Message. Topping Most Original was Edwin Whitfield's Andrea Christine, while Friends of Black Seal got Most Humorous with Cedar; the Chewstick Foundation's Halcyon won Best Traditional Christmas theme. Twisted Tini entered by Martin Harvey took Best Contemporary. Best Crew Costumes went to Carlos Falcao's Lucky Charms, and William Knight White's Gabriella won Most Confusing. Fairmont Southampton Turtle Hill Golf Club won Best Use of Lights with Friendship, and Best Music went to Anamaria Worswick's Unholey. In the Pink Category, Peter Stableford's Just Sayin came in first, while Justin Williams's Justified was deemed Most Fun to be Aboard. The MarketPlace barge took the Children's Choice category. "We're going to redo some of the categories and ask people for suggestions for the next one," Ms Thomson said. "We'll have two years to think about it."

2013 Christmas Boat Parade

Christmas Boat Parade

December 11. Premier Craig Cannonier is expected to announce his first Cabinet reshuffle when he holds a press conference this morning. Officials last night remained tight-lipped about any potential shake-up, and refused to divulge details of the announcement the Premier will make at the Cabinet Building this morning. But Government sources said that a reshuffle was both inevitable, and imminent. Immediately following its election victory last December, the One Bermuda Alliance pledged to cut public spending, and followed up on that promise by implementing a pay cut for all Cabinet Ministers. And earlier this year, Mr Cannonier said that a reduction in the size of Cabinet was almost a fait accompli. "I won't be announcing that anytime soon right now but we still are looking at how we can cut back and I'm sure that that will happen," he told The Royal Gazette in July. Last month the SAGE Commission recommended that the number of Ministers be slashed from 13 to eight. That proposal received widespread public support according to a poll in The Royal Gazette last week, with more than two thirds of voters approving the cost-saving measure.

December 11. Premier Craig Cannonier unveiled a new Cabinet line-up that reduces the number of Government Ministers from 13 to ten. At a press conference this morning, Mr Cannonier said the changes were part of a process toward better governing and greater efficiency and later added that they will save the taxpayer around $240,000. The changes take place with immediate effect. Demoted in the shuffle are Education Minister Nalton Brangman, who will now be junior Minister of Tourism in the Senate. Grant Gibbons will take over Education and also keep the Economic Development portfolio. Also out of the Cabinet is Leah Scott, the former Minister Without Portfolio. She will become the new junior Minister of Education in the House of Assembly. And Sylvan Richards has been dropped as Environment Minister. He will be the new junior Minister of Home Affairs in the lower house. In one other move, Trevor Moniz and Patricia Gordon Pamplin have traded places, with Ms Gordon-Pamplin now Minister for Public Works and Mr Moniz being handed Health. In addition, Mr Moniz will also take on the Environment Ministry. At this morning's press conference the Premier said the changes were not a fly by night decision but had been under consideration for many months with a view to producing a more efficient Government. "As Premier, it is my responsibility to lead by example and make some tough decisions from the top down.  Today, I will announce a decision that will produce a leaner, more effective and efficient Cabinet. The changes reflect recommendations made by the UK National School of Government from 2011, my own observations over the past twelve months and indeed it will fulfill part of our platform promise. We are making the tough decisions that the previous administration would not make. Today, this OBA government is fulfilling our promise. These Cabinet changes are part of a process toward better governing and greater efficiency. We've got a very busy legislative year ahead of us. We started the process of shared sacrifice and change earlier in the year when my Cabinet Ministers all took a ten percent pay cut, effectively saving the Government hundreds of thousands of dollars. Today, I would like to announce further changes for the Cabinet that will reduce the Cabinet from 13 to 10 and will take place with immediate effect and deliver further savings. The three Ministers dropped from the Cabinet were team players. I'm proud to say that their commitment to the government and the people of Bermuda remains unwavering and intact.  I welcome their continued assistance and representation in their new roles. Dr Gibbons had been given the Education portfolio so that the Ministry would have a stronger presence in the House of Assembly. Former Minister Nalton Brangman sits in the Senate. It is important to understand that the process of identifying efficiencies will be an ongoing initiative for this Government. I want people to understand that we need to get better, that we need to face up to our challenges and make the required changes. Each one of us has to also commit to making sure we do all we can to make Bermuda succeed, because the challenges confronting Bermuda are serious and real, and there should be no doubt about that." Later in the House of Assembly, Mr Cannonier told MPs said the shuffle demonstrated Governments prudent management of the public purse. Progressive Labour Party MP Lawrence Scott asked Mr Cannonier whether it was by design that all the Ministers removed were never part of the United Bermuda Party but Speaker of the House Randolph Horton dismissed the question as ridiculous. Questioned by PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong, Mr Cannonier said the decision predated recommendations by the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission, which last month proposed that Cabinet be reduced to just eight Ministers. The Premier said he did not foresee ever having less than ten Ministers in order to maintain an effective civil service.

December 11. KINGSTON (AP) A Caribbean commission is expanding the number of former colonial powers it says should provide some form of reparations for the lingering regional impact of the Atlantic slave trade. At a news conference at the Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Community Reparations Commission identified eight European nations that should work with regional governments to address the living legacies of these crimes. They noted the profits of slaves free labour were enormous for slaveholding nations and argued that European nations still enjoy advantages to this day while the Caribbean has been held back. A British law firm hired by regional governments seeking reparations initially targeted the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. But the Caribbean Community reparations panel, which is acting as an advisory group for regional governments, added the names of Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. "Of course, when we delve deeper into the history, we find that most of the European nations, including those in southern Europe and central Europe, were also involved in this," commission chairman University of the West Indies social scientist Hilary Beckles said, adding that the group is also gathering information on countries such as Switzerland and Russia. Beckles, who has written several books on the history of Caribbean slavery, said the commission is preparing to submit its first report to heads of governments, who will ultimately decide how to approach the European nations. Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who takes over the rotating leadership of Caricom at the start of 2014, has vowed to press the issue, which he calls a fundamental, defining matter of our age. Caricom announced in July that it intended to seek reparations for slavery and the genocide of native peoples and created the regional reparations commission to press the issue. In addition, eight member states have established their own national reparations committees. The Caribbean governments hired the British law firm of Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for compensation for hundreds of Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government during the so-called Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s. Richard Stein said Leigh Day will go to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations highest judicial organ, if negotiations don't pan out. It appears it could very well turn into a legal dispute. During a stopover in Jamaica last month, the British Government minister for the Caribbean, Mark Simmonds, voiced skepticism about arguments calling for Britain to pay reparations. "Do I think that we are in a position where we can financially offer compensation for an event two, three, four hundred years ago? No, I don't,"  Simmonds was quoted as saying by the Jamaica Observer. He added that slavery was abhorrent and said people around the globe need to work together to eradicate modern-day slavery.

December 11. A band of former Bermuda Regiment commanding officers is launching a campaign to block conscription from being abolished, claiming the move is not in the best interests of the Island and will result in the army unit eventually being dissolved. The group of local retired military top brass has taken aim at protest group Bermudians Against the Draft, accusing it of making “outlandish statements”, and also dismissed Government proposals that the Regiment should be staffed entirely by volunteers, saying that would drive up costs. Prior to last December’s general election, both political parties pledged to abolish conscription. And last month, Government confirmed in its Throne Speech that legislation to end the controversial policy was in the pipeline, although Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley has insisted the change will not result in the Regiment being disbanded. But a statement released yesterday — signed by eight of the Regiment’s 14 former Commanding Officers — claimed that conscription was the only method by which the Regiment could keep operational — adding that the controversial practice did not violate human rights and did not enslave anyone. “The recruitment process by which the Bermuda Regiment sustains its strength has been maligned in recent years to such an extent that our political establishment wishes to make a change,” the statement, headlined ‘In Defence of the Bermuda Regiment’, said. "The Regiment’s most important role was to assist the police in times of civil unrest or disobedience. To carry out this role the Regiment requires more than 400 personnel of all ranks. The number of people volunteering to join the Regiment annually has been fewer than 30. If conscription is abolished then where are the necessary personnel going to come from? Not volunteers. The majority of Regiment leaders had been drawn from conscripts, and that volunteers alone would not provide a large enough pool from which future leaders could be recruited. Abolish conscription and the Regiment will downsize by attrition to become ineffective for its role. This is Bermuda’s post-World War II experience. We are a small, isolated island community with a very limited gene-pool, unlike the United Kingdom or United States; two often quoted examples of all-volunteer military forces. There are simply not enough Bermudians born to fill the requirements of all the uniformed organisations in Bermuda — mainly Police, Customs, Regiment and Fire Services. To abolish conscription is not in the best interests of Bermuda, and will over time have a dramatic result — Bermuda will lose the Regiment.” Turning its sights on Bermuda Against the Draft, the statement asked: “Are the moves towards recruitment solely by volunteers the response to an action group advocating to abolish conscription? This group has made many outlandish statements over several years and has legally challenged the concept of conscription on numerous grounds to the highest court possible. All legal challenges have consistently been lost. Conscription does not violate human rights and it does not enslave anyone. The anti-conscription group should be given no credence whatever. To give them any credence is a serious error in judgment.” And the group also questioned the cost of a full-time volunteer unit, claiming it would “require substantial uplifts in pay scales to attract the number needed. It will cost substantially more to fund the Regiment as a result. Taxpayer costs will rise. This, too, is contrary to our best interests.” The statement ended with a battle cry, urging former soldiers to join in the fight “to preserve the Regiment as it is. We will try to act as spokesmen for the Regiment over the next few months, to rebut some of the untruths and specious arguments that are being advanced, and to help the community understand how grievous the loss will be if the Regiment is thrown on the scrap heap to appease an anti-conscription lobby that has no legal credibility. We mean no disrespect to those we will be opposing. Indeed, it will be difficult for soldiers who have been brought up in an atmosphere of respect and neutral service to engage in any kind of campaign at all. However, we feel circumstances warrant our current course of action — indeed, we would be remiss in our duty to the unit if we failed to speak up.” The letter was signed by former Regiment COs Lt Col Michael Darling, Lt Col CE Raynor, Lt Col Gavin Shorto, Lt Col Allan Rance, Lt Col Patrick Outerbridge, Lt Col David Gibbons, Lt Col William White, Lt Col Brian Gonsalves. Two former Regiment commanders absent from the list of signatories are Lt Col Edward Lamb, and Lt Col David Burch. Lt Col Lamb, who is now Commissioner of Prisons, last night declined to reveal his reasons for not adding his name. “I have no comment to make — I was invited to sign but I chose not to for a number of reasons which I won’t disclose,” he said. Lt Col Burch, who had a high-profile political career following his stint in uniform, could not be reached for comment last night.

December 11. Protected green space around the Fairmont Southampton Hotel could be threatened under a Special Development Order (SDO) allowing the hotel to build, and sell, housing. The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST) has issued a call on the public to speak up on whether they agree with tourism property being replaced with real estate deals. The announcement came as BEST head Stuart Hayward said the group had learned of real estate works planned for undeveloped space near the iconic South Shore hotel. "They got that SDO in 2009 and it will expire unless they build within five years, which means the planning permission will expire in 2014. The sweeping SDO covers a roughly 90-acre swathe of property and it allows for up to 130 residential units." Phase one proposes three three-bedroom villas, which Mr Hayward speculated was a matter of keeping the SDO alive. However, BEST said the public should be aware that segments of the now mostly-green hillsides and landscape surrounding Fairmont Southampton are eventually going to be transformed from green and open space to the concrete and tarmac of housing developments. Recalling the furore surrounding the 2011 SDO for Rosewood Tuckers Point that included the building of residential units, Mr Hayward said the latest development indicated that, like Tuckers Point, the Fairmont Southampton was morphing from a tourist facility into a real estate agency and is selling off its property. Mr Hayward said BEST was having difficulty ascertaining where the hotel might be considering for initial development. "The SDO gives them permission to build all over the hillside. If they built all of them, it would transform that area, and unfortunately the majority are for sale to non-Bermudians. Only 22 are for Bermudians, and those would likely conflict with the over-saturation we have at the moment." With a stagnant local real estate market, Mr Hayward conceded that a full-scale development would be an unlikely sell. The three units planned under Phase One of the proposal submitted to Planning appear to be designated for non-Bermudians. The development allows for 130 units, 71 of which would be fractional units for tourists, with 37 residential villas for non-Bermudians ranging from two to four bedrooms, and two to three storeys. The remaining 22, which would be set aside for the local market, are described as two-bedroom town homes. "That certainly would do no favors to the Grand Atlantic site," added Mr Hayward referring to the failed affordable housing complex sitting idle along the South Shore in Warwick. Much of the original SDO mentions Turtle Hill, just east of the Fairmont Southampton property. Yesterday's announcement from BEST reads: "On behalf of the Bermuda public, our government has entrusted hotel outfits with amenity open space, much of it with protective zoning. That open space has a value and benefit to all Bermudians, ranging from amenity space that is attractive and comforting to all residents whether they be visitors or locals to recreational- and even agricultural-use land. The order was also granted before the law was amended to require debate and approval by Parliament. As a result, there was no public involvement, consultation or discussion. That means that another area we expected would remain mostly as green and open space is now to be covered with two- and three-storey buildings, including Turtle Hill, south of the hotel, north of the clubhouse and along South Road."

Southampton Princess development

Possible Turtle Hill development at Southampton Princess

December 12. Receivership of Coral Beach & Tennis Club, and Horizons and Cottages is to end on Friday, with either the mortgage holder, Swedbank AB New York, taking over of the leasehold, or its purchase by a third unnamed party. KPMG had been appointed receivers of the Coral Beach along with Horizons in September of this year, and then began to actively seek a purchaser. In the commercial courts yesterday, Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman presided during a brief hearing where the application for the discharge of the receivership of Coral Beach and Horizons was made. Lawyer David Kessaram, speaking for Swedbank the plaintiffs in this application, told Justice Hellman that on Friday, either the mortgagee will take over the property or it will be sold to a third party. Mr Kessaram told the judge: "We can't say at this stage which is going to happen. Come what may, receivership is going to come to an end. It is not opposed. The defendants do not object.  Mr Kessaram then asked for the receivership to be discharged, and Justice Hellman agreed to the application. This is the latest chapter in the Paget properties struggle to find a developer. The exclusive beach and tennis club along with its neighbouring cottage colony was purchased by a New York-based firm called Brickman. Lawyer Kevin Taylor, representing Brickman, was in court yesterday to listen to the application. According to its website, Brickman was formed in 1992, and is 100 percent owned by its principals Bruce S Brickman and Kathy Corton. The website states among its strategies are purchasing distressed assets loans and real estate owned from financial institutions, and purchasing high quality, multi tenant, small floor plate office buildings in major markets. According to Royal Gazette stories that have followed the saga, Brickman had purchased a 200-year lease for the 26-acre resort and cottage colony in 2007, with a loan which ended up being held by Swedbank. The lease was purchased from the properties owner, a company that in turn is owned by George Wardman. As part of the lease purchase, Brickman had agreed to annual rental payments of $1 million for the Horizon lease and $1 million for the Coral Beach lease for the next 45 years. However, Brickman scrapped plans to redevelop the club as a Four Seasons 150-room resort and residences, blaming the global economic crisis, and in 2012 began efforts to sell the club to its members at a price tag understood to be $28 million. A Royal Gazette story at the time stated: "As part of the equity conversion plan, members would have to make an investment of $35,000 (resident) or $20,000 (non-resident) and take on at least $5.5 million in debt owed by the clubs US operator, Brickman Associates. Members balked at the plan, and in September, the property went into receivership."

December 13. Bermuda's first female Deputy Governor was sworn in at a ceremony at Government House this morning. A career diplomat, Mrs. Ginny Ferson has previously worked in Mauritius, Luxembourg, South Korea and Pakistan during her more-than 25 years with the Diplomatic Service. She replaces David Arkley. A mother of two, Mrs. Ferson served as Deputy Governor of Pitcairn while she was simultaneously First Secretary at the British High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand and then British Consul-General in Auckland, New Zealand.

December 13. Tax loopholes in the EU which led to Bermuda coming under fire as a tax haven are to be closed. The EU has moved to end the practice of firms moving money around member states to avoid tax a method used by internet giant Google, with billions ending up in its subsidiary in Bermuda, where there is no corporate tax. Algirdas Semeta, the EU commissioner for taxation, said: "EU tax policy is heavily focused on creating a better environment for businesses in the EU. This means breaking down tax barriers and tackling cross-border problems such as double taxation. But when our rules are abused to avoid paying any tax at all, then we need to adjust them. The latest proposals, to be introduced at the end of this month, would ensure that the spirit, as well as the letter, of our law is respected. As such, it will ensure greater revenues for national budgets and fairer competition for our businesses." Finance Minister Bob Richards was not available for comment last night. But at a summit meeting of the Overseas Territories and the UK in London earlier this year, he said that if other countries had tax loopholes, it was up to them to plug them, not Bermuda. Economics expert Peter Everson said it was important for Bermuda to be able to combat attacks on its standing as an offshore jurisdiction and that Bermuda gained little from tax arrangements like Google's. What other people say is out of our control they will say whatever they want to say and on the agenda of items for Bermuda next year is to find a unified voice to respond to this." The new rules amend the EUs Parent-Subsidiary Directive, originally set up to prevent companies based in different EU countries, but owned by the same parent organization, from being taxed twice on the same income. An EU statement said: "However, certain companies have exploited provisions in the directive and mismatches between national tax rules to avoid being taxed in any member state at all double non-taxation. The new rules will update the directives anti-abuse provision and would insist all EU states to adopt a common anti-abuse rule. This will allow them to ignore artificial arrangements used for tax avoidance purposes and ensure taxation takes place on the basis of real economic substance. The proposals would also ensure that specific tax planning arrangements like hybrid loan arrangements would not benefit from tax exemptions." At present, the Parent-Subsidiary Directive obliges EU states to give parent companies a tax exemption on dividends they get from subsidiaries in other member states. But in some EU states where subsidiaries are based classify these types of payments as tax-deductible debt repayment with the result that payments from the subsidiary to the parent are not taxed at all. The EU statement said: "Under the proposal, if a hybrid loan payment is tax deductible in the subsidiaries member state, then it must be taxed by the member state where the parent company is established. This will stop cross-border companies from planning their intra-group payments to enjoy double non-taxation." The move was sparked by fury in recession-hit Europe after it was revealed that Google minimizes tax in the UK where it pays $6 million a year on a turnover of $395 million by using its UK operation as an agent of its Irish subsidiary. The proceeds of sales made in the UK go to Ireland and commission of around 10 percent is paid back to the UK operation, which is taxable once costs have been deducted. Google Ireland then channels much of the money it makes to its Bermudian operation as a licensing fee, ensuring a large proportion of its cash ends up on the island. The process is legal under current UK tax laws. A Google spokesman said earlier this year: "We make a substantial contribution to the UK economy through local, payroll and corporate taxes. We also employ over a thousand people, help hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow online and invest millions supporting new tech businesses in East London. We comply with all the tax rules in the UK." Other firms like coffee chain Starbucks and online store Amazon also came under fire for as using tactics which are legal but branded aggressive and immoral to transfer profits across borders to minimise taxation. The EU statement said: "The issue of corporate tax avoidance is very high in the political agenda of many EU and non-EU countries and the need for action to combat this was highlighted at recent G20 and G8 meetings."

December 14. The Pink Beach Club has yet to be sold, despite Government concessions approved earlier this year to support the property’s sale. However, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell said the Bank of Butterfield was in the “advanced stages” of negotiation with another party for the sale of the property. In July, Government passed $5.6 million in tax concessions to support the sale of the property to PBC Holding Ltd for $12.5 million. The company had said it planned to convert the Smith’s property into a five-star resort with more than 200 employees by the end of 2015. But responding to questions by Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert, Mr Crockwell told the House of Assembly that despite the concessions PBC Holding Ltd had not signed an agreement with the bank to purchase the property. However, he added: “Our ministry has been informed by the Bank that they are in the advanced stages of negotiations with another developer for the purchase of the Pink Beach Club.” Asked about the Government’s role in carrying out due diligence prior to putting forward concession orders, Mr Crockwell said: “The bank chooses the preferred developer. We were advised that their preferred developer was the developer pursuant to the development order. We were asked in negotiations to support that development with a concession order. This Government will do all it can to facilitate hotel development in this country. Caveats are contained throughout the hotel concession order. No concessions are provided until certain conditions are met, particularly the commencement of development and the like.”

December 14. After two hour robust debate the Liquor Licence Amendment Act 2013 was passed, paving the way for alcohol to be served seven-days-a-week, including Sundays. But the eventual passage did not come without objections by a number of MPs. Progressive Labour Party Deputy Leader Derrick Burgess insisted he didn't think it was necessary to approve the sale of alcohol as early as 8am on a Sunday morning in Bermuda. "It's despicable and I don't think it's necessary,"  he said. Based on his experience in the hotel industry he said Sunday was the one day hotel guests slept in and eventually turned up for breakfast late. Independent MP Terry Lister said the day for him was quite surprising in many ways. As an independent MP he said he takes his job seriously. "In that job I am to listen to both sides, and I have voted with the Opposition, I've voted with the Government. I voted on a bill one night you will recall, that passed 16 to 15, my vote passed that bill for the Government because I thought it was the right bill. And I believe that the Government was doing its best for the people of Bermuda. Today I'm convinced I was wrong and I don't know who this Government is working for. It's not the electorate it's somebody, but I'm not sure who." He reflected back on a Ministerial Statement delivered earlier this year by Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell. "He said he was going to reduce the permissible limit of alcohol in ones blood from 80 to 40, which would take it down to one of the lowest levels in the world. And then he said were going to move ahead with roadside sobriety tests. I support it, I think it's right and now we come to this question of the urgency of now. And I will tell you it's a phrase I hate hearing. I wish Id never hear it again because I don't see it, I hear it, but I don't hear it. And what I see brought urgently are things that maybe we should be leaving alone. It is not urgent to cut down the allowable amount that people can drink and drive. It is not urgent to do roadside tests but it is urgent to allow the sale of liquor Sundays. We are all tired of losing our people on the roads. We have ten, 15, 20 people a year who die on the roads. Now that statistic, on a population basis when you compare it other countries is very high. But the statistics that we don't spend a lot of time thinking about are the number of people injured on the roads sometimes permanently injured.  And so we would want to do things that moves in the direction of less rather than more. But here we are today doing something that every member so far has said would increase alcohol consumption."  Mr Lister questioned the mix messages being sent to the community. "Seven days ago we all stood and sang together about the scourge of drugs and alcohol and what its doing to our country, and how we need to move ahead and fix the country. And here we stand today going in the opposite direction. What are the people supposed to think what is the message that comes with this? Seven days ago MPs spent a vast amount of time looking at what was right for the National Drug Commission to fix our people who have been broken by these substances. Now we're going the other way. I just don't understand the thought processes that go through the mind of this Government. This is all the Cabinet that thought this up and maybe in the shuffle, it got shuffled I don't know. But it doesn't make sense." Eventually the bill was passed to be sent to the Senate before Government House for the Governor's assent.

December 14. A tumultuous chapter in the Islands relations with the US was recalled this morning as dignitaries gathered in a Smith's churchyard to pay respects to former US Consul Charles Maxwell Allen. Mr Allen represented the Union in Bermuda during the US Civil War at a time when local sympathies tended toward the side of the Confederacy. His fight against the use of St George's by blockade runners trading with the South made the outset of his 27-year service in 1861 a miserable one. In the end, however, Mr Allen came to love Bermuda, and served until his death in 1888. He now lies in the grounds of St Mark's Church and this coming Christmas Eve marks the 125th anniversary of his passing. Laying a wreath at his predecessor's grave, US Consul General Bob Settje said he saw the ceremony as a chance to celebrate the long and friendly co-operative, collaborative relationship between Bermuda and the US, and between the UK and the US. "He faced a lot of hostility at the beginning, when he was not terribly welcome, but he persevered and developed relationships here.  When that horrible unpleasantness finally passed, he decided he liked Bermuda so much that he wanted to stay, and passed the rest of his life here until he died at the age of 66. I believe that's the last time the US and Bermuda had any real conflict." Governor George Fergusson called Mr Allen's story a symbol of the friendship between this Island and the US. "Its quite a sobering thought, as a former British Consul General to Mr Allen's home state of Massachusetts, the idea of a 27-year-posting. If I were to be posted as Consul General anywhere for 27 years, Boston and Bermuda would both work pretty well." Representing Government, Finance Minister Bob Richards called Bermuda's links with the US "one of the most important relationships that we have. Since the War of 1812, its been a good relationship overall despite blockade runners and rum runners. But we have to do what we have to do in Bermuda to survive." The significance of the grave and the 125th anniversary was brought to light by US Customs officer Tiziana Riccitelli and US Consulate employee Lauren Paoletti, who happened on Mr Allen's story while browsing online, and came to St Marks graveyard to find the tomb.

December 18. Bermuda had the greatest percentage of growth in its register of companies in the first half of the year compared to other offshore jurisdictions, a top law firm said yesterday. The Island saw 538 new firms set up in the first six months of 2013 which brought the total number of companies on the register to 17,622, a five percent increase from the end of 2012. Bermuda also saw an eight percent jump in the number of new company incorporations between January and June when compared to the last six months of 2012 and a 16 percent increase over the member of incorporations in the first half of 2012. The figures were revealed in the On the Register report, prepared by law firm Appleby, one of the worlds largest providers of offshore legal, fiduciary and administration services. The report stated: "With this sustained growth, the registry is approaching pre-recession 2008 highs. Out of the 538 new companies on the register, a total of 422 were exempted companies, while 21 were from overseas and a further 95 were local registrations. The number of local companies registering has grown by 44 percent in the six-month period, when compared to the second half of 2012. Appleby Services managing director Rory Gorman said Bermuda has long been a leading jurisdiction for companies looking to incorporate offshore and this held true in the first half of 2013. Business sentiment in the US market, which coupled with the Bermuda Governments proactive campaign to target international business, is driving much of the influx of new business to the jurisdiction. The Appleby report added that Bermuda is also flying high in the area of aircraft leasing. "A Bermuda vehicle is required for each aircraft registration and commercial aircraft registrations remain steady and strong. Additionally, Bermuda is benefiting more than other jurisdictions as the insurance sector outlook improves and is viewed as a key location from which to issue and list insurance-linked securities (ILS) such as catastrophe bonds, with considerable success. There was a total of 38,416 new offshore incorporations in the first six months of this year, with the number of active companies listed on offshore registers stabilizing. The total number of companies listed in most offshore jurisdictions had increased since the end of 2012. Although the number of new incorporations in offshore jurisdictions had fallen slightly compared to the previous six month period, the number of firms ceasing to trade had also dropped, which allowed most registries to grow. Many are approaching, or have even surpassed, their pre-recession peaks. The global economy appears to be stabilizing and were seeing the number of new company registrations rising in most offshore jurisdictions. It is also encouraging to note that the overall number of companies active on the offshore registers has gone up by five percent compared to pre-recession 2008."

December 19. Bermuda today signed an agreement to report to the US on American citizens bank accounts on the Island. The intergovernmental agreement brings Bermuda in line with the US Foreign Account Compliance Act (FATCA), passed by the US government in a bid to crack down on domestic tax dodgers. Finance Minister Bob Richards, who signed the treaty on behalf of Government, said: "It is every country's sovereign right to design or adjust their tax collection system. Bermuda's responsibility, as a responsible and respected international financial centre in the global financial system, is to respect that right just as we expect others to respect our tax system, a system that is over 100 years old." US Consul Robert Settje, who signed for the US, thanked Bermuda for its cooperation and for its long-standing commitment to tax transparency. He added: "Together we can improve international tax transparency and compliance by further building on that relationship." The treaty requires financial institutions in Bermuda to report on the financial affairs of US taxpayers who hold accounts with them direct to the Internal Revenue Service every year. Failure to comply means that the US will hit offending institutions with a 30 percent tax on some US source payments like interest payments.

December 19. Bermuda Commercial Bank is set to buy and move into the LP Gutteridge Building in Hamilton. The purchase of the bank's new 29,000 sq ft home was revealed today in the earnings statement of its parent company Somers Ltd. It comes after a solid year for the bank, whose profits rose nearly 19 percent to $8.9 million in the year through the end of September. Somers said the acquisition of the building was a further sign of its commitment to Bermuda and long term planning and was subject to Government approvals. Without disclosing the price, the company said the building was acquired at an attractive valuation with the objective of consolidating the Banks premises and eliminating annual rent payments. Somers added: "The LPG Building will be the home for BCB and other Somers companies moving forward and will provide the Bank with a suitable base for the medium and long term and somewhere in which it can continue to grow and attract business." BCB is currently based a little further north on the same street in the Bermuda Commercial Bank building at 19 Par-la-Ville Road. Somers, which changed its name from Bermuda National Ltd last month, is a financial service investment holding company, which trades on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. Somers posted net income of $13.8 million for the year through the end of September. Excluding one-off items including a $3.8 million gain that Somers recorded on its investment in West Hamilton Holdings Ltd, the underlying net income was $8.2 million. "We are pleased with the company's first years results as a listed company with BCB in particular continuing to report strong results with profit increasing by almost 20 percent year on year, " Somers chairman Warren McLeland said. "It was excellent to note that Fitch Ratings recently reaffirmed BCB's investment grade rating and revised the Banks outlook to stable." BCB recently named Peter Horton as CEO and completed the acquisition of J O Hambro Investment Management Ltd (JOHIM), a UK private wealth asset manager, during the summer. Mr McLeland said: "JOHIM's operating performance since the acquisition in August is positive and Somers and the JOHIM management team are working well together. The company's other investments continue to perform in line with expectations." Somers board declared a final dividend of 20 cents per share, making a total dividend for the year of 32 cents, which represents an increase of almost ten percent from the total dividend paid to BCB shareholders for the year ended September 30, 2012. For the quarter ended September 30, the Bank recorded a profit of $2.1 million on total revenue of $11 million. For the full year, BCB recorded net income of $8.9 million, compared to $7.5 million in 2012. Total interest income for the year was $19.7 million ($18.9 million in 2012). Net non-interest income more than doubled to $15.4 million from the $7.2 million recorded in 2012, thanks to strong gains from the Banks financial investments portfolio. Gains from the sale of financial investments were $14.7 million for the year compared to gains of $7.9 million in 2012. Total assets as at September 30, 2013 were $591.7 million, up from $572 million a year earlier. Total customer deposit balances increased to $467.5 million from $457.5 million as at September 30, 2012. The Bank's regulatory capital ratio was 20.7 percent at September 30, 2013 while the tier one ratio was 22.3 percent. "The company's balance sheet is strong and has no external debt," Mr McLeland added. "We believe that there will be opportunities for the company's investments to grow in 2014 and that we are well placed to benefit from this growth. We therefore look forward to 2014 with optimism."

December 19.  Bermuda's tourism industry will be led by an entrepreneurial and vibrant group that will drive Bermuda's re-emergence as a world-class tourism destination, it has been claimed. Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell this afternoon unveiled the eight-member Board of Directors which will oversee the Tourism Authority a non-political organization that has taken over the running of the industry from Government's Department of Tourism. Introducing the board at a press conference, Mr Crockwell said: "I believe this is a watershed moment for Bermudas tourism industry and our last real opportunity to turn things around and restore our position as a desired premier destination this is new territory for Bermuda. I would like to thank our new Board of Directors for enthusiastically agreeing to lead this very important organization. Our two international directors add a global perspective of excellence to our board and we sincerely appreciate their commitment to Bermuda. I have emphasized to the Board that it is no longer business as usual for Bermuda Tourism. We have created an entirely new structure focused on delivering the objectives of the National Tourism plan. This will include two new divisions, Tourism Investment and Product and Experience Development, which will drive change in the Bermuda tourism product. As the Authority develops creative and innovative ways to make Bermuda a more attractive and competitive destination for visitors and tourism investors, they will be the singular voice that drives Bermuda's re-emergence as a world-class tourism destination. The OBA Government, and especially myself as Minister responsible, are proud of today's announcement, which marks the beginning of a new era in Bermuda Tourism. Mr Crockwell added that a CEO has yet to be appointed to the authority and other staff posts are also vacant. Earlier, Government said that the authority will not be fully operational until March, 2014. At yesterdays press conference, Board chairman David Dodwell said: "Today is an exciting day for tourism and for Bermuda. For the first time in Bermudas history, our tourism product is being guided by an independent, private enterprise. I commend both political parties for progressing this change and helping Bermuda to move tourism forward. It's a big challenge and one I'm looking forward to achieving along with my fellow Board members and the team at the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Our success depends on working together with the tourism sector in a shared commitment to revitalize this industry. We want to build on the hard work that many people in hospitality are already undertaking today. We welcome the new Directors and we are committed to keeping the public up-to-date with the developments at the authority."

Members of the Board

December 20. The 2013 Bermuda cruise ship schedule concluded yesterday with the brief visit of the Pacific Princess marking the last cruise ship arrival of the year. Princess Cruises 594ft Pacific Princess, arrived in Hamilton Friday morning and departed around six hours later to begin its return journey to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Government said last month it expected a total of 335,000 tourists would visit the Island via cruise ships in 2013 35,000 less than the 370,000 recorded in 2012. The number of cruise ships visiting the Island also fell from 163 to 126 between 2012 and 2013. A total of 129 visits had been scheduled, but a fire on-board the Grandeur of the Seas and subsequent repairs to the vessel forced the cancellation of three trips to the Island. Cruise ship arrivals are expected to increase to 131 in the 2014 season, which will start on April 5 when the Wind Star arrives at Penno's Wharf.

December 20. A US firm that routed business through a Bermuda subsidiary to fleece clients out of millions of dollars of extra fees has coughed up more than $150 million in fines in America. The Bermuda arm of ConvergEx, a leading transactions services provider, booked nearly $13 million in trading profits from clients after it sent false statements to clients to hide its overcharging. ConvergEx admitted its staff had repeatedly overcharged investors, including pension funds and institutional investors, through hidden fees. Two former ConvergEx employees, Jonathan Daspin, the head trader of the now-closed Bermuda arm and Thomas Lekargeren, a sales representative from a different part of the company, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wire fraud and conspiracy after cooperating with a major inquiry by the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The SEC said that ConvergEx routinely routed orders to its Bermuda affiliate that executed the trades by marking up or marking down securities that caused some clients of the firm to pay more than double in fees. The SEC said the offshore affiliate often consulted with the client-facing brokers to assess the risk of customer detection before taking the extra money on top of the disclosed commissions. Mythili Raman, acting head of the US Department of Justice criminal division, added that the firm engaged in a concerted and coordinated effort to fleece its clients by charging them millions of dollars in unwarranted fees which ConvergEx called trading profits or spread and then concealing those charges from its clients through a pattern of deception. The Department of Justice said that Mr Daspin created false reports that were sent to customers to hide the deception. Ms Raman added the ConvergExs lies were repeated, deliberate and came in many different forms. The ConvergEx parent firm, as part of the settlement, paid $43.8 million and signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice to avoid criminal charges. It also handed over a total of $107 million to the SEC and admitted wrongdoing to settle related civil charges. A spokesman for ConvergEx said the overwhelming majority of ConvergExs equity execution business clients and customer orders were not affected. The firm added that the trading company had closed its Bermuda office and was given credit for its cooperation into the investigation by the US authorities. The Department of Justice said Daspin instructed a sales trader while creating a false report to please put all prints in one spreadsheet in the least friendly format ... "if possible take this out of spreadsheet format and make a PDF or put this in picture file or something tricky to manipulate." In another incident, Daspin told an executive: We need to be creative putting something together as did not have time and sales for the price given. "

December 20. Bermuda has won qualified jurisdiction status from the US National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The move means that reinsurers licensed and based in Bermuda will be eligible to be certified for reduced reinsurance collateral requirements. The Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA) along with similar bodies in the UK, Germany and Switzerland have all been granted conditional status pending a full review next year. BMA CEO Jeremy Cox said: "We are very pleased with the outcome of this initial step in the NAICs process. Having this status is highly relevant to the Bermuda market in terms of potentially facilitating efficiencies in the cross-border operations of Bermuda reinsurance with the US insurance market. We look forward to working with the NAIC to complete the process in the coming months." The BMA in September became the first insurance industry supervisor to agree to take part in an expedited review by the NAIC. The NAIC is the US standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from US states and territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review, and coordinate their regulatory oversight. NAIC staff supports these efforts and represents the collective views of state regulators domestically and internationally. NAIC members, together with the central resources of the NAIC, form the national system of state-based insurance regulation in the U.S.

December 20. With the appointment of the Tourism Authority Board yesterday, Minister Shawn Crockwell effectively relinquished control of how the industry is run. But he will still speak on tourism-related matters in the House of Assembly, and will also keep his Transport Ministry portfolio. The Tourism Authority will be initially funded by Government, although chairman David Dowell has said he hopes it can become self-funding within two years. And it will also be accountable to Government. Mr Crockwell said yesterday that members of the Board could be replaced if performance targets are not met. “With the Board now in place, I will be able to step back from my day-to-day tourism responsibilities with only minimal oversight of the organization.  I will continue to advocate for tourism at the Cabinet level and in Parliament and work with the Authority to fulfill the objectives contained in the National Tourism Plan. Bringing new hotel development to Bermuda will continue to be one of my priorities. Bermuda's tourism industry will be led by an entrepreneurial and vibrant group” that will drive Bermuda's re-emergence as a world-class tourism destination”, it has been claimed. Tourism Minister Shan Crockwell yesterday revealed the eight-member board of directors who will oversee the Tourism Authority — a non-political organization that has taken over the running of the industry from Government's Department of Tourism. Introducing the board at a press conference, Mr Crockwell said: “I believe this is a watershed moment for Bermuda's tourism industry and our last real opportunity to turn things around and restore our position as a desired premier destination — this is new territory for Bermuda. I would like to thank our new board of directors for enthusiastically agreeing to lead this very important organization. Our two international directors add a global perspective of excellence to our board and we sincerely appreciate their commitment to Bermuda. I have emphasized to the Board that it is no longer business as usual for Bermuda Tourism. We have created an entirely new structure focused on delivering the objectives of the National Tourism plan. This will include two new divisions, Tourism Investment and Product and Experience Development, which will drive change in the Bermuda tourism product. As the Authority develops creative and innovative ways to make Bermuda a more attractive and competitive destination for visitors and tourism investors, they will be the singular voice that drives Bermuda's re-emergence as a world-class tourism destination. The OBA Government, and especially myself as Minster responsible, are proud of today's announcement, which marks the beginning of a new era in Bermuda Tourism." Mr Crockwell added that a CEO has yet to be appointed to the Authority and other staff posts are also vacant. Earlier, Government said that the Authority will not be fully operational until March 2014. At the press conference, Board chairman David Dowell said: “Today is an exciting day for tourism and for Bermuda. For the first time in Bermuda's history, our tourism product is being guided by an independent, private enterprise. I commend both political parties for progressing this change and helping Bermuda to move tourism forward. It's a big challenge and one I'm looking forward to achieving along with my fellow board members and the team at the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Our success depends on working together with the tourism sector in a shared commitment to revitalize this industry. We want to build on the hard work that many people in hospitality are already undertaking today. We welcome the new directors and we are committed to keeping the public up-to-date with the developments at the authority.”

December 20. The eight members of the Tourism Authority Board could pick up as much as $20,000 each for attending possibly only ten meetings a year. But yesterday Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell defended the expense, saying the Board will be responsible for bringing about a turnaround in the industry in the next few years. And taxpayers may not have to pick up the tab for the part-time team of high-ranking executives. Board chairman David Dodwell said he hoped the authority will be able to fund itself within two years, saving Government millions of dollars in annual Tourism budgets. Board members shall be paid such fees and allowances as the Minister may determine, a Ministry spokesman said, adding that a maximum remuneration of $20,000 per annum had been set. "In order to attract and retain the type of board members that we wanted it is important to provide reasonable compensation for the time and effort that is expected from each board member. This Board will function as a private entity and we do not see this as unusual in the circumstances. The Minister has the discretion to overrule any compensation structure. It is also important to highlight that the authority has the power to raise revenue and establishing a priority to achieve this will be one of the Boards immediate priorities." The Board will oversee the functions of the authority and develop policies and strategies for implementation by the Executive and staff. The Board will hire the CEO set to be appointed next month who will be charged with implementing the overall vision and strategy. "The CEO's role will be critical as this individual will have specific tourism expertise, the spokesman said. "They will be responsible for the management of the staff of the authority and will be answerable to the Board. It is expected that the Board will consult and utilize the expertise of the CEO in devising strategy as this person will be responsible for driving the authority and hence the tourism industry. The Chairman of the Board will work closely with the CEO to ensure synergy between the CEO and the Board. The Board shall hold a minimum of ten meetings each year, although it is expected to meet at least once a month and additional meetings can be called by the chairman." Last night Mr Crockwell told The Royal Gazette: "I am extremely confident that I have assembled a diverse Board which will have the capacity and acuity to address all of the challenges and interests affecting the tourism industry. What is needed is strong, effective and consistent leadership and the current composition of the Board reflects that from various professions and disciplines. The Board has the ability to form committees which can address any issue that requires a particular specialty or focus."

December 21.  France has removed Bermuda from its tax blacklist, Finance Minister Bob Richards said today. The move came after high-level talks between French officials and Finance Ministry staff. Mr Richards said: "I was impressed by the goodwill shown by French officials in working with Bermuda officials to resolve the matter before the end of the year. We were confident that any entry on France's list would be very short-lived as Bermuda is globally recognised as complying with the highest international standards on tax transparency and compliance." And he thanked Governor George Fergusson and UK Treasury staff, including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, for their backing for Bermuda's bid to be de-listed by the French. Bermuda, alongside Jersey and the British Virgin Islands, were added to the French hit list of jurisdictions labeled as uncooperative by the French authorities in August. The move meant that the French could impose a 75 percent withholding tax on French money coming to Bermuda. Jersey has also been removed from the French blacklist for 2014. The French Ministry of Finance said "Jersey and Bermuda have been informed that they will be removed from the list for 2014, which means that the retaliation measures provided for by law will not be applied."

December 21. Plans to erect a new beach club on the former Sonesta property have been submitted to the Department of Planning, with work hoped to start in Spring. The application, submitted by Sinky Bay Limited, proposes the construction of a new, four story building overlooking Boat Bay Beach on the South Shore, Southampton site. And according to a draft Environmental Impact Study included the application, construction on the first phase of the project is hoped to begin in April 2014 and be completed by May 2015. The first phase of the project will consist of a four-story building north of Boat Bay on the western side of the property. The building would contain beach concession facilities and indoor parking, a bar and restaurant, and a spa on the upper floor. The second phase of development, hoped to be completed by May of 2017, would extend the building to the east, adding additional parking, a swimming pool and an outdoor terrace. In addition to the main building, the application proposes the erection of a hybrid fixed and floating dock to replace a dock which was largely demolished by Hurricane Fabian. The water sports building near the western side of the beach will be the subject of renovations, while new tennis courts and a playground will be installed on the site. Also included in the application is a draft Conservation Management Plan, which proposes the planting of endemic species and installation of longtail burrows. The Green family, who purchased the property for $10.5 million in March, have said they planned to erect a beach club at the site to provide an additional amenity for guests at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, which they also own. The 32-acre property had been owned by Scout Real Estate, a US developer which bought the property in 2007, for the purposes of building a five-star resort, but those plans were abandoned after the former hotel was demolished. The application is available to view at the Department of Planning offices in the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building.

December 22. The troubled Coral Beach and Tennis Club has been taken over by US investors. New York-based CBC 2013, a subsidiary of Three Wall Capital and ROC Group, has taken over the resort, just over a week after it came out of receivership. Alan Kenders, CEO of Three Wall Capital, said: "We are thrilled to be taking over Horizons and Cottages and Coral Beach and Tennis Club in Bermuda. Both Bermuda and Coral Beach Club have been synonymous with luxury, service and hospitality for a number of years. As the new owners of Coral Beach Club we seek to pay homage to the past yet firmly embrace the standards the world has come to expect in 2014 We intend to create a product all Bermuda can be proud of." Three Wall Capital is boutique hotel investment firm with interests including the Mayflower Inn and Spa in Connecticut and the newly-opened New York luxury property The Quin. The Mayflower Inn has won a prestige Conde Nast Travelers Readers Choice Award as best in America. ROC Group is a New York investment firm focused on real estate. Premier Craig Cannonier said: "Today marks another vote of confidence for Bermuda and our tourism product. The sale of the Coral Beach and Tennis Club and Horizons and Cottages to Three Wall Capital and ROC Group is further evidence that the country is moving in the right direction. Both properties are vital to our tourist economy." Joint receiver Charles Thresh, of accountants KPMG, said: "Following a ten-month receivership period, it is extremely satisfying to have completed the sale of the operations of both the Coral Beach and Tennis Club and Horizons and Cottages on a going concern basis." The resort went into receivership in September 2012 after the lease was bought by New York-based Brickman in 2007. Brickman had a 200-year lease for the 26-acre property, bought with a loan held by Swedbank. But plans by the firm to redevelop the club as a Four Seasons 150-room resort were scrapped by Brickman, which blamed the global financial crisis. A 2012 bid by Brickman to sell the club to its members with a price tag understood to be $28 million fell through and Coral Beach went into receivership. Professional services firm KPMG were appointed receivers and began looking for a new buyer. Earlier this month, the receivership was formally ended after a hearing in the commercial courts. Lawyers for Swedbank AB New York, which held the mortgage on the property, said then that by Friday, December 13, the property would be taken over by Swedbank or it would be sold to a third party. Three Wall Capital was founded in 2008 and is led by Mr Kanders, a former managing director of Lehman Brothers investment bank in the US, which went bankrupt in 2008, helping to trigger the global financial crisis. Three Wall Capital has completed more than $400 million in transactions in the past 36 months in both advisory and principal investor roles. ROC Group, founded in 1991 by Roderick O'Connor, specializes in buying up real estate assets held by banks, government agencies and other financial institutions in the US.

December 23. RG editorial. "In hindsight, for all its unconcealed enthusiasm for the introduction of casinos to the Island, the resolve of the One Bermuda Alliance to test that proposition by way of a referendum never appeared particularly earnest. The recent announcement, then, that the party would abandon its campaign pledge and take the matter to Parliament instead was perhaps to be expected. Nevertheless, as one of the more charitable Opposition critics said recently, this embarrassing and undying affair will not be recorded as the Government’s finest hour. Indeed, while the about-face has been cheered by the more committed proponents of casino gambling, it has done great injury to this Government’s credibility. Election manifestos form a kind of implied contract with the electorate. The promises contained in them, absent compelling intervening reasons to the contrary, ought to be kept. By campaigning on a referendum promise, and repeating that promise several times during its first 12 months in power, the OBA had created a legitimate expectation that the country — and not its politicians — would have the deciding vote. Now it has decided precisely the contrary. In justifying that reversal, Premier Craig Cannonier alluded once more to the urgent need for jobs as well as investment in our ailing tourism industry. Nobody can seriously doubt these concerns, nor argue that they do not deserve the Government’s most anxious attention. Yet this was no less true a year ago. Why then has it taken until now to change course? The Premier also hinted vaguely at possible schemes by the Opposition to disrupt and undermine the referendum. It is true that Opposition politicians had strongly criticized the proposed wording of the ill-fated referendum, but that is a long way from threatening to boycott it. Whatever private exchanges may have taken place between the Premier and the Opposition Leader, the decision in response to cancel a referendum that both parties supported in principle can only be described as disproportionate. The Government’s reversal is particularly disappointing when one considers what is at stake. The promised change to our gambling laws — whatever form it might take, and whatever else might come of it — will very likely have profound societal effects for Bermuda, and not all for the better. There are widespread and justifiable doubts that casinos are suitable for Bermuda, and such reservations tend to transcend traditional political divisions. To that end, a political consensus developed before the last election, one which recognised that, before institutionalized gambling could be introduced, it should be put to the country. That was entirely fitting, given the difficult moral questions it brought with it. The OBA once recognised as much, which makes last week’s announcement all the more regrettable. The referendum reversal is also evidence that, after 12 months of power, the OBA continues to create for itself entirely unnecessary problems. It is true that the party came to power with the knowledge that its tenure would be marked by unpopular decisions. To its credit, notwithstanding the constraints it inherited, the Government has ended its first year with a modest record of positive achievements. Yet the OBA continues to do itself no favors by its habit of creating needless controversy. Twelve months ago, gaming was a policy objective enjoying a rare cross-party support. Twice now the Government has made it a source of fresh criticism, prompting doubts even among its own supporters. These blunders could once be written off as the mistakes of a novice Government. They cannot anymore. Unless the OBA can end its propensity for self-inflicted harm, the remainder of its time in office is likely to be unhappy — and short."

December 24.  A ratings agency has boosted the standing of a Bermuda-based reinsurance company after its takeover by former industry tycoon Brian Duperreault. AM Best has removed SAC, now called Hamilton Re, from review and affirmed its financial strength rating of A- (excellent) and its issuer credit rating of a-, with an outlook of stable on both. The move came after it was confirmed that Hamilton Insurance Group had completed its takeover of the Bermuda-based SAC and renamed it. Mr Duperreault, the CEO of Hamilton Re, said: "The Hamilton Re team looks forward to bringing a fresh approach to insurance and reinsurance, one based not just on world-class underwriting but also a strong foundation of large data analytics, research and fully-integrated technology. We're excited to get to work with our clients." Mr Duperreault is the former CEO of Ace Ltd and Marsh & McLennan companies. A statement by AM Best included: "The ratings of Hamilton Re are based on its excellent risk-adjusted capitalization, knowledgeable management team and prudent business plan. But partially offsetting these positive ratings factors are the start-up nature of the company, the greater investment risk associated with an alternative investment strategy, as well as the increased competition in the reinsurance marketplace that may challenge some of the company's investment plans. There is a possibility that Hamilton could be exposed to a convergence of events due to the adjoining of underwriting risk and the present risk in an alternative investment strategy. The relatively high gross investment leverage used by New York-based Two Sigma Investments, which will manage Hamilton Res assets, was also of concern and could affect Hamilton Res risk-adjusted capital. However, these risks are mitigated by Hamilton's low underwriting leverage and experienced underwriting team. The investment leverage concerns are mitigated by the partially hedged nature of the portfolio, the large number of diversified liquid investments and the investment manager's lengthy investment track record. Hamilton Re assets will be invested by Two Sigma Investments in a fund of one which will allocate capital to two different trading arms. These entities apply various strategies to invest in liquid investments in the global equity, futures, FX and derivatives markets. Competition from existing players, as well as from other start-up firms, could hit Hamilton Res underwriting margins. The addition of more capacity to an already overcapitalized reinsurance marketplace could pressure underwriting margins. Key ratings triggers that could result in positive ratings actions would be steady growth of surplus through investments and underwriting and meeting or exceeding the business plan over the long term. Key ratings triggers that could result in negative rating actions would be not executing the business plan over the long term and/or having large losses that would reduce risk adjusted capital." SAC was launched last year with the backing of billionaire Steve A Cohen and his SAC Capital and began operations with $500 million in capital from Mr Cohen, Capital Z Partners and other investors. But in November, the hedge fund which managed SACs assets pleaded guilty to insider trading and accepted responsibility for criminal behaviour by at least six of its employees. The admission could cost the hedge fund firm $1.8 billion in civil and criminal penalties and a federal judge still needs to approve SAC Capitals criminal guilty plea. As part of the settlement, SAC agreed to give up managing money from outside investors terms that precluded it from investing premiums for a reinsurance company.

December 27. Solar energy firms have called for power company Belco to adopt a Caymans-style agreement to buy back excess power generated by the sun from commercial generators. A source close to the Bermuda Sustainable Energy Association said it was difficult to understand why there has been such intransigence in formulating and agreeing the necessary interconnection and power purchase agreements her in Bermuda, especially considering that there are numerous agreements already in existence all over the world representing all sizes of jurisdictions which can be used as a model. "There is absolutely no requirement for Bermuda to reinvent the wheel we simply need to select the best proven models and get them implemented without any further delay. An agreement between Grand Caymans Caribbean Utilities Co and commercial users had been in place since early 2011, while Bermuda has yet to introduce a policy and a buy-back tariff." Belco does buy back power from domestic solar power plants under an agreement thrashed out in 2010 but a proposed agreement has been with the Department of Energy's Energy Commission since May without a decision on how to implement a buy back scheme from large-scale commercial solar power users. The source said there are many geographic and demographic similarities between Bermuda and Grand Cayman as well as comparable scale in terms of power generation, customer base and pricing per kilowatt hour. Cayman has adopted a feed in tariff model for both residential and commercial customers that has been in place since February 2011. A feed in tariff system defines the rate at which power is purchased by the utility company from the residential or commercial customer and guarantees the term of the agreement, usually 20-25 years, to allow the owner of the solar grid to get an assured return on investment. The Caymans agreement on interconnection and power purchase is only eight pages long, while the domestic buy back agreement in Bermuda runs to more than twice that length. The source added that Government had set a target in the 2011 White Paper on Energy of 20 percent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. However, the growth of solar electric photo voltaic systems in Bermuda has been severely hampered by the lack of commercial interconnection and power purchase agreements.  The Royal Gazette reported in October that large scale solar systems, including Gorham's hardware store, were already supplying energy to the Belco network, which is then sold on, but not receiving payment for it. The source said obviously, this arrangement is beneficial to Belco but provides no incentive for the investment in commercial solar photo voltaic systems as evidenced by the very low growth in commercial installations. Belco referred requests for comment to the Energy Commission. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education and Economic Development said the Ministry recognizes the importance of developing fair and equitable interconnection agreements as a basis for the further expansion of solar and other alternative energy production in Bermuda. The Bermuda Energy Working Group which was established earlier this year has been working diligently for some time and is very near to proposing a recommended interconnection agreement. With regard to the interconnection agreements, the challenges are in the technical requirements and the cost recovery mechanism for any amounts paid. The primary concerns are the purchase price, but it is also the quality of power, intermittency, the safety of the systems, and the fairness of pricing not only in terms of what the utility will pay for power produced, but also how that cost is then absorbed by the rate base. This must be done so that it is sustainable, safe, and equitable to all rate payers, not just to those who are producing power. This must be done in close collaboration with the industry stakeholders, power producers, the Department of Energy and the Energy Commission. The process is complex, and it must be done correctly to avoid risk to the entire grid, or inequitable subsidies.

December 31. It was a year of controversy, a year of mourning and a year of celebration, but all eyes were on the economy in 2013. The Island's weak economy and the newly elected OBA Government's efforts to rebuild it remained in the headlines throughout the year as the Government battled to create new jobs while reducing its own spending. Unionized Government workers agreed to a pay cut following negotiations, and the SAGE Commission report proposed a number of potential cost cutting measures following wide consultation. Government highlighted several initiatives aimed at creating both temporary and permanent jobs, but their decisions have frequently been criticized by the Opposition as supporting businesses rather than the working class. Government passed legislation to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, pledged to end conscription and promised a public debate on the cannabis reform. But the OBA Government also found itself entrenched in a series of controversies during its first year in office, including the sudden termination of term limits, the scrapping of a promised referendum on gaming and the announced closure of the Lamb Foggo Urgent Care Centre ? a decision later reversed. Government however did not have a monopoly on controversy. The Corporation of Hamilton frequently found itself both in the media, and in the courts, over its handling of a number of issues, including the 262-year lease of the Hamilton Waterfront. The Island also joined with the world in mourning in 2013. Bermudians were rocked by the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, witnessed first hand terrorist attacks in Nairobi, and Boston, and came together to support those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. And the Island celebrated the unusual and remarkable birth of twins Emyr and Esai Bean ? born three months premature and eight days apart ? and the successful surgery that saved six-year-old Leighnae Lowe from a brain tumor.

December 31. Louise Jackson has been honoured by the Queen with an OBE for her years of public service and work for the Island's seniors. The former MP is one of four Bermudians celebrated in the Queens New Years Honours List for 2014, along with Stan Lord Necktie Seymour for his service in the arts and tourism, Kathleen Ester Ford for her community service, and David Michael Thompson for his service to Bermudas young people, and his missionary work. Mr Seymour, Mrs Ford, and Mr Thompson each received a Queens Certificate and Badge of Honour. Mrs Jackson spent most of her life as a teacher before entering the world of politics, serving as a Member of Parliament for the United Bermuda Party, and later the One Bermuda Alliance. She formally stepped down as an MP last December. In addition to her work advocating for the fair and equitable treatment of seniors in Bermuda, she has also served on numerous boards and committees. She was most recently appointed by George Fergusson to serve as a member of the Security and Defence Review Committee, aimed at providing a comprehensive assessment of Bermudas security needs. Outside of her work in politics, Mrs Jackson founded the National Dance Theatre of Bermuda, and was recognised in 1979 for her service to the arts. "This honour is a reflection of the way in which the community has worked with me as a Member of Parliament," Mrs Jackson said this afternoon. "Together we have addressed issues and challenges in the delivery of health services and the care of our seniors. The dignity of seniors, in particular, has been my focus and the most important aspect of my political career. Its a privilege to serve and be awarded the Queen's honour." Mr Seymour, known as the King of Calypso, was honoured for his work as one of the Islands foremost entertainment ambassadors. The Bermudian musician began performing at the age of 18 and became well known in the 1960s and 1970s. During his nearly 60 year career he sang with the Milt Robinson Trio, was a member of the Coral Islanders and performed with Brian Butterfield and the Bermuda Authentic Limbo Dancers. As a singer, songwriter and composer, Mr Seymour is also credited with helping to create the international image of Bermuda as a tourist destination. Mrs Ford was honoured for her work in the community, opening her home to serve meals and provide support for Bermudas seniors and less fortunate. She offers free lunches for as many as 40 people every Saturday afternoon, and was hailed for her selfless, generous nature and the devotion of her time and resources has been a blessing to many in our community. Mr Thompson, the president of the Bermuda Overseas Missions, was honoured for his contribution both to the people of Bermuda and the residents of the more than a dozen countries the charity has aided. Since the Bermuda Overseas Missions was founded in 2002, it has offered Bermudians of all backgrounds, ages and faiths an opportunity to make a global difference by building homes overseas for those in desperate need. More than half of the volunteers in the organization are young people, and Mr Thompson has said he believes their involvement in missionary work will help shape them into responsible, well rounded and compassionate adults.


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