More Thoughts on the UBP Platform – Part One

Okay, I’ve been quite busy in the real world the last few days, but I’ve had a little time to go over the UBP platform a bit more now.

I know this is a rather petty and superficial critique, but the more I read through their platform the more it bugs me. Quite frankly, from a purely superficial point of view, I find the formatting of this document to be, well, quite bad.

The superimposed pictures of differing resolutions qualities come across as truly garish at times. And it looks like they’ve done some really wierd ‘wrap-around’ text formatting (I think thats the right term for it). The columns are rather higgedly-piggedly, and paragraphs are unnecessarily cut off at odd places, all of which makes the document slightly difficult to read. Also, the colour scheme doesn’t do it a lot of justice, kind of makes reading it a rather glaring experience at times. Also, while I admit there is a lot of content – more so than the PLP Platform – sometimes the rule ‘less is more’ should be invoked, as the UBP document has a tendency to be unnecessarily dense at times, something that negatively interacts with the aforementioned factors to make reading the entire document more effort demanding than it really needs to be.

Both PLP and UBP documents do suffer from some glaring typos which makes one wonder who did the proof reading. I get the sense that the UBP had created a draft platform in anticipation of producing a more polished document in time for a summer 2008 election. The calling of the election for December 2007 I think caught them a bit off guard, and this seems to be reflected in the poor presentation of their document.

However, as I said above, this is more of a superficial critique than anything else, so I’ll move on to some more substantial review of the platform.

Financing

I have found that many anti-PLPers are criticising the PLP for not providing a plan with which to finance a lot of its ‘major highlights’ – particularly public transport, free daycare and free tuition at the Bda College. This is a valid criticism, and one that I admit the PLP has not done an adequate job of providing an explanation. Personally I am assuming that apart from using some of the existing budget more wisely (there have been unnecessary expenses in my opinion), some funds – in particular public transportation and subsidies for alternative energies – will be raised by so called Pigovian (sin) taxes.

The most that I can gather from the PLPs Platform in relation to finances that give an insight into the plans for financing some of these goals are found in the section ‘Secure Hands; Strong Economy‘ (p.42-45). In particular the statement (p.44):

“With the foundation of strong economic and financial management, we have fashioned these results with the help of our enlightened tax policy. Fair and reasonable taxes help to build our community. Tax breaks and tax concessions excite the community and lead to development and happiness.

The Progressive Labour Party Government’s tax policy has both elements in its fiscal management, namely fair and reasonable taxes and, tax breaks and tax concessions.”

I also think the section ‘The Power of Partnerships’ (p.38) also gives some insight into plans for financing – essentially a continuation of public-private partnership.

The UBP however is offering similar plans which will also require increased financing, but I have not found any mention in their platform regarding plans on how to finance such initiatives. The most that I find in their platform is ‘Taxation: Reducing the Tax Burden’ on p.30 of their platform. Here they launch an attack on the PLP accusing them of greatly increasing the ‘tax burden’ on the Bdian people. I know the PLP has accused the UBP here of misrepresentation of fact here (I cannot find a link to where I read this) but I haven’t really investigated it too much yet I admit. The point however is that rather than point out how monies would be raised to finance their proposed initiatives the UBP instead appears to want their cake and eat it to; they want to provide these initiaves without having to provide/raise the money to do so. Their central argument for government finances seems to be to cut taxes – reduce government finances – while also expanding government services.

The two really don’t seem to add up from where I stand.

Other clues to how the UBP might seek to provide funds for their initiatives however does come on p.39 ‘Streamlining Government: Cutting Cost and Size While Improving Efficiency.’

For example, the UBP has quite often criticised governmental travel expenses. While I am inclined to believe that their have been some excesses by the PLP government in this regard, I also believe that it is important for Bda to be actively engaged on the world stage for the long-term benefit of the nation and its economy. I just think we could probably do this with a little bit more fiscal prudence and responsibility with the peoples money. Nonetheless, even should the UBP, should it become government next week, drastically cut back governmental travel expenses, I do not believe this move would drastically free up monies sufficient for their proposed initiatives.

I am also aware of the UBPs statements on civil service restructuring and some other ideas for cutting costs. They call this reducing ‘the size of the civil service through attrition.’ I’m not really sure what they mean by this term. I generally use it in its military sense, and this comes across to me as a very ominous proposal. Essentially it sounds to me as if they plan on deliberately sabotaging or otherwise undermining aspects of the civil service with the intent of ‘encouraging’ civil servants to leave the public sector and instead join the private sector, if not outright redundancies (with the sense of being willing and believing they can survive any strike action a la Sarkozy). Perhaps I am not understanding what is meant here, so hopefully they can expand on this further. The recent comment by them, as reported by the PLP Blog, doesn’t really say to much other than evading the answer in the manner of Blair’s non-denial denials.

Other plans for ‘streamlining’ include shutting down the Government operated CITV, reducing the number of GP cars, replacing open ended ministerial expenditures with reimbursible expenditutre, and dropping consultancy fees.

I have yet to watch CITV, but I don’t see any reason to justify shutting it down. I think it can be a valuable asset for Bermuda in time, even if it is still in its infancy, complete with some bugs. I would like to see it devoted to televising local sports and sittings of Parliament and the Senate.

I agree with the argument that there is too much dependence on consultants. I think as a society we remain stuck in a colonial mentality of looking to the outside for answers when I think there is plenty of room for local grassroots initiatives. I don’t reject all consultants, but I do think there has been too much dependence on foreign advisors and money could have been put to better use (funding social entrepreneurship – something that the PLP Platform does touch upon on p.22 ‘Empowerment & Entrepreneurship’).

I also agree in principle with the criticism of open-ended credit to Government ministers. I do not have the data in front of me to say that this has been abused, but I think the option of reimbursement can reduce the potential for abuse. I would like to review the pros and cons of this before really forming a formal conclusion though.

On reducing the number of GP cars, I’m not really convinced by this argument. I would like to see the phased replacement of all private gasoline-powered cars with alternative energy cars, complete with a commitment to buidling the country-wide infrastructure necessary for the success of this. I think Government vehicles should serve as vanguards in this respect.

Ultimately I am not convinced that the UBP presents any more of a plan for financing their platforms initiatives than the PLP does. If anything the UBP proposals contradict each other, expanded government services and financial expenses on one hand, and reduced (streamlined in their jargon) government income and government services on the other hand.

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2 thoughts on “More Thoughts on the UBP Platform – Part One

  1. Pingback: A Limey In Bermuda

  2. I would like to thank Limey for his elaboration on this issue.

    I remain wary though, and see only a slight difference between the definition of attrition he percieves to be involved and my own conception. I agree that Limey’s conception is more in line with what the UBP intends. However, I have personally found that the civil service is generally understaffed as it is. Even the UBP platform acknowledges this, especially in its section on labour and immigration, and I believe also in their bit on the environment. They explicitly call, at least in the immigration bit, for increasing the levels of staffing there, and thus one sees a contradiction between their positions at this point.

    In my general experience, while ‘attrition’ is ‘better’ than layoffs, it has its own set of problems. Through attrition what one ends up achieving is making fewer workers doing the same (and sometimes more) work than was done before with more workers. This will increase the rate of attrition overall, or at least turnaround, all of which negatively impacts the quality of service provided (as experience is lost, and stress increases). Should wages increase, or other benefits come into play to otherwise compensate for this increased exploitation of labour come into play to reduce the otherwise negative impacts of increased labour, this actually makes the whole point of the attrition exercise moot – the costs of labour increase neutralising the short-term benefit of this attrition strategy.

    I will admit that there is some ‘dead-wood’ in the civil service, and that they can indeed do things better. I just do not believe that the strategy of attrition or other such ‘external’ restructuring is the right answer. More ‘internal’ restructuring, complete with greater cooperation between ministries, more input in decision making and greater compensation for labour would be better incentives for making the civil service more effective than attrition, which as I see it is a vieled threat of increasing the rate of labour exploitation over time. This indeed is the strategy behind both Sarkozy and Giulani’s philosophy of attrition for streamlining the civil service.

    So, while I acknowledge that Limey’s definition of attrition is more exact, I feel it will result in a situation more akin to the military definition of attrition, increasing the general rate of turnaround, attrition and reduce the effectiveness of the civil service in the long term.

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