As most readers now the Government had put a temporary injunction on the RG concerning a story they were going to print. A Supreme Court judge lifted that injunction, and the RG has now published their story. Basically it seems that a Cabinet memo concerning the purchase of some office buildings in Hamilton, particularly the old Swan building on Victoria Street (opposite the Marketplace there), was leaked to the RG.
After reading through the story I have to admit that I am at a bit of a loss why the Government even bothered to try and prevent the publication of the story. It really does strike me as a waste of time and political capital on the part of the Government. At best I reckon it was the principle of keeping Cabinet documents secret, you know, not wishing to set a precedent for future Cabinet documents.
I have to admit I was expecting something alot more juicy than this, even if this relevation has some interesting aspects all the same.
I agree with Minister Burgess’s argument about relocating Government offices out of rented buildings in order to reduce long-term costs. I don’t have a problem with that at all, in fact I think it is a good idea. In fact, that was, afterall one of the reasons behind the new Court building, at least as I understood it. So I’m cool with that bit of the memo.
I do however seriously question why the focus was on the Swan building and to a lesser degree the old Bank of Bermuda building on Par-la-Ville. For starters, the price of $25 million for the Swan building, which must be at least thirty years old now, is seriously overpriced, especially in our current economic climate. Then again, I’m certainly not an expert on the costs of these office buildings, but I seriously get the feeling that Government would be getting ripped off in this deal.
Secondly, if Government really wanted to save costs over the long-term, as well as help stimulate the economy, it seems to me it would make much more sense for Government to commission a brand new building. Doing so would help the construction industry as other works dry up, thus helping a good number of Bermudian workers who may otherwise be facing unemployment or reduced wages otherwise. Also, a brand new building could be custom-built for Government’s requirements, as well as take advantage of new energy-saving technologies. The new building could also be used to help invigorate otherwise depressed areas of the City, or even outside of the City altogether.
Simply buying these old buildings will see only a transfer of public monies to the already rich, whereas constructing a new building could distribute monies more fairly, help with stimulating the economy and help reduce the threat of unemployment for many workers.
Again, I have no problem with moving Government offices out of privately owned buildings to save costs, but I am surprised at the consideration of the two buildings involved. Granted, constructing a brand new building will undoubtedly cost more initially than purchasing the Swan or Bank of Bermuda building, and will increase government debt, but at least such construction can help stimulate the economy and help secure jobs.