Furbert silent over finance shake-up

  • Wayne Furbert

Wayne Furbert remains tight-lipped over the shake-up that led to him being named the new Junior Minister of Finance last week.

Members of the Opposition, however, have been vocal in criticising the move.

A media release on Sunday evening advised that Mr Furbert, MP for Hamilton West, had been sworn in by John Rankin, the Governor, on Friday.

Senator Vance Campbell who also has responsibilities for public works and government reform, was previously unveiled as the junior minister for finance as well at a ceremony held in early August.

Asked yesterday about the circumstances behind the change, Mr Furbert said: “I can’t answer that one.”

Mr Furbert said he was also the “wrong person” to ask about why the shuffle was not announced at a press conference.

“I was just appointed,” Mr Furbert said.

“I can’t answer that question.”

Asked about what skills and qualifications he would bring to the position, Mr Furbert pointed to his publicly accessible biography on both the Progressive Labour Party and Parliament websites. He added: “My qualifications are very clear.”

Asked to comment on speculation that the change was made because he had been upset about being left out of the original cabinet, Mr Furbert said: “I’m not going to even answer that. That’s dumb.”

Mr Furbert added: “I’m the Junior Minister of Finance and I’ll govern myself accordingly working with the minister.”

David Burt, the Premier, said that Mr Furbert would earn $11,387 a year in the position.

The appointment, the Premier said, would allow him to focus on two current undertakings “vital to Bermuda’s economy” — Bermuda’s FATF evaluation and the ongoing work of the EU’s Code of Conduct Group.

“The Constitution allows the Premier to appoint junior ministers to assist with duties in the Legislature and MP Wayne Furbert will handle most finance-related legislation in the House,” Mr Burt said.

He added: “I am pleased he has agreed to assist me in my parliamentary duties related to finance. It is my determination that this will assist the Government in better executing its mandate.”

Mr Burt said Mr Campbell would continue to handle finance matters in the Upper House.

Asked about the shuffle, Mr Campbell said that there would be no change in his responsibilities.

“I will still handle matters relating to finance in the Senate and continue to serve as Junior Minister for Public Works and Government Reform,” Mr Campbell said.

Pressed on how his responsibilities would not change despite no longer being Junior Minister of Finance, Mr Campbell said: “As it relates to the Senate, there will be no change in my responsibilities.” Michael Dunkley, the former premier, questioned both the cost associated with the switch, as well as the timing.

He said in a social media post on Monday: “In Opposition, the current Premier questioned the size of the Cabinet, which was less of a burden on the taxpayer than the current one. Why the double-speak?”

Mr Dunkley added: “A Junior Minister for Finance was appointed in the Senate less than three months ago. Why the change so quickly?”

The Smith’s North MP also questioned Mr Furbert’s qualifications. “Although MP Furbert is an accountant, his experience and actual track record recently raises serious questions about the financial advice he can provide,” Mr Dunkley said.

Senator Nick Kempe, who had previously voiced concern over the salary bill of Cabinet, said he remained “hopeful that spending across the rest of Government does not follow the example being set at the top”.

“Otherwise, the PLP will struggle to maintain their campaign promise of a balanced budget by 2019.”

He added: “Despite increased spending being a news item last week, the Premier has decided to add yet another junior minister to the payroll further widening the spending gap with the last OBA cabinet.

“I hope that the 24-seat majority does not require too many concessions to keep the backbenchers content.”