Recession is over? Its effects are not ….

recessionFinance Minister Bob Richards says he thinks the recession is over – try telling that to this group of charities.

There may be signs that the recession is over, but the fallout of the recession is still being bitterly felt.

Government rises in health care costs have gone largely unreported because the announcement was overshadowed by the row over mammogrames. But the rise is steep and not only does it leave even less for pensioners to live on, it means charities are also considering shedding staff or closing altogether.

Consider how much Bermuda relies on the work of charities and that should make you wince with worry. (Ironically, the new hospital wing, the reason for some of the health cost hikes, has soaked up millions of dollars of donations which otherwise might have gone to them.)

Why are costs rising? There are less people on the Island but demand is still acute. It is simple maths, then, that costs will rise.

Why have people left the Island? Well, we know and they are not coming back in any great numbers so don’t be surprised if health care costs continue to rise. As they do, more and more people could be forced under or to the poverty line.

What do we do? We concentrate hard, ruthlessly, on controlling health care costs – and this is where Government comes into its own as it helps to take the lead, pushing other interested parties into taking part in meaningful ways.

Not to do so, via things like pre-certification; a tax on sugary drinks; subsidies of the costs of physical activities, big resonating health campaigns etc, risks Bermuda falling off a health cliff.

Of course, the rise in health costs is not the only thing affecting the island at the moment – Belco wants to raise its charges. Again, it has suffered from the effects of the recession.

There are some 600,000 sq ft of empty offices space in Hamilton alone where no-one is burning lights. Belco needs to modernize and it is also responsible to its shareholders who want decent dividends.

If you don’t like the idea of price rises to help pay good dividends, go and live in North Korea, that is a capitalist society for you.

Supermarkets say the rate rise could add as much as $500,000 to their electricity  costs – much of which will be passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices for food. The pensioner already seeing their pension disappear in health costs will be left, well…

So Bob may talk of the recession being over, but if it is, its fallout is going to be felt for a long time yet …..

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