Today I would like to provide this Honourable House with a report on the state of affairs pertaining to the Bermuda Post Office in particular, and the postal services worldwide, in general.
Mr Speaker, it is an accepted fact that the postal services worldwide have undergone significant changes due to several factors, including technological advances such as email, as well as the emergence of competition in the parcel post business, such as couriers. Regrettably, the postal service in Bermuda and around the world have not kept pace with these developments.
Mr Speaker, the entire postal service industry has been dramatically and negatively impacted by the evolution in the manner in which people ship their goods and transmit their mail. This evolution has been taking place for years now and it is clear that our postal service has to change its model or face certain demise.
Mr Speaker, against this backdrop, this Government has a vision to implement far-reaching and innovative changes in the way we deliver our postal services and products in Bermuda. To that end, this Government is now in the process of enhancing the Information Technology services and products that the Bermuda Post Office provides in order to bring it up to the 21st century.
Mr Speaker, I am therefore, pleased to report to this Honourable House that the Bermuda Post Office is currently undergoing major upgrades in its systems that will have great benefits to the general public.
Mr Speaker, we are currently in the first phase of installing an IT programme called SWIFT 1 with the second phase, SWIFT 2, being completed within the coming weeks. Once these major IT enhancements are completed, the BPO will be able to provide a wide range of products to the general public, including online services, bill payments and other transactions not normally associated with the postal service. Eventually, these will be available in every post office throughout Bermuda and will provide a greater convenience to the public, while ensuring more efficiency in how Government provides its services to its people.
Mr Speaker, we are confident that these new services will make life simpler and more convenient for the general public once they are up and running.
Mr Speaker, on the global issues facing the postal service, I recently attended a conference hosted by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) wherein the serious challenges facing postal services worldwide were discussed at great length and detail. The UPU is a United Nations chartered organization that was founded in 1874. It currently has 192 countries amongst its membership and it sets the rules for international mail exchanges, which includes the setting of postal rates.
Mr Speaker, the brief synopsis is that the United States has issued notice of its intention to withdraw its membership from the UPU with effect from October 18 2019. Should the US proceed with this notice, the adverse ramifications for Bermuda and the rest of the world will be significant.
Mr Speaker, at the heart of this matter is the disagreement on the rates charged for parcels shipped internationally. The US has stated that it costs more for mail and parcels to be delivered within the US, say from New York to Florida, than it does for a parcel shipped from China to the US. With the vast amount of parcels shipped from China, this is causing anguish with the US and they consequently, are seeking to leave the UPU.
Mr Speaker, should the US withdraw from the UPU, they would be able to set their own postal rates and this in turn, would cause turmoil and volatility in the worldwide shipping rates, with a resultant increase in costs for mail and parcels. Equally worrying with the US withdrawing from the UPU would be the devastating logistical effects it would have on worldwide postal services. For example, the United States Postal Service could refuse to handle international post and parcels and we would be forced to contract an independent vendor in the US to deliver our packages within the US.
Mr Speaker, to resolve this matter, the UPU is hosting a special congress in September during which several options will be discussed and eventually, voted on. We are hopeful that, after discussions and resolutions are reached in September, the US will remain in the UPU and that an agreement can be reached on the way forward with the setting of universal rates that are agreeable to all members.
Mr. Speaker, I hasten to point out at this juncture that the UPU recently awarded Bermuda with its Gold Star Award, a highly prestigious and coveted award. UPU inspectors were recently in Bermuda conducting a thorough examination of the security systems of the BPO. The overall process of this Security Review included the review of documentation and observation of our processes.
Mr Speaker, Bermuda achieved a 26 out of 26 for Satisfied in the Rating Outcome and a 59 out of 59 for Characterization Outcome. In addition to these brilliant outcomes, these inspectors reported that they were very impressed with the high standard of professionalism amongst the BPO staff.
Mr Speaker, this is a significant accomplishment not only for the BPO but also, for all of Bermuda since we are the first in the Caribbean region, and the second in the world, to be given this award. I offer my commendations to the Acting Post Master General and the entire team at the BPO for this outstanding achievement and all of Bermuda should be proud of this milestone.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I am looking forward to the innovative upgrades we are making to the BPO’s products and services and I am certain that all of Bermuda will reap the benefits of these improved services.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.