‘I warned people about this’ Bob Richards
Bermuda is on the cusp of a national economic emergency, according to the United Bermuda Party.
Yesterday Shadow Economic Minister Bob Richards said Government must help retool the economy, and its operations, in order to come out of the recession competitive.
Mr Richards said: “We have witnessed a general deterioration in our economic strengths and contractions in key money-earning businesses.
“We are experiencing widespread joblessness and facing long-term unemployment. Whole sectors of the economy are in jeopardy. The situation is dire.”
Mr Richards who has been called a doomsayer by the previous Government administration for stating the economy was overheating and then going into a recession said Bermuda would not be in the position it now is if he had been Finance Minister.
“I warned people about this,” he said. “My mother used to say when people can’t hear they have to feel, and now Bermudians are feeling [the impacts of the economy].”
He suggested Ministers should take a ten to 15 percent pay cut as a way of showing leadership by example.
“Over the past few weeks, we have seen the Government ask workers to agree to overtime pay bans to help get costs under control to sacrifice for the greater good,” he said.
“We believe Government should not ask workers to lead the way in cost-cutting without first leading by example.”
In the Throne Speech Premier Paula Cox pledged to cut Government costs by $150 million.
Mr Richards said the public should reject any Government plan that ‘meets’ its $150 million cutback by cancelling or postponing capital projects that have not yet broken ground.
“If it is serious about curbing its spending habits, Government must show real reductions,” he said.
The UBP would cut consultants’ pay, not replace retiring civil servants and institute a pay freeze for civil servants in the upcoming Budget.
When pressed further on what big-ticket items he would cut, such as programmes or services, Mr Richards said he would outline their position in the Reply to the Budget in mid-February.
He added the Government could stimulate the economy by paying its bills within 30 days to local vendors, fast-tracking the Department of Planning and allocating 20 percent of Government’s spending on goods and services to small businesses.
He added that Bermuda appeared to be doing worse than some of its competitors.
“[In the reply to the Budget] I am going to be able to show that some of our competitors are coming out of the recession better than we are.
“Some people think it will return, that we just have to wait it out.
“I think that is incredibly wrong. In a recession we have to retool so when things get better we are ready for it.”
He added: “Bermuda has to change the way it does business. [We are] inefficient, obtrusive.
“We’ve built up an industry of red tape across decades; built on assumptions that Bermuda needed to control the world coming to it to prevent it from being overwhelmed.
“It is a regime where people can’t do anything without permission such as the Department of Planning or Department of Immigration.
“The UBP put in a lot of this red tape but the world has changed and we have to change with it.
“I believe that a lot of the assumptions behind this red tape are no longer relevant.”
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