Business backs Govts moves to cut red tape
Government is to act swiftly to fix the economy, and has pledged to cut red tape and streamline avenues for job creation and business development.
It intends to work closely with the private sector to create a more welcoming environment for local and international business, and seek advice on lowering debt.
Last night the business community was roundly supportive of the economic measures outlined in yesterdays Throne Speech.
Bermuda has just finished its fourth consecutive year of economic contraction. However, Government intends to transform the Islands fortunes for the better with new initiatives including on overarching Jobs and Economic Turnaround Plan.
The plan, as stated in the Throne Speech, requires disciplined financial management that will eliminate wasteful Government spending and reduce the public debt.
Outside expertise will be tapped to provide advice and guidance on debt issues through a Public Debt Advisory Board. The boards members will be drawn from the private sector to provide strategic, unbiased and sound advice to the Finance Minister on existing and future borrowing requirements.
Government is also stepping up the collection of large sums of unpaid taxes that are owed.
A short-lived Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission is to be created to streamline government processes, including quangos. The commission will provide public independent guidance and advice to Government. The commission will terminate its work after producing its final report, which is expected within six months of its formation.
Ensuring sustainable growth and job creation in the international business sector, as well as other areas, is a commitment of the new Ministry of Economic Development. It will work closely with other Ministries to streamline approvals for new business and investment opportunities, and create a more welcoming environment.
The objective is to provide job creators with a consistent point of contact and a seamless, timely, efficient and thorough response, explained Government through the Throne Speech.
As an incentive for employers to choose local workers there will be a two-year payroll-tax exemption for new Bermudian hirings (see separate story).
Government is merging Business Bermuda and the Insurance Development Council into a new entity, the Bermuda Business Development Corporation, to promote the Islands marketplace abroad. Regular reviews and changes to the Companies Act and other legislation will be made to increase the Islands competitiveness, and designed specifically in the coming year to attract more private equity, asset management and trust business.
There will also be reviews of the Economic Development Corporation and Economic Development zones, reforms in the telecommunications sector aimed at improving service and value for money, and the creation of a National Training Centre in the former Magistrates Court building.
Having abolished term limits, Government pledged to protect Bermudians right to work and increase penalties for employers who breach immigration rules.
Reacting to the Throne Speech, Keith Jensen of the Bermuda Employers Council, endorsed Government for its increased cooperation on economic, business and social issues, and its pledge to improve the speed at which new large-scale developments can be brought to fruition.
The BEC supports measures to ensure outstanding taxes, social insurance payments are collected, and measures to increase penalties for anyone flouting our Immigration laws, he said.
We are on record of endorsing the elimination of term limits policy to give the Island the opportunity to improve our international competitiveness, to attract and retain business. Employment, labour markets, work permits, education, training, investment and the drive to end the recession do not operate independently of each other; consequently, we welcome the role and formation of the Department of Workforce Development.
Doug Soares of employment services firm Expertise Ltd said: My sense is that the new Government is poised to act with a sense of urgency.
While some in our community are alarmed when change happens swiftly, we have to get used to moving at a faster pace. In the past Bermuda has been rigid and slow to change whereas other jurisdictions have been agile and faster to do what it takes to attract and retain jobs. Proper consultation must happen but it should take days not years.
Chamber of Commerce president Ronnie Viera welcomed the payroll exemption for Bermudian hiring. He added: We are encouraged by their plan to address spending by creating a SAGE commission, which is critical to reducing future debt requirements. Certainly, there are various aspects to the speech which indicate that Government is listening to industry and by forming advisory boards, they are setting up a structure whereby stakeholders will continue to be able to provide input in a number of key areas.
Businessman Steve Thompson said: My reaction to these proposals is very positive. I applaud the Government for beginning the process of creating growth in Bermuda which will in turn mean employment for Bermudians.
The previous Government literally chased away our clients by making them feel unwelcome in Bermuda. They answered this by leaving Bermuda and thereby reducing employment levels for Bermudians.
Lets create an environment where our partners, the international business community, feels appreciated and valued and we are will ultimately win by creating growth in Bermuda which will translate into jobs for our fellow Bermudians.
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