Business leaders encouraged by Throne Speech
Two business organisations have said they are broadly encouraged by the contents of today’s Throne Speech.
John Wight, vice-president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, in a statement, said: “The Throne Speech was well balanced, with a recognition that several initiatives such as the America’s Cup have and will continue to benefit the Bermudian economy, while acknowledging that the upward turn in the overall economy is being felt by different sectors in differing degrees.
“The Government debt remains a large concern for Bermudians. It was reassuring to hear that for the first time since 2008 Bermuda has recorded positive Gross Domestic Product for three consecutive quarters.
“In addition, the current account recorded a surplus for the first six months of 2015, excluding debt service. This is strong evidence that the economy is moving in the right direction.
“It remains to be seen whether the initiatives in place for 2016 to address Bermuda’s financial condition will be bold and far reaching enough to enable Bermuda to start working down its substantial debt in the period required to do so.
“The Throne Speech covered a wide range of topics. Government has a very ambitious year ahead with many initiatives requiring either new legislation or changes to current legislation. I would hope that these be prioritised so that the ones that are most impactful to Bermudians and that produce jobs get the full attention that they deserve.
“Reference was made to the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre, an IMF regional body, undertaking a comprehensive review of Bermuda’s tax system and its administration.
“While increasing revenues is a necessity for the Government, increasing taxes on a decreasing tax base, following the loss of thousands of jobs in Bermuda since 2009, will not be easy.
“Reference was made in the speech to changing policies to improve the flow of foreign capital to Bermuda, which I think must be a priority.
“The recession has been especially impactful because of the numbers of jobs lost and people leaving Bermuda. It is difficult to see how many of our members will realise the required growth in their businesses before Bermuda can successfully bring more capital and jobs to the island.
“Overall I thought the Throne Speech was very positive. As with every plan for the future, the detail will now be in its execution.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Catlin, chairman of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), said: “ABIR is encouraged by the Government’s decision to proceed with an impartial, apolitical panel of economic experts to focus on Bermuda’s needs to “provide independent, external reports of the Government’s fiscal performance against the fiscal rules established” as noted in the Throne Speech today.”