Burt: Balanced budget first since 2003
This year’s Budget is the first in 16 years to be balanced, the Premier said yesterday.
David Burt declared that the island’s debt was to fall “for the first time since 2003”, in a Budget that “reflects our vision, and clearly demonstrates fiscal discipline while continuing our commitment to the needs of our citizens”.
The Premier highlighted the Budget’s proposals for mortgage relief, scholarships for high-achieving students to attend Bermuda College and payroll tax relief for retailers and local musicians.
He said: “The people of Bermuda were our priority in the last Budget, as they continue to be in this Budget, while we grow Bermuda’s economy and ensure that the benefits of that growth reach all persons and not just a select few.”
Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, emphasised the Budget’s “fiscal discipline during very challenging and uncertain times”.
He said: “I believe we have adopted a fiscally prudent and balanced approach that will move us forward towards a small budget surplus, and consequently, a reduction in net debt.”
Mr Dickinson singled out the European Union’s list of noncooperative jurisdictions as the greatest threat from overseas to the island’s international business sector and economy.
He said the Government’s decision to suspend mandatory annual contributions to the sinking fund and use it to repay debt, was a way to take advantage of the Government’s Budget surplus.
Mr Dickinson said: “Over the last ten years, we have been borrowing to save.”
The sinking fund was set up in 1993 as a reserve for the Government to pay down debt.
The minister said the Budget, delivered on Friday in the House of Assembly, would create conditions to foster economic growth, increase jobs, increase incomes and raise the standard of living for Bermudians.
Government revenues are forecast to rise by $28.6 million, while expenditure is to be shaved by four-tenths of a per cent.
He added: “This year the Government can report a budget surplus of $7.4 million, with total revenues of $1.118 billion.”