Kempe questions funding of new PLP initiatives
The economy and jobs for Bermudians were among the major topics discussed in the Senate yesterday as the Throne Speech was debated.
One Bermuda Alliance senator Nick Kempe said he believed that the focus for job creation should be on the private sector rather than creating a bloated government workforce.
He also raised concerns about how many initiatives being put forward by the new Progressive Labour Party government would be funded.
Mr Kempe said: “It would be useful to see where these funds are coming from and I am sure when the legislation comes through we will be able to dig a bit deeper on a number of these items, but staffing up foreign embassy offices and lobbying centres have considerable costs attached and I hope that they can be staffed from within our existing civil service simply via a reallocation of priorities as opposed to creating the jobs that we need by government doing all the hiring.
“I think that we need to focus our efforts on job creation through the private sector because the burden of consumption of government as an entity on revenue collected is very high.”
Independent senator James Jardine said the island’s economic recovery is going through “a very fragile period” and must be handled with care.
And he questioned how around 65 initiatives mentioned in the Throne Speech would be funded.
But Progressive Labour Party senator Jason Hayward highlighted the decline in Bermudian jobs and the alarming level of youth unemployment.
Mr Hayward said his party’s plan to create a National Workforce Development Plan would “connect people with jobs and jobs with people”.
He told the Senate that the Throne Speech contained “achievable goals”.
He added: “Our aim is to progress the lives of Bermudians and create a fairer Bermuda in a collaborative fashion and cost-effective way.
“We will not rush our implementation and ensure that we measure twice and cut once.”
Mr Kempe said the PLP Throne Speech reference to “ripple effect economics” was demonstrated by the island’s hosting of the America’s Cup.
He added: “Ripple effect economics was a term used to mean a multiplier.
“Funnily enough, one of the most effective multipliers that Bermuda has seen was by way of the America’s Cup, which was so thoroughly vilified, so I find it ironic that ripple effect economics is the new gold standard for this government.”
Mr Kempe also highlighted “cavalier” references to independence in Sen Hayward’s Labour Day address.
He said: “Bearing in mind the tentative situation with Brexit and our role as a Crown colony and the perceptions that that backdrop gives us when we are borrowing and the stability of our borrowing rates, I am quite concerned that these sorts of things are thrown around in such a cavalier manner.”
Senate Opposition leader Nandi Outerbridge pointed out that PLP senator and Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons said that the OBA had put Bermuda on a path to sustainability and on the way to balancing the budget in her Senate opening speech.
She added that she would have liked to have heard that on the day of the Throne Speech. Sen Outerbridge added that the Financial Assistance rules that state that if a recipient is claiming and finds a job, the earnings must be returned, should be changed.
She was backed by Mr Kempe who said the rule was a “100 per cent tax on earnings” and suggested that a smaller amount be taken — perhaps 50 per cent.
Ms Outerbridge also told Senate that a new bus schedule drafted under the OBA should be implemented.
She said: “The draft schedules the buses better so they can go into maintenance.”
Mr Jardine welcomed the bipartisan and “all encompassing” review of immigration policy and said it was better than focusing on “one or two specific issues”.
He added: “We need to increase our working population because it is the working population that supports all of us.”
Independent senator Michelle Simmons added: “Economic growth is essential if we are to return to a healthy economy. It is critically important to get Bermudians back to work so that Bermudians can participate in the economy of their own country.”
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