Premier looking to cut cost of living
Amendments to the Price Commission Act would give the commission greater teeth — and a new name.
The Price Commission Amendment Act, tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday, would increase the cost of fines included in the 1974 Act tenfold.
Under the legislation, businesses can be ordered to provide the commission with information and documentation, along with keeping specified records.
According to the 1974 Act, businesses who fail to comply to such a notice could face a $500 fine.
However, if the amendment is approved, the maximum fine would be increased to $5,000, with a default further $500 fine every day that the noncompliance continues.
The amendment similarly increases the fine for anyone who refuses to give evidence under oath to the commission upon request.
The original Act however adds that a person will not be punished for refusing to answer any question or provide any document which he would not be required to answer or produce before a court in Bermuda.
The amendment would also change the name of the commission to the Cost of Living Commission.
The explanatory memorandum says: “The change in the title of the Act and the title of the commission is necessitated by the fact that matters of price control are to a greater extent now being dealt with by the Regulatory Authority.
“The commission’s main objective is now focused on matters of cost of living.”
The memorandum also says that an updated to the fines included in the Act is overdue, as they have not been changed in more than 40 years.
David Burt, the Premier, said he will to cut the cost of living in Bermuda through “additional competition”.
Mr Burt also announced plans for a new Cost of Living Commission at a reception for Bermudians in the UK on Monday.
He said: “For some time in Bermuda we have been very protective in our mindset and I think that we have to be a little less protective and explore how to make things more efficient.”
He added: “If we have more competition, we have more efficiency and that means the prices will come down”.
Mr Burt tabled amendments to the Price Commission Act last Friday to change the body’s name to the Cost of Living Commission and increase the fines it can hand out.
Mr Burt discussed the problem of high food prices and quoted a conversation with the head of “one of the big supermarkets”, who claimed she could lower prices by 15 to 20 per cent the next day if they cut out the middleman.
Mr Burt said: “People say that might destroy employment opportunities throughout the economy.
“But you also have to examine the additional spending that might create inside the economy which we can have in other types of places.”
The Premier also encouraged Bermudian students to return to the island after graduation and work experience.
He said: “One of the best ways to make Bermuda more affordable to live in is, surprisingly, to get more Bermudians living and working in Bermuda.
“The more people living and working in Bermuda, the more customers you have but also more ability to spread fixed expenses across a greater number of people.”
Mr Burt also discussed the island’s economic future and said the Government had worked hard to uphold Bermuda’s “sterling reputation” by continuing to be a “leader in tax transparency”.
He dismissed bids to label the island as a tax haven in the wake of the Paradise Papers — millions of files hacked from international law firm Appleby.
Mr Burt defended the island and said Bermuda was the opposite of “non-co-operative tax jurisdictions”.
He added: “We are leading in the international requirements, we have automatic exchange of information, we are doing everything that is a requirement for international standing.”
He added: “You can’t hide your money in Bermuda. The money that comes to Bermuda is often taxed on its way to Bermuda and on its way out.”
Katiyah Fubler, 21, said Mr Burt’s speech went “really well”.
Ms Fubler, who will finish her master of science degree in clinical biochemistry next year, said she hoped to get a job in Britain.
She added: “I will need experience. I think that’s another problem with Bermuda. I don’t think we have enough opportunities for people to come back.”
A Sandys woman visiting her student daughter in London said she was optimistic after she heard the Premier’s speech.
She added: “I’m hopeful that in due course we can see a positive move towards things like healthcare and affordable rents, so that we can pay for rent using our pension.
“Those sorts of things are what we are looking forward to in the future.”
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