Dickinson: Immigration ‘front and centre’

  • Face the press: Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, addresses the media yesterday (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Immigration reform could be back on the agenda within weeks, the finance minister said yesterday.

Curtis Dickinson said concerns related to the thorny issue had been “front and centre” for Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security.

However, he would not put a time frame on the matter at a post-Budget press briefing at the Cabinet Office.

Mr Dickinson said immigration was a “complex and emotive” issue in Bermuda and that reform “needs to be done in a way that is sensitive to all the concerns expressed by various stakeholders”.

He told the media: “It’s difficult to do, and I think [Mr Caines] in the time that he has had this portfolio ... has been working this issue really hard, trying to be sensitive to all the various stakeholders.

“I’m confident that within the coming weeks something will materialise where we will table something.

“I don’t want to get ahead of the minister in terms of forecasting what his exact timing is going to be.”

Mr Dickinson was asked whether he thought the island’s economy needed more people.

He replied that Bermuda “needs more activity”.

“If more people lead to more activity, then yes,” he added.

Mr Caines postponed amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1965 related to mixed-status families last July when he said there were “important elements that remain unresolved”.

He said last November that the bipartisan immigration committee had met “every single day for weeks” in a bid to make progress.

Mr Caines added at the time: “We’re struggling on the piece around mixed-status families and creating more Permanent Resident’s Certificates in Bermuda and what that looks like long term.”

Mr Dickinson said the Budget was “designed to provide relief to those people that need it most as well as get the economy moving”.

He added: “The best way to get the economy moving is by increasing employment and also ensuring that people have more money available to spend.

“This Budget aims to create an environment for growth that will increase economic activity while striking the correct balance between fiscal and social responsibility.”

Mr Dickinson said that the payroll tax relief would “put money into the pockets of 75 per cent of employees in Bermuda”.

He added that payroll tax relief for small and medium-sized businesses would allow them to “expand their employee base”.

Mr Dickinson said: “This is a fiscally prudent Budget — one that ensures all Bermudians benefit while we grow this economy.”

He earlier spoke to Bermuda’s business community as a panel member at the Chamber of Commerce’s Budget Breakfast.

Mr Dickinson told the press conference that the Budget was “fairly well received” by those who attended.

He added: “This is my second Budget, of course, and I think, similar to last year’s, people were pleased with it.

“They thought it was balanced.”

Mr Dickinson said that there were no concerns expressed about immigration fees being raised by 5 per cent.

He added that the money would be used to make the operations of the immigration department more efficient.