Budget a ‘slow-motion tragedy’, says Dunkley
The Budget is a “slow-motion tragedy” for the Island after Government repeatedly failed to listen to the recession warnings, according to Sen
The Opposition Senator said people were living on an island with “violence, debt, and unemployment” as the financial struggles of Bermudians had been lost on the Government.
Sen Dunkley said he was “very concerned about the future of the Country” as he spoke during a general debate on the 2011-12 Budget in the Upper Chamber. He said this year's Budget statement was “a classic cop-out and an unfolding slow-motion tragedy for the Island”.
“It's an election budget plain and simple,” he said. “It's a do-little, feel-good Budget that does nothing to address the facts.”
Sen Dunkley, who was one of the last to speak in the debate, said he was very upset about where the Country stood economically. He said there had been plenty of recession warnings from experts but “unfortunately Government ignored, dismissed or made light of the threats”.
“Government has saddled us with what could be crippling debt and damaged the Island's self-confidence and morale. They have left an unfair burden on our children and their children who will be paying for this Government's mismanagement and indiscretion for many years to come.”
Sen Dunkley accused Government of showing a lack of leadership, an absence of reality-based thinking, no responsibility for the public purse and no principles of good governance.
He blamed the PLP for raising revenue at the wrong time, making bad spending decisions and unaccountable spending. He named the over-spending of the cruise ship terminal at Dockyard and Hamilton's new police station-court building as examples.
Sen Dunkley said: “We have witnessed a stinking rise in debt and unemployment is a daily fact of life. I believe people of Bermuda deserve better.
“Bermudians expect sound financial leadership with a clear vision of the future. We have to get things back on track. Bermuda can't afford more years of this type of Government.”
Sen Dunkley said Government was “out of touch with reality” as the 2010-2011 Budget slogan 'Road to Recovery' was the worst advertising ever seen.
He said: “That suggests there is a direction, but there was no plan, no strategy to get us out of the hole we are in. Instead of road to recovery, the Government has actually taken a wrong turn on the road to ruin.”
As for the 2011-2012 Budget slogan of 'Resetting the Dial', Sen Dunkley said: “They have to try re-setting something.”
Sen Dunkley suggested tax relief for those earning less than $50,000, reforming term limits, creating entry-level positions at local businesses and minister pay-cuts. He also suggested the sharing around of government contracts, bringing cruise ships back to Hamilton and St George's and putting the five-star service back into tourism.
David Burch hit back at Sen Dunkley's comments saying the PLP had inherited a 19th century ferry service, hot and stuffy buses with a lack of affordable housing and no free day-care.
The Minister for National Security said Government had spent money as “we promised the people certain things and these things had a price tag”.
He said: “I am not going to apologise for spending. Saying we need to apologise for our spending is nonsense.
“We spent when we could. Any political hate is misplaced.”
Sen Burch said even though the police budget had been slashed, there would be no change in the fight against crime. He said the overspending on police overtime “can and must be better” but police officers would continue to “get the job done and get it done well”.
He said all ministries had felt the pain of cutting back but it now should be seen as the time for innovation and other economic pursuits.
He said: “We're trying to deliver on our promises and that's where we are heading and that's where we shall stay.”