What Bermuda's business leaders want to see in tomorrow's Budget
Premier Paula Cox delivers her Budget Statement tomorrow. Here's what a selection of business organisations, and economist Bob Stewart, are hoping the Budget will address.
Restaurant Division Chamber of Commerce
• Continuation of Payroll Tax Relief: “The economy and recession has been the most trying that operators can remember in living memory. The payroll tax relief has probably been the only thing keeping some restaurants open. This initiative is imperative to keep in place until we see an improvement in the economy.”
• Continuation of Duty Relief on Capital Projects: “Perhaps not as utilised as in past years, however the cost to outfit restaurants is very capital intensive, especially considering the shipping charges we pay. This relief was the reason why restaurants did continue to reinvent themselves to bring the quality of our furnishings and fittings up to a global standard.”
• No increase in Liquor and Health Licences: “Last year saw an increase in health licences and it was a very difficult pill to swallow considering the continued slide most, if not all, restaurants continue to see in their top line revenues. For many restaurants below line costs such as electricity and gas (due to increase in global oil prices) have seen significant increases. This has resulted in an ever dwindling bottom line that risks becoming unsustainable very soon.”
Keith Jensen, president, Bermuda Employers' Council
“Hopefully, this year's Budget will make an impact on Government's expenses and an impact on stimulating the economy, particularly employment. Business incentives will be welcomed to push the hiring of staff while additional taxes or rollbacks of current tax decreases may throw marginal firms over the edge. We are very concerned to learn if there are any agreements resulting from any “horse trading” during Government's negotiations with the TUC and the BIU that may affect the Island later.”
Bob Stewart, economist
Mr Stewarts offers a six point plan for the Premier:
• Reduce the civil service.
• Abolish Dept of Tourism (ditto for Dept of Education although this would be more difficult).
• End defined benefit pension schemes for civil servants.
• End benefits for seniors.
• Put an embargo on foreign travel which serves only to boost the egos of politicians.
• More symbolically reduce ministerial salaries, as well as Parliamentary salaries.
Peter Everson, Co-Chair, Economics Committee of the Chamber of Commerce is hoping for:
• A realistic assessment of the fragile state of the domestic economy;
• A recognition that the size of Government is too large for the economy to support;
• A recognition that replacing work permit holders with Bermudians, whilst an important knee-jerk response to Bermudian unemployment, further weakens the economy by reducing the number of residents;
• A reasoned medium term strategy outlining how the economic decline will be stopped and the key elements necessary for the recovery to commence.
• Based upon the foregoing, a credible medium term strategy to bring the Government finances back into balance
John Harvey, Bermuda Hotel Association CEO issued this statement when asked for his wish list:
“The BHA, the BIU and the Ministry of Finance has carefully monitored the financial performance of the Hotel Industry for the last three years and with this collective approach have managed to the best of our ability a very challenging financial environment.
“Our current forecast for 2012 indicates that much work must and needs to be done to achieve respectable hotel occupancies and the BHA is committed to continue to work with the Minister of Tourism to fill as many hotel beds as possible.
“As a consequence to the above, and having shared our concerns with the Ministry of Finance and the BIU, it is imperative that we continue to work together in 2012 so that the hotels and our employees are able to weather the storm for one more year.”
We also sought comments from the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Bermuda Public Services Union, but they did not provide any by press time last night