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Burt press conference remarks on economy

David Burt, left, the Shadow Minister for Finance, at today's press conference with fellow Opposition MP Jamahl Simmons (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Members of the media, thank you for joining us here today. Today I am going to address the ongoing Jobs Crisis in Bermuda, which was crystalized by the latest unemployment figures which showed record unemployment in Bermuda.

Before I get to the meat of the report, let me address the lateness of this report. During the UBP and OBA time in Opposition, we heard a constant refrain of the need to be timely with statistics. Please note we are receiving this report in January, 2015. This survey has the same methodology of the survey done in 2012, under the PLP, and that survey was released in October. There is no excuse for the delay and the OBA needs to give a better explanation than the Minister of Finance required additional validation of the statistics. The Minister of Finance cannot be that out of touch to not know that we have a Jobs Crisis here in Bermuda. The people in the Department of Statistics are professionals, and I don’t think they need their work double checked because the numbers don’t match the OBA’s story of recovery.

Unlike the Minister of Finance, Bermudians didn’t need to hear the latest statistics to know that we are in a Jobs Crisis ... each of us have or know someone that has been unemployed for some time, recently lost their job, is living in fear of being made redundant, has had wages slashed, hours reduced, or been forced to leave Bermuda for better opportunities elsewhere.

Bermudians didn’t need to be told that under the OBA, Bermuda now has higher unemployment than we have ever heard before, because we are living it.

There are over 3,000 Bermudians out of work. These are Bermudians who want to be productive, who want to provide for their families ... But as the Jobs Crisis continues to drag on they are losing hope. While threats of layoffs and unemployment hang over countless Bermudians, almost every working Bermudian is frustrated at their inability to keep up with the skyrocketing costs of basic necessities.

The numbers speak for themselves:

• There were 511 less people working in 2014 than in 2013; a figure that pours cold water on the OBA’s continued talk of recovery.

• The figures show that there were 3,486 people recorded as unemployed, the highest number of people unemployed ever recorded!

• The figures show that under the OBA, Bermuda is experiencing record unemployment as the unemployment rate of 9 per cent is higher than the 8 per cent recorded in 2012.

• Wages are down 3 per cent as costs continue to rise.

• And the black unemployment rate is triple that of the white unemployment rate.

Bob Richards and the OBA may dismiss unemployed Bermudians as mere statistics, and can call a black unemployment rate 3 times higher than the white unemployment rate, and I quote, “of note” — but we, in the PLP, believe that our people are Bermuda’s greatest resource and that a Bermuda that works for a select few while leaving everyone else behind, is unacceptable.

Two years into the OBA’s term — it is clear that Bermuda’s Jobs Crisis is getting worse under the OBA. The backwards thinking of the OBA that we can give tax breaks to business and the benefits will trickle down to everyday Bermudians is an idea from the past that has failed and will continue to take our country in the wrong direction.

The OBA likes to talk about incorporations, but incorporations are not what Bermuda needs, Jobs are what Bermuda needs. Bermuda needs a Jobs Plan — and it is clear the OBA do not have one!

We believe diversifying our economy should be a priority. We believe that rebuilding our economy with a long-term plan for economic growth must be a priority.

We believe that comprehensive reform is needed to reduce the economic advantages of hiring non-Bermudian workers over Bermudian labour.

The deeper meaning of these numbers is that our economy needs a wholesale overhaul. These numbers prove that the people of Bermuda require the PLP to lead the way in diversifying this economy. We must do everything we can to encourage more of our children to choose careers that provide employment that is recession proof.

Our children must, to borrow from Prof. Mincy, choose jobs that drive the economy and not just jobs that serve it.