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Charity and business Budget wish list

Plea for support: Dennis Fagundo, the president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Minister of Finance should cut taxes and fees for businesses to re-energise the economy, it was claimed yesterday.

Green-friendly projects, increased support for youth services, and breaks for charities that provide essential services, were other initiatives it was hoped Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister, had considered before he presents his Budget in the House of Assembly today.

Dennis Fagundo, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the coronavirus pandemic had hammered the business sector after it hit last March – but that tax relief had a proven track record in helping them survive in hard economic times.

Mr Fagundo said: “The effective tax rates on local business are very high – it is imperative for Government to scale them down to a size our economy can support.

“The suppressive impact of our current tax levels is clearly seen when one measures how successful duty exemptions and payroll tax relief have been over the years at stimulating and preserving industries requiring support.”

Mr Fagundo backed Government’s pre-Budget report for its “welcome maturity, seeking balance in an unpredictable environment, recognising critical industries in distress and their employees while starting the important process of introspection”.

He said the chamber represented a wide range of business interests across the island, and that a variety of measures were needed to support all of them.

Mr Fagundo added: “The divisions of the chamber represent industry sectors that have varying needs and stress points, as all are affected differently by the pandemic, changes in economic activity, tax policy, employment laws, unemployment levels, immigration policy, government regulations and real estate policies.”

He called for the “rationalisation” of a flat rate for the foreign purchase licence on property and the creation of an east end Economic Empowerment Zone.

Mr Fagundo added: “The retail and personal care divisions have been particularly hard hit by the reduction in demand while facing increased costs of inventory and having to upgrade systems to offer e-tail and Covid tracking.

“As such, the signalled duty exemptions and extensions of payroll tax relief are both welcome and critically important.

“The hospitality sector continues to reel from the blows of Covid. The relief signalled is again a critical ingredient in this industry surviving long enough to be able to return once demand begins again.”

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said it wanted to see measures in the Budget to reduce the island’s carbon footprint.

Kim Smith, the charity’s executive director, said: “Transportation is the logical starting point.

“If the Government subsidised electric vehicles, invested in electric vehicle infrastructure and retraining initiatives for mechanics, that would help begin the transition away from petrol and diesel powered vehicles.

“Electric vehicles are perfectly suited for our small island and Bermuda could be a model jurisdiction to showcase full adoption of electric vehicles and associated benefits of less carbon monoxide pollution, less noise pollution, and growth of a nascent industry.”

BEST said a moratorium on the development of areas designated as agricultural reserves should be introduced, alongside more support for the fishing industry and legislation to create management plans for parks

Ms Smith added the Government should also look to restore Government-owned buildings so they can be used as public sector offices to reduce rental expenses and urged public private partnerships to bring solar panels to schools and Government buildings.

Eugene Dean, chairman of environmental charity Greenrock, said he hoped to see funds for offshore wind feasibility studies and follow-through on Government’s commitment to ban single use plastics.

Mr Dean added he wanted to see investment in renewable energy and electric vehicles, along with enforcement of emissions standards and the creation of emissions-based licence fees.

One charity leader put aside hard economics and appealed to Mr Dickinson’s heart.

Patrina O’Connor-Paynter, managing director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, said: “Young people are the next generation of leaders and decision makers and are among the most vulnerable sectors.

“They are now being unduly affected by the longer-lasting consequences of the present pandemic.

“This includes economic uncertainty, disruption to education, loss or lack of employment opportunities, impacts on physical and mental health.

“Youth service organisations are needed now more than ever. My message to the Minister of Finance is to remember our youth during this Budget.”

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Published February 26, 2021 at 8:32 am (Updated February 26, 2021 at 8:32 am)

Charity and business Budget wish list

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