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Budget to broaden economic opportunity and boost workforce, minister promises

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Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance answers questions on the Budget (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Budget will help diversify the economy and increase the workforce without a hike in the national debt, the finance minister said at a press conference today.

Curtis Dickinson renewed his pledge that there would be no new taxes in the next 12 months and that he was determined to keep Government spending inside strict parameters.

But he declined to comment on whether he would reintroduce pay cuts for public sector workers later in the year.

A ten per cent pay deduction introduced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic last year will be axed this month.

Mr Dickinson said that Government would continue to work with the unions in a spirit of collaboration and transparency.

He added: “We went to the unions yesterday and I think what the take away from the meeting was this – we have the mother of all crises to work our way through, and the way we’re going to do this successfully is through broad-based collaboration between all stakeholders.

“The unions are very important stakeholders, as is the business community and Government.

“I foresee us working together because nobody wants to see the Government get in any trouble.”

“And so part of our outreach to them is to promote transparency, to be very honest with them, to hear their feedback and then to process it and come up with solutions collaboratively that can actually make sense for all of us.”

Mr Dickinson added that a plan to diversify the economy with the help of a special Economic Advisory Committee would be revealed later.

But he said that entrepreneurs were “the lifeblood” of economies – and that Government was doing all it could to create an environment where small to middle-sized businesses could thrive.

Mr Dickinson added: “I agree with the concept that entrepreneurs are very important for any kind of forward momentum.

“I think it’s very important for the Government to work to create the right environment.

“At the end of the day what we would like to do is create the environment and then get out of the way.”

He warned that new taxes would “effectively be putting another set of brakes on the economy”.

Mr Dickinson said: “We already have the pandemic which is the mother of all brakes so I don’t want to make things any worse.”

He highlighted that Government had beefed up its team of tax collectors in an effort to collect more than $100 million owed to the Government.

Mr Dickinson said: “The team has been enhanced with the addition of two extra vendors, so we are making efforts.

“I’m waiting for more up-to-date data on how they’ve been performing in the last couple of months.

“We are focused on it. But I would say this – we have been living through a pandemic for the last 12 months.

“We are trying to balance the need to get our money back with the reality that a number of people have been affected adversely by the pandemic.

“They may not be able to pay, so we’re just trying to be mindful of how we do this.”

Mr Dickinson said that early retirement for public sector workers over 55 was being considered.

He added: We’re still looking at it. Part of the analysis that was done for me indicated that, if all the people who were eligible for early retirement, had they accepted it, would cost me about $98 million.

“And so, what we’re trying to do is figure out what the ideal way of implementing something like this will be.

“At the end of the day, it is dependent on the people who would fall within the qualifying criteria to decide if they want to or not.”

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Published March 02, 2021 at 9:05 am (Updated March 02, 2021 at 9:13 am)

Budget to broaden economic opportunity and boost workforce, minister promises

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