$1m plus shoreside centre for fishing industry on the cards
Ground will be broken on a $1 million plus shoreside fish processing plant this year, the Premier said last night.
David Burt told the House of Assembly a $1.07 million grant was included in the budget for the Cabinet Office for the centre at Marginal Wharf in St David’s.
Members of the Opposition questioned if fishermen were happy about the proposed east end location.
But Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said members of the Fishermen’s Association of Bermuda had suggested the site.
He said: “There were no concerns about that location being in the east.”
Mr Furbert added that there had been discussion of a “drop-off” location in the west to ease the process.
He was speaking as MPs debated the close to $71 million budget for the Cabinet Office.
The ministry was one of few which got an increase in the 2021/22 budget.
But Mr Burt said the $22.7 million increase was caused primarily by the movement of tourism-related grants to the office.
He added the Cabinet Office also held the budget for the Molecular Diagnostics Lab, which he said would be moved to the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, a Cabinet Office responsibility.
Mr Burt praised the work of the MDL, which he said had handled up to 22,000 Covid-19 tests a month and have given 25 Bermudians molecular diagnostic experience.
He said the Cabinet Office also saw an increase in wage expenses because two Permanent Secretaries had been moved into the office, but the conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry into historic land loses would result in some savings.
Mr Burt said the BEDC received a 70 per cent cut to their grant, with the corporation to receive only $764,000.
But he said the cut would not result in a reduction of service because of the $12 million grant issued last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Burt said the BEDC had so far used $3.4 million to bolster 150 businesses across the island – triple the amount usually given by the corporation in an average year.
He added that the BEDC would develop a plan to build or buy office space in North Hamilton in an effort to reduce its costs, generate revenue and create an environment for entrepreneurs.
Mr Burt said the BEDC has begun work on a virtual market platform, which he said would be a “full-service website” that would help entrepreneurs offer their goods and services online.
The Premier said the Covid-19 pandemic had hit the island’s tourism industry hard and stalled the industry’s comeback efforts.
Mr Burt said the BTA had its grant reduced from $22.5 million to $21.5 million as part of a Government-wide effort to reduce spending but the body had improved efficiency in the past year.
He added that all roles vacant for more than a year had been defunded, and existing staff had taken on greater responsibilities.
Mr Burt said the Bermudiana Beach Resort would open in the second half of the year as a Hilton Tapestry property.
He added the resort would be “mid market”, compared to the high end St Regis hotel in St George’s, which will welcome guests on May 22.
A total of 190 new hotel rooms will be available to guests between the two properties.
Mr Burt said Government was working to get the St Regis hotel casino open “as quickly as possible”.
The Premier added that the BTA had pivoted its strategy to attract those more likely to travel first, including high-earning jet setters and multigenerational families.
He said Bermuda’s location – along with luxury resorts such as St Regis and the Loren – will help to attract high net worth guests to the island.
Mr Burt added that there was still no confirmed return date for cruise ships, but that some cruise operators had inquired about making the island their home port.
He also highlighted that megayachts put an estimated $2.3 million into the Bermuda economy last year, and the BTA hoped to draw more to the island with events such as the Sail GP.
Cole Simons, the Opposition leader, said the Commission of Inquiry examining historic land losses has done “sterling work”, but questioned what would be done with the information gathered.
He queried if the commission’s work would result in “some type of compensation”.
Mr Simons asked: “If so, to whom, and from whom? Will it be Government?”
Mr Burt responded that it would be up to the Commission of Inquiry as to what happened next
Craig Cannonier of the One Bermuda Alliance asked about the Government’s office in Washington, DC, and how long its contract was for.
The original expenditure for 2020-21 was $61,000 and rose to $237,000.
Mr Burt said that the Government signed a five-year lease for the property in 2019 and had predicted lower expenditure because it intended to sublet the office.
He said Covid-19 made it difficult to sublet the property last year, but some offers have now been made.
Mr Cannonier also asked about the $210,000 budgeted in travel for the Cabinet Office in 2020-21.
Mr Burt said that there were no plans for travel yet – and added the travel budged covered the entire Cabinet Office, including the London and Brussels offices.