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Burt: Government will hold the line on balanced budget

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David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, speaking at the annual Budget Breakfast presented by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

David Burt vowed that he was “incredibly confident” the 2024-25 Budget could deliver Bermuda’s first balanced budget in two decades, even with the slim margin of $210,000 forecast for surplus in the coming fiscal year.

“We will hit this target,” the Premier told a press conference yesterday in the wake of the Budget Statement last week.

He added: “This government has managed to hold the line on expenditure as much as possible while boosting economic growth.”

Mr Burt highlighted the additional revenue of $30 million in payroll tax to emerge from changes to the new hire relief for businesses, with the baseline year for eligibility moving from 2018 to 2022.

He called it a “milestone budget” for the island, with the Government no longer having to borrow.

However, he said: “We are not taking a victory lap, because we know that not every person and business in Bermuda feels the benefits.”

Mr Burt also pointed out that the Government’s investment in capital projects had been “significantly” down since 2010, and stood by another commitment — that there would be a 2 per cent allocation of the island’s Gross Domestic Product to capital investment.

Premier gives “frank” reply on funding for roadworks

The 2024-25 Budget will double spending on road repairs to $5 million.

David Burt conceded that “people will say it’s not enough” given public sentiments over potholes and worn-down roads.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, has said getting to grips with roadworks would cost about $100 million over ten years.

The Premier promised that the Government could be flexible in putting more into the job.

He said: “I could easily have said, let’s cut a few of these other numbers to put $10 million into the roads budget, to make a political statement.

“The fact is, we need to put what’s in the Budget what is realistic to deliver.”

Mr Burt said that the Government was “ramping up” with the purchase of a new asphalt plant and equipment as well as investing in training.

“It’s going to take a while to ramp up to that level,” he said.

“If that $5 million is spent, you bet and believe we will find additional funds to divert from other places, because we believe that the priority is roadworks.

“But it’s also important as we are debating the Budget that we put realistic numbers before the House.”

Mr Burt’s statement before the House of Assembly contained several jabs at the Opposition, including advance criticism of the Reply to the Budget, which the One Bermuda Alliance will deliver on Friday.

David Burt, the Premier, reviews the 2024-25 Budget (Photograph supplied)

He disputed that his statement had been more politically barbed than usual, saying the Opposition “has branded this an election Budget for three years in a row”.

“I believe it’s important to make sure you draw a contrast,” he said.

He called the Budget Statement “a political document as well as a government document”, to set out where the ruling party stands.

Mr Burt contrasted Bermuda with jurisdictions in the Caribbean where the statements could last four to six hours, in comparison with the two hours last week — with the Opposition granted only 24 hours to formulate a reply.

He backed using surplus funds from the excess borrowing account, originally put aside to “carry us through the pandemic”, to pump $30 million into healthcare, thereby continuing a three-year freeze of the Standard Premium Rate.

Individual government health insurance rates would otherwise have risen $45 a month in the year ahead.

“The benefit of collective sacrifice to get us to this balanced budget place, instead of just sitting in a bank, can be put to work for the Bermudian people.”

Mr Burt insisted that the move amounted to “a transfer, not an expense”.

He added: “This is not a traditional and regular government expense.”

• To read the Premier’s remarks, see Related Media

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Published February 20, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated February 20, 2024 at 8:00 am)

Burt: Government will hold the line on balanced budget

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