Budget light on detail, says leading realtor
The Premier’s desire not to steal the “thunder” of his ministerial colleagues left the Budget Statement light on detail, a leading realtor has said.
Buddy Rego, president of Rego Sotheby’s International Realty, said the real estate industry had specifically requested that licensing fees for non-Bermudians acquiring property on the island be rolled back to 2020 levels.
The fees were increased last year, from eight per cent to 12.5 per cent for houses, and from six per cent to eight per cent for condominiums.
Mr Rego said: “In keeping with government’s economic recovery plan, increasing fees won’t help increase inward investment and inward immigration.
“David Burt didn’t mention such a roll back in his speech. I am looking into it to see if it was done. It remains to be seen if it was done.”
In his statement, the Premier said he would “not be providing individual highlights for the 12 ministries of government” as the ministers themselves will “share the plans and policies that they will put into place”.
Mr Burt said: “There is no need for me to steal their thunder today.”
Mr Rego said: “There wasn’t much substance to get your teeth around in terms of what was in the speech, but we don’t know yet what lies in the weeds in terms of policy changes. I need to hear the thunder in order to comment.”
He added: “The one tax that government has complete control of the population is land tax and I was happy to see that was not increased from its already high levels.”
Tony Thompson, chief executive officer at Gibbons Company, said: “I thought it was a very positive Budget, all things considered, but I am anxious to find out how government is going to decrease payroll tax, roll back vehicle licensing fees by 10 per cent, and dissolve land tax for charities and care homes while planning to increase investment in local infrastructure and businesses.
“I wonder how government is going to be able to manoeuvre their way through that and what plan they have for getting foreign investment because they have to bring people here to our shores.
“What concessions will be made to attract foreign investment in the areas of hotel development and international business?”
Mr Thompson said the cost of doing business in Bermuda “has increased drastically in the last year or two.
“What will be done to help local businesses in an economy like this?
“What is government doing specifically to help retailers?”
He added: “Some of the cuts will help cashflow for people, our customers, so hopefully they will have a bit more cash to spend.
“There is also a plan to reduce taxes for fuel, so that should help us with our electricity bills, but it will be a challenge given the Ukraine-Russia crisis going on.
“How government will manage to decrease taxes on fuel is beyond me, but I live in hope.”
A business and economy source called the projected interest on debt management of $129.75 million for 2026-27 “fiction” in light of rising interest rates. The same figure is estimated for 2022-23, which he said “defies belief”.
Robert Stubbs, head researcher for the SEED think-tank on Bermuda’s sustainability, called it “another austerity Budget that yet again contravenes the advice of Bermuda’s Fiscal Responsibility Panel”.
He said businesses were getting an easy ride while the average Bermudian bore the brunt of taxes.
Mr Stubbs said that on tax and spending policy, Premier Burt and former finance minister Dickinson had “managed to manoeuvre themselves to the right of Bob Richards and Michael Dunkley” under the One Bermuda Alliance.
He said it was “extraordinary to see and is due most likely to a lethal combination of sheer incompetence and the inordinate influence of big business in Bermuda”.
He added: “Big business gets whatever they want and everyone else is forced to pay.
“Government needs to get off the backs of small business and ordinary Bermudians, and do what other jurisdictions such as Cayman have done: make international businesses pay their fair share.”
He said the island needed “an immediate additional $200 million raised in the form of a one-off Covid Tax on banks, reinsurers, brokers, investment companies, big law firms, and the “big four” accounting firms.
“Half should be spent on eliminating the budget deficit and paying down debt with the other half going towards financial assistance, social programmes and infrastructure projects.”
Mr Stubbs added: “Meanwhile, government needs to get on with their comprehensive tax reform that catapults Bermuda from the 19th century into the modern world.
“A smarter, fairer, more progressive tax regime will increase government revenues, stimulate inclusive growth, reduce the cost of living and make our island more fiscally sustainable and resilient.”