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What this budget means to you – the people’s view

Like all of you, I recently received the Government’s mailing “What the 2022-23 Budget means to you”.

This slick piece of political promotion by the Progressive Labour Party government is further proof that David Burt’s government lacks any true ideas or vision to improve the future — all they can offer is a checklist of trivial ideas, most of which do little to nothing for those most in need. Read on to learn what is wrong with this flyer and what the Government should be doing instead.

The first thing this flyer means to us is that the PLP government has spent probably between $50,000 and $60,000 of the people’s money to create, print and mail this political advertisement full of misleading statements and empty promises. To put this into context, the recent legislation to grant land-tax relief for nursing homes was worth only $66,000. The Government should have skipped the advert and doubled the relief for nursing homes — or any other worthy cause!

Douglas DeCouto, PhD is an opposition senator and the approved candidate for the One Bermuda Alliance in Warwick North East (Constituency 25)

This political advert — paid for by the taxpayer! — lists Mr Burt’s petrol price relief and car licence breaks. But those are regressive gimmicks that put more in the pocket of the wealthy, who driver bigger cars and buy more petrol. As always, this Government is unable to figure out how to help those most in need.

Pension withdrawals are mentioned, which is the Government encouraging Bermudians to take from their future to pay for the present. Isn’t the whole point of pensions the opposite? Yes, for those in a crunch, this is useful, but would it not be better if the Government was able to help? Unfortunately, owing to the 20 years of financial mismanagement by the PLP, and the crushing debt it has incurred on behalf of Bermudians, there is no money left to help.

Fifteen cents of every tax dollar goes directly overseas just to pay the interest on the debt. That number will only increase this year and next as global interest rates rise. The present debt is $3.25 billion! That’s more than $70,000 per voter, a bill racked up by the PLP over 20 years, which prevents this government from helping those in need.

Meanwhile, Mr Burt’s government was able to find $800,000 for a so-called recording studio, $3.6 million in a no-bid contract to the Premier’s fintech adviser, and just under $200 million in concessions for the Fairmont Southampton hotel and condos against the advice of the finance minister at the time. Think about that next time you see Bermudians waiting in line at a food bank, or deciding between paying for rent, electricity or medicine.

This government advert states that the local economy is recovering. Tell that to local retailers, who have seen sales fall for nine months in a row. Thank Cabinet minister Wayne Furbert for taking dollars out of Bermudian pockets, by encouraging Bermudians to send their dollars overseas instead of spending locally, and directly competing with Bermudian-owned businesses with the Government’s MyBermudaPost. By the way, we learnt in the budget debate that the Government does not even know how much it costs to operate MyBermudaPost, so you can assume your taxes are subsidising losses.

The rest of the PLP advert is empty promises that we have heard for a while, with nothing to show. For example, has the Tax Reform Commission started yet? Has any work started at the Fairmont Southampton yet? Based on the PLP government’s track record, we shouldn’t expect anything soon.

And as for the Premier’s bet on “crypto”, we already know how his first round went. The companies Mr Burt chose to support brought a black eye to Bermuda’s reputation, such as Arbitrade (Victoria Hall still empty, sued by the City) and Binance (warnings issued by international financial regulators including Britain and Japan).

The second round is not likely to go much better, with international headlines about crypto like “From the Big Short to the Big Scam” (Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman in The New York Times) and “The Crypto Party is Over” (Wall Street Journal). As Mr Burt jets around the world burnishing his image at crypto conferences, ask yourself how this imploding industry will put money into our pockets?

Finally, regarding the Jewel digital bank, take a look for yourself. I went to its webpage, and I did not see any mention of giving mortgages to Bermudians, having tellers to help senior citizens with their banking, or providing financing for Bermudian-owned business.

The obvious question is, “OK, but what would you do?”

The answers are simple, but not easy, and require true leadership and accountability.

When you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is to put down the shovel.

Right now, we need a government that can truly acknowledge the state of Bermuda today, the challenges ahead, and the difficult situation in which many Bermudians find themselves.

Next, our leaders will need the courage and vision to create a real plan to aggressively tackle Bermuda’s debt and government spending, so that more resources are available for those in need. This should include making government spending more accountable and efficient, and likely introducing some more taxes — but only for those who can pay.

We should create initiatives that will grow Bermuda’s economy for people here in Bermuda, such as unleashing the Bermuda Tourism Authority from political interference so it can succeed, and fully supporting and working with international business. This should include true immigration reform, so Bermuda’s economy can grow again. And consider economic residence or citizenship, and how that can be used to pay down our debt for the future of our children.

The Government must work in true partnership with experts and stakeholders to create resilience for our island. In healthcare, the Government should work in tandem with professionals on addressing the true underlying costs of healthcare, including lifestyles and prevention, not just trying to control the money.

In energy, instead of playing around the edges, we should aggressively pursue reducing our energy dependence on imported oil and gas, with a true national strategy for large-scale deployment of proven solutions such as solar and electric vehicles. This would reduce the amount of money Bermuda has to send overseas, and can especially lower energy costs for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

And for food, instead of chasing high-cost and energy-intensive, vertical-farming sales pitches from overseas, the Government should partner with local growers on “right-tech” solutions that work for Bermuda.

Those are just a few high-level ideas — but for them to work, we first need a government with honesty, accountability and integrity. All of which are in short supply in David Burt’s PLP.

Douglas DeCouto, PhD is an opposition senator and the approved candidate for the One Bermuda Alliance in Warwick North East (Constituency 25)

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Published June 28, 2022 at 7:26 am (Updated June 28, 2022 at 7:26 am)

What this budget means to you – the people’s view

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