Disheartening to see Opposition dismiss Pre-Budget Report as done deal
Mr Editor, I write in response to your newspaper’s story on January 27, 2023, which covered the Leader of the Opposition’s statement on the Pre-Budget Report.
It is reckless and irresponsible for the Opposition leader to suggest that anything within the Pre-Budget Report is set in stone. Since its inception, the Pre-Budget Report has been a tool to increase awareness of the Government’s fiscal objectives and solicit feedback from the public.
The aim is to ensure the budgeting process is both collaborative and transparent before the tabling of the island’s annual budget.
On numerous occasions, adjustments have been made to proposals contained in the Pre-Budget Reports, demonstrating the value of the consultative process.
Recent examples would be in the 2017 Pre-Budget Report, where the Government signalled that it was considering implementing a professional services tax; however, after consultation between the Government and stakeholders, the Government decided not to implement this tax and instead adjusted the basis for notional remuneration for payroll tax.
Another example would be the 2019 Pre-Budget Report, where many will recall a proposal to introduce a tax on rental income. Again, based on the feedback received during the consultative process, the Government adjusted its approach to achieve the revenue targets required to reduce the deficit.
The Government values each comment, suggestion, opinion and concern from all sectors, as we recognise that input from the broader community allows us to put forward the best Budget possible for the people of Bermuda.
It is, therefore, disappointing to read recent remarks from the Opposition leader, speaking as if the proposals within the Pre-Budget Report are definitive when that has never been the case.
This might have been the case under the One Bermuda Alliance, but time and time again, this Progressive Labour Party government has engaged in broad public consultation before significant policy changes.
The Opposition leader should also be made aware that the international business community was consulted before the Pre-Budget Report was released; in fact, some of the proposals included within the report came directly from the international business community.
The Opposition leader also refers to another proposal in the Pre-Budget Report as “sheer fantasy”; however, he seemingly disregards that the proposal came directly from the Tax Reform Commission’s 2018 report. This report resulted from bipartisan co-operation, and the OBA representative on the commission agreed upon the recommendations in the report.
The Government simply included the recommendation in the Pre-Budget Report to garner additional feedback from affected sectors. I’m sure the former commissioners, who have a wealth and breadth of industry experience, have noted the Opposition leader’s opinion and share my disheartenment at his willingness to dismiss their recommendations.
It is equally worth noting that during the consultative process, the Government invited the public to provide feedback. The Government received responses from the international business community, trade unions, the hospitality industry, the local business community and many individual citizens.
As a point of interest, the Government received no feedback or suggestions from the OBA.
Therefore, it was disappointing, but not unexpected, to see the Opposition criticise proposals from the Government in the media, but when given the opportunity to be constructive and provide feedback, it ultimately decided to do nothing.
Finally, it has not gone unnoticed that the Opposition leader went to great lengths to comment on how the proposed changes to employee payroll tax would affedct the international business community, yet says nothing about how those proposed changes would reduce taxes for 80 per cent of the workers in this country.
This again exposes the OBA’s true colours and whose interest it represents.
The proposed Payroll Tax changes, which were put forward for consultation, reduces payroll tax for 80 per cent of taxpayers and builds on prior tax reductions for working families by the PLP — but the OBA does not support this change, as it has no solutions for providing relief to working families at a time of high global inflation.
As I close, I want to thank everyone that has contributed to the sincere consultative process and submitted feedback to the Ministry of Finance over the past month. On February 17, the Premier and Minister of Finance will present the island’s Budget. Bermuda’s residents and businesses would have played a vital part in shaping the policies unveiled that day.
• Jaché Adams is the government MP for Pembroke West (Constituency 19)
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