Mirror, mirror on the wall
As the present budget process concludes, it is worth doing a bit of crystal ball-gazing to see what a future Budget Statement by the Minister of Finance might look like if the latest round of lofty promises does not go according to plan.
Mr Speaker, our last Budget has proven our commitment to Bermudians by growing government. When my party won the landslide election of July 18, 2017, a date that will go down as one of the greatest in the history of the world, I promised to put Bermudians first. And I have. Government employment has increased by 25 per cent, which has filled in the gaps in services that were directly related to the previous government's reckless cutting of Bermudians from the workforce. Unemployment has accordingly been reduced to 0 per cent. I am confident that with our necessary hiring and our requirement that the private sector hires who we say, we can bring unemployment down to less than zero by the end of the next fiscal year.
Mr Speaker, our economy has started to grow once again because of my government's necessary huge injection of cash into the local economy. The previous government's completely unnecessary reduction of expenditure and its over-reliance on the private sector to provide services have been consigned to the dustbin of history. Its fiscal policies managed only a mere rise in GDP by 3.9 per cent. This year, my government will double that.
Mr Speaker, I wish to thank all those international companies who finally left our shores with their non-Bermudian families. My government now has an ability to buy office buildings at rock-bottom prices to ensure that all government employees are given first-class accommodation. These purchases will add to the massive land bank and related office buildings that we can maintain with our new hires. I promised jobs, and jobs I shall create.
Mr Speaker, in addition the real estate market is now in a state where all Bermudians can afford a waterfront mansion with a pool. However, to allow first-time mansion owners to purchase such deserved luxury, I have budgeted for a one-time grant to each first-time mansion purchaser of $500,000. This sum will be funded directly from the tax on our ever-increasing loquat exports.
Mr Speaker, human capital is our biggest asset and, as such, I am pleased to announce that with the generous loan facility of $100 million provided by the newly incorporated People's Bank, public-sector pay will increase by two basis points above the rate of inflation every year that my government is in power. In other words, Mr Speaker, permanently. I shall table a Bill this budget session to write this into law.
Mr Speaker, as you know, my government was able to secure the loan facility as a direct result of our taking control of the last vestiges of the old oligarchy a number of years ago — the corporations of Hamilton and St George. By offering the numerous properties now controlled by the Department of Municipalities as collateral to the People's Bank, my government will ensure that the people's assets will now be controlled by Bermudians, and for Bermudians. Under the watchful eye of the Minister of Bermudians, my government will ensure that never again will our rightful property be controlled by anyone but my government.
Mr Speaker, our bus service is not fit for purpose. We have too many buses that are older than two years and which are not comfortable for our drivers. As such, I have allocated $25 million for 20 new buses designed to last five years. They have all the bells and whistles that our drivers deserve. They come equipped with a new and exciting self-drive capability after successful testing on Kindley Field Road. Our drivers should have the best, since accumulated overtime is just not sufficient to ensure a smooth operational service.
Mr Speaker, I am excited to advise that we have managed to kill two birds with one stone: we have successfully managed to leverage my legislation promoting blockchain technology with that of our pledge to reserve 100 per cent of all large procurement contracts for small Bermudian-owned businesses. I am pleased to advise this House that Bermudian-owned and operated B&C Blockchain Technologies has secured a 20-year contract to ensure blockchain capabilities are fully realised in Bermuda.
Mr Speaker, I have asked the new Minister of Blockchain to oversee this very important work and to appoint a Blockchain Commission and Blockchain Commission CEO. I anticipate that within 20 years Bermuda will have something to use as a springboard to broaden our economic base. To ensure the commission's mandate is fulfilled, I have given $30 million this year to the as-yet-formed commission with a legal requirement that this be topped up after six months for a similar sum.
Mr Speaker, my party pledged to review the disgraceful airport deal. In the fashion expected of the oligarchy, they tried to take our airport from Bermudians and give it to foreigners. They tried to lock us in by having a costly break clause. However, they did not count on my financial savvy. I have accordingly budgeted $100 million to cancel the airport contract and return the airport to Bermudians for Bermudians. We will recoup these losses through the expected revenue collected by the wildly successful sugar tax and fees paid to the Government by the hundreds of Bermudian-owned quad-tour companies that use the Railway Trail.
Mr Speaker, for too long MPs have not been part of the Bermuda success story. For too long, Mr Speaker, I have watched my fellow Members work for others who have taken advantage of them. For too long, Mr Speaker, backbenchers have not been in charge of their own destiny. Not any more. Mr Speaker, I will be proposing constitutional amendments to expand the size of my Cabinet. No longer should my elected and appointed government members be insulted with colonial terms such as “backbencher”. All government MPs and senators will sit at my table.
Mr Speaker, to ensure Cabinet ministers will do their jobs properly, I will be budgeting a paltry 100 per cent ministerial salary increase, which will be paid for by new entrance fees imposed on visitors to the legislature. After all, Mr Speaker, who does not want to hear us in person?
Mr Speaker, our economy has been recalibrating to adjust to our long-awaited self-sufficiency. While we experienced a minor decline in revenue of 500 per cent this past year, our expanded economic opportunities will definitely result in revenue growth of 20 per cent. Accordingly, I have budgeted $4 billion for this fiscal year. This extra $2 billion is absolutely necessary. I guarantee that I will balance the Budget once the fish processing factory is completed, our Easter Lily Greenhouse project is under way, our deep-sea, gold-mining drilling has commenced, our pink-sand bottling plant is built and the cannabis fields on the airport finger have been rolled and smoked.
Thank you, Mr Speaker (to thundering applause and feet stomping).
• Michael Fahy is a former Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, and Junior Minister of Finance under the One Bermuda Alliance government