Civil Service cuts not ruled out
Premier Craig Cannonier has not ruled out future cuts in the Civil Service as the Island struggles to recover from recession.
Mr Cannonier said: “As we move forward, we certainly can't make any promises in that area.
“The realities are out there, but we will always look out for people first.”
Both parties ruled out Civil Service redundancies in the run-up to last year's General Election.
Speaking yesterday Mr Cannonier said: “Certainly, we could have come in and slashed, but there probably would have been unintended and unenviable consequences of that.”
And Mr Cannonier added that was why Government's first priority was to attract new business to Bermuda and boost tourism figures to create more jobs for Bermudians.
He said: “We need to look first at incentives for job creators to come here. In the end, if someone is made redundant or doesn't have a job, they need somewhere to go.”
He added: “We will have to make tough decisions in 2014 — that's why we had a SAGE Commission to look at where we can cut back without losing manpower.”
The independent SAGE Commission — set up to look at reducing the cost of Government — will report at the end of the month — and may suggest Civil Service cuts.
But Mr Cannonier declined to comment on how Government would deal with its recommendations.
He said: “We will cross that point when we look at the SAGE report.
“We certainly cannot have the agreements we have with the unions all over the place. There are some unions, one particular union, that has unlimited paid sick time. One union has negotiated three weeks' paid sick time
“These are some of the recommendations that will come out of the SAGE Commission we will act on.
“We will look at the realities of where we are and we will make decisions in the best interests of the country.
“We need to be making decisions that are right for the people of this country — we have got to do what is right for the country as a whole. When you start isolating different sectors and saying it's politically dangerous — we can't afford that any more.
“There are too many people suffering because we have made political decisions and not made decisions based on what's best for the country.”
Mr Cannonier added that Bermuda faced a declining birth rate, while many Bermudians had emigrated and residents had left the Island, which totalled “7000, maybe more” people.
He said that if 2,000 expatriates who had left spent a conservative figure of $1,500 a week on goods and services, the Island had lost a staggering $3 million a week and more than $150 million a year.
He warned: “There will be fewer jobs if we don't get more people in the country. We want Bermudians coming back and those job creators coming back and investing and circulating these dollars in the country so we can get the Gross Domestic Product in the right direction.”
Mr Cannonier added: “Every time we bring in a job creator, that's two Bermudians who get hired.”
And he said: “We needed to stop the bleeding and put in place policies that would restore the country.”
Mr Cannonier said that when the OBA took power last December, they inherited a situation where no one knew exactly how many Civil Servants were on the payroll, and a huge $1.45 billion in debt.
He added that, a few months later, the Government's financial situation was so dire, it came close to being unable to pay the Civil Service.
And he said: “Financially, we can't afford to do anything right now — we can't even afford to assist those in need because there is no money.”
Mr Cannonier was speaking after a Parliamentary session extended by four sittings came to an end — and he said the next one would likely be extended to fit in new legislation.
He said Government legislative highlights included ending the controversial term limits policy for work permit holders, giving investors more security through the Job Creators Act and reducing or eliminating taxes on new Bermudian hires.
He added that Government had worked with cruise ship lines to hire Bermudians for on-board positions was also an important initiative.
Mr Cannonier said: “These are important objectives we had to embark on to show we are building a better Bermuda and getting people back to work.”
He added that the new independent Tourism Authority was designed to “bring back accountability” in how the Island is sold abroad.
Mr Cannonier said: “We spent millions of dollars on tourism, but we have continued to fail year after year. That's unacceptable. I believe that, as the Premier of this country, we have to be accountable to each other.”
And he added that future priorities included getting a hotel in St George's and incentives for existing hotels to upgrade their facilities.