Cannonier and Burt at odds over reply to Budget
Introducing corporate income tax could cripple international business and would need “an army” of Civil Servants to run it, Premier Craig Cannonier said last night as he responded to the Opposition's reply to the Budget.
However, late last night Shadow Finance Minister David Burt replied that “nowhere did the PLP call for corporate income tax”, and he criticised the Premier for “inventing this fiction”.
Mr Cannonier issued a statement in which he commented on the PLP's reply to the Budget, which was made on Friday in the House of Assembly.
He said online gaming could open the Island to money laundering and risk Bermuda's reputation as a responsible jurisdiction.
Mr Cannonier said that the PLP's Budget reply was “dangerous, irresponsible and a recipe for paralysis in the face of immense pressures to grow the economy and get our financial house in order.”
Mr Burt hit back, calling the Premier's response “divisive”. He said: “Rather than the conciliatory approach taken by Minister of Finance Bob Richards, the Premier, who must be feeling the pressure of poor polling results, has taken to attacking the ideas put forward instead of defending his own plan.”
On the subject of taxing big business Mr Cannonier, in his statement, said: “It would create uncertainty in Bermuda's business equation at a time the Island needs to be stable and promising so business can generate the kind of activity Bermudians need for jobs and our service industries need for business.”
He said that ending tax concessions to the struggling retail, restaurant and hotel industries, first introduced by the PLP, would be “a job killer” that should concern Bermudians working in these sectors.
“Nothing has materially changed in their situation. For these industries, the hard times continue and until the general economy grows, the concessions should remain,” said Mr Cannonier, adding that PLP calls to legalise marijuana and tax the new industry were also dangerous.
He said: “This position makes me think of that wise old warning: ‘Look before you leap.'
“The Government is taking a deliberate approach to the issue of decriminalising marijuana. This is not a simple issue.”
And Mr Cannonier said that the PLP's economic blueprint failed to address the need for economic growth to generate jobs and the need to reduce the cost of Government.
He added: “The PLP would have us pursue deep-sea mining and offshore fishing, among other things. While we can agree that there is potential in such undertakings, including a more diversified and thus less vulnerable economy, these proposals will not provide meaningful relief to Bermudians now or any time soon.
“The Government's focus is to make it possible for the Island's existing industries to grow, providing jobs Bermudians need now. That is why we are opening doors of possibility for existing industries.”
Mr Cannonier said the PLP's Budget reply did not truly recognise the serious problem with public finances and debt, pointing out that — although the ruling OBA had cut spending — it had still spent more than $330 million in the last financial year than it took in.
And he warned: “Without continued drastic action, we will near the end of our rope.
“In the face of this serious situation, the PLP leaders' would hedge that line, paralysing us between actions needed and procrastination. Yes, they're for spending cuts but they also want to spend more, millions more.”
Mr Cannonier said: “We're making it possible for existing industries to create the jobs people need. We're paying down the debt and shrinking the deficit to protect Bermudians today and future generations. And we're doing it all without resorting to new or rising taxes.”
Responding to the statement, Mr Burt said: “Last year Bermuda's economy lost 921 jobs. Last week more Bermudians lost their jobs as their positions were outsourced. The Premier's divisive response to the PLP's Budget Reply does nothing to help those Bermudians who have seen their jobs vanish under the OBA and provides no comfort that the Premier actually understands what is going on in the Bermuda economy.
“The Premier's time would be better spent talking to Bermudians and understanding the struggles they are facing, not hiding behind press releases and ducking questions.”
He continued: “The OBA have no plan to diversify the economy, and continue to rely on an outdated international business model which has been profoundly impacted by globalisation. Every month, Bermudians continue to see their jobs outsourced and, rather than face the facts, the out of touch Premier attacks the PLP for proposing alternatives while the OBA has none.”
Mr Burt said the Premier had contradicted himself in the statement because “in one sentence when he says the PLP are for spending cuts but want to spend more.”
He said the PLP's alternative budget was “a balanced approach that proposes $100 million in combined spending cuts over the next two years with smart investments in education, training, and alternative energy”.
He added: “I encourage the people to read it and judge for themselves. As the Opposition, we have taken the time to put forward ideas for debate and, while we do not expect the Premier to accept them all, he should at least give factual information to Bermudians.
The people of this country deserve a higher standard of leadership than what is being offered by our divisive Premier.”