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Burt: OBA’s jobs pledge was electoral ploy

David Burt

Shadow Finance Minister David Burt dismissed the One Bermuda Alliance’s pledge to create 2,000 jobs as an electoral ploy — while pointing out the Island has lost nearly 2,000 jobs since 2012.

Mr Burt also took the OBA to task for delaying a census, set for this year, that would have allowed for a clearer picture of Bermuda’s true levels of unemployment.

“The promise was a political promise, which was likely created by political consultants,” Mr Burt said of the vow by Finance Minister Bob Richards just ten days before the December 2012 election narrowly won by the OBA. “The Minister of Finance was confident about this promise and spoke about overseas investors at the ready to invest if the OBA became government,” the Deputy Leader of the Progressive Labour Party told this newspaper.

“I think it is more apt to ask the Minister of Finance where he felt those 2,000 jobs would come from, as he was very certain making that promise three years ago.”

In yesterday’s Royal Gazette, OBA backbencher Leah Scott described Mr Richards’ pledge as “hopeful and optimistic”, and conceded it was taking longer than expected to deliver on it. Mr Burt noted the Island’s economy continued to suffer from layoffs, reduced hours, cuts in wages and business closures.

“Official figures indicate that 1,968 jobs have been lost in Bermuda since 2012,” Mr Burt said.

He was referring to surveys released by the Department of Statistics.

“The consolidation of the insurance industry and continued increases in the cost of living under the OBA will only add additional negative pressure to the jobs picture going forward.”

Mr Burt added: “The OBA is not being upfront about the real employment situation.”

With the Labour Force Survey showing 2,486 people out of work in 2014, Mr Burt declined to estimate how high today’s number might be.

“Guessing is a fool’s errand — what we need is less guessing and more facts,” he said.

“The OBA would have been able to get an accurate picture if the census would have been done this year. However, they elected to delay the census until 2016. This delay will mean that we will not be able to accurately measure the decline in the Bermuda’s labour force which has been impacted by significant emigration of Bermudians to the UK and other jurisdictions. The fact remains that Bermuda has lost almost 2000 jobs since 2012.”

The Opposition has repeatedly accused the Government of refusing to focus on diversifying Bermuda’s economy, and Mr Burt reiterated that the PLP’s “Vision 2025” document was focused on “diversification of our economy and investment in our country and our people” as a means of growing the economy and creating jobs.

“The PLP knows that we can grow the economy and create jobs if we have an honest and transparent government focused on reducing the cost of living and the cost of doing business and a government that allows the entrepreneurial spirit of Bermudians to thrive,” he said.

“Instead of erecting barriers to entrepreneurship as the OBA has done, we need less regulation of our local economy creating room that will allow Bermudians to become job creators.”

With the Island’s economy in “crisis”, he said the OBA had attempted to “recreate a 1980s economy in 2015” — and had fallen short.

Meanwhile, Independent senator James Jardine responded yesterday to a comeback from the Department of Statistics that his assertion that payroll tax could be used to track unemployment was not correct.

“If you can track the number of people in full-time jobs, then you can tell how many people are actually working,” Sen Jardine told The Royal Gazette. Payroll tax doesn’t tell you how many people are unemployed, but it tells you how many people are actually working. That way, we could tell from quarter to quarter whether we are creating jobs.”

Sen Jardine suggested that payroll tax forms could be modified to include a breakdown of Bermudian versus non-Bermudian staff, and could give a general category for businesses, to be used as a more up to date means of tracking Bermuda’s economy.

“I would not have thought it would be terribly difficult,” he said. “I appreciate it takes time to generate the surveys — no question about it. But in the meantime, at least on a quarterly basis, we would be able to see how many people are actually working.”