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A string of promises to boost the economy and cut the island's cost of living were unveiled last night in the Progressive Labour Party's election platform.

The manifesto included a Bermuda National Digital Bank to cut mortgage costs and jump-start the casino industry, a “green energy revolution” to reduce power bills, and a food co-operative to increase domestic production — which will include vertical farming.

The 2020 General Election platform added that the plan for economic and tourism recovery would include more than $1 billion in construction work over the next five years.

The party also vowed to “put the ownership of our airport back in Bermudian hands”, finish immigration reform designed to deal with the plight of long-term residents, and cut taxes for working and middle-class Bermudians.

The PLP released its platform at a virtual event at St George's Cricket Club. There was standing room only at the venue, which was draped with green flags and posters urging people to vote.

It proceeded after a short introduction by Kim Swan, running for the PLP in St George's West, where the event was located.

David Burt, the Premier, opened the evening's speeches starting with the importance of the economy for Bermuda's future.

Mr Burt's announcement of putting the airport back into Bermudian hands garnered applause from the audience.

It opened with “key recovery commitments” to generate economic growth, with the national digital bank to be open for investment from all Bermudians, as well as give wider access to lower mortgages.

The document added the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation would get more investment to create “dozens of new Bermudian-owned businesses every year” and a push to online marketing.

The PLP earlier called for more competition in the banking sector and said it would introduce new classes of banks with lower requirements for start-up capital.

The document added it was planning to use the island's response to the Covid-19 crisis to attract overseas investment and direct some of the proceeds from the Government's latest round of borrowing into capital projects.

Cash at present earmarked for unemployment benefits would be used to pay wages for workers on major construction work.

The work listed included renewable energy projects to start “before the end of the year” on large government buildings such as schools and the National Sports Centre.

The platform listed a series of other major projects including moving the island's container port from Hamilton. Others were a hunt for new investment to complete the Morgan's Point development in the West End, assistance in the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton hotel and the creation of “state of the art” medical tourism.

The platform also promised to put in place minimum and living wages and workforce equity legislation to level the playing field for people disadvantaged for “reasons unrelated to ability”.

The PLP said it also planned to use human rights law to help people of “African descent, women and the differently abled” to get a bigger slice of the new development pie.

Other labour promises included pay transparency legislation and a national unemployment insurance scheme. The document said a PLP government would aid small businesses with a “Competent Persons Scheme” — which would allow trusted entrepreneurs to get planning concessions and fast-tracked applications.

The “green energy revolution” would include “joint electricity ownership schemes” for homeowners to get grants for solar panels, as well as a Green Energy Fund, and “profit-sharing co-ops” with energy investors.

The food co-operative for domestic production would include vertical farming, partly powered by green energy, to meet “35 per cent of Bermuda's demand for annual leafy vegetables”.

A boost for the fishing industry would include the completion of an onshore fish processing centre. The platform also proposed to give the Government more power to cut electricity costs and promote the island as a jurisdiction where developers of new green energy could test their products.

The PLP document added the island would join forces with venture capital firms to bring start-up tech companies to an incubator and the co-operative business model would be boosted through legislation. Hamilton would be the site of affordable apartments for young Bermudians backed by a 5 per cent down payment for first-time buyers.

New family office legislation would attract wealth management firms for the super-rich and immigration incentives would be tied to investments.

The PLP said workers would get options for investing part of their pensions on the island, while a Bermuda Trust Fund seeded by investors would be used to “benefit economically disadvantaged Bermudians”. The PLP said the development of financial technology remained a prime ambition.

The document added that sectors of the public harmed by the prohibition of cannabis would be given preference in the development of the industry on the island.

The platform promised a balanced budget inside three financial years and that the tax base would be broadened instead of increases to existing taxes.

Payroll tax would be eliminated for workers who earned less than $48,000 a year and reduced for those who earned under $96,000 a year.

Tourism pledges included “finally launching our casino industry” and the development of incentives for a film industry.

The PLP promised a public education system with more options for vocational training and that it would adopt the Bermuda First think-tank suggestion for an authority to run performance management of schools and staff.

Bermuda College would get stronger ties with The University of the West Indies and its own Career Development Centre at the capable of administering exams for international certification.

The PLP stuck to its pledge for healthcare reforms and said that independent living co-ordinators would be introduced for young people who left government care, including foster care.

The Child Care Placement Board would be replaced with a Children's Commission to provide independent oversight for young people in care and the platform said emergency shelters would be expanded for the homeless, including families.

Seniors were promised inflation-linked annual pension increases and that land tax would be dropped for care homes. The platform promised the acquisition of modern equipment, with reviews of the police, fire, prisons, regiment and customs services.

It added that there would be extra training for prison inmates and that jurors would undergo compulsory online “unconscious bias” training.

The PLP promised that significant Bermudians from history would continue to be highlighted and that the history of Gibbets Island in Smith's, a place of execution for the enslaved, would be promoted.

The PLP promised to push for a marina in St George's and a renovated St George's Club while reforming the corporation, and finishing a waste treatment centre.

The party added it would carry out “a wholesale review of public service vehicle laws” designed to deregulate public vehicles to “provide more opportunities for business owners”.

Video cameras, wi-fi and cashless payment would be introduced on public and supplementary transport would be used to support the island's main bus routes.

To view the election platform, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

Economic boost: Progressive Labour Party leader David Burt speaks at St George's Cricket Club last night at the unveiling of the party's 2020 General Election platform (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Reading intently: a Progressive Labour Party member studies the party's platform at St George's Cricket Club last night (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
PLP platform launch: Xari Wade (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
PLP platform launch (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
PLP platform launch (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
PLP platform launch (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
PLP platform launch (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
PLP platform launch (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 23, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 23, 2020 at 6:51 pm)

Election 2020: PLP vows to jump-start gaming

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