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Throne Speech: push to create jobs

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Throne Speech response: Michael Dunkley, the Premier, flanked by members of his Cabinet, said yesterday that economic recovery remained a priority for the Bermuda Government (Photograph by David Skinner)

The Bermuda Government will commit to working with businesses to help to create jobs as the Island emerges from the recession, according to Michael Dunkley.

The Premier said he was confident that opportunity would arise while discussing the Throne Speech yesterday morning.

Quizzed about the 2,000 jobs the One Bermuda Alliance pledged to create when it came to office, Mr Dunkley said: “Government can lay the foundation to create the jobs and I think there is a new breed of business that takes place.

“In previous recessions, as soon as people feel a little bit of confidence, they hire people automatically, but this last recession was prolonged and very severe and businesses found a way to adapt and do what is appropriate to survive.

“The last thing they will do is create jobs until they feel entirely confident that they can move forward.

“We will keep working with them to create job opportunity. The unemployment rate is falling. We are creating the foundation on the Island [including the hotel developments] and this will create jobs and opportunities.”

Economic recovery remains the government’s priority as it can “help more people more quickly than anything else”, said Mr Dunkley, who was flanked by his ministers. They answered questions after his brief statement.

Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, said: “We are making progress in reducing the deficit. We have had some reasonable success in the first half of this year.

“Our whole budget procedures and monitoring of spending is at a much more rigorous level than it has been in years gone by, and that will continue.

“We are looking at tax reform to see what comes of that and some of those ideas and concepts will be present in the upcoming budget. The elements are now starting to align for us.

“Economic growth is a prerequisite for job growth, it doesn’t happen at the same time. We are optimistic that those stars are starting to align.”

Very little was mentioned about the Department of Transport during the Throne Speech on Friday, but Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, said the Government had been working with the Bermuda Police Service to improve safety on Bermuda’s roads, and that roadside sobriety testing could be introduced next year.

“We are still committed to implementing the roadside sobriety testing. We are working with the police again to come up with the right methodology.

“We expect that by next year we will be able to implement that as well.

“Speed cameras are also on the agenda — that is a bit more technical. Again, we have had some dialogue with the police but it is not as high on the agenda as roadside testing.”

Discussions with airlines about potential new services to Bermuda were “ongoing”, he said.

In last year’s Throne Speech, the Government made a commitment to end conscription, and Mr Dunkley said this was still high on OBA’s agenda.

“Conscription — it is a work in progress,” he said. “The Defence Act will come forward in this session. We made that commitment to do it and it is very close. We made tremendous strides in the past couple of years we have seen that the number of people conscripted has actually fallen drastically.”

Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, was asked why absentee voting was restricted to the student population living overseas.

“The issue comes down to whether you are ordinarily resident in Bermuda or if someone has, in fact, moved overseas and is living and working abroad,” he said. “You then have to ask the question as to where they are actually residing, which would then lead to issues of which constituencies people vote in, so the most appropriate way at this stage is to focus on students who are still ordinarily resident in Bermuda but are overseas for study.”

Mr Dunkley also spoke about “improving quality of life” through a raft of measures, including social support programmes and pilot initiatives for the protection of seniors and those with severe disabilities.

• For Mr Dunkley’s comments in full, click on the PDF file under “Related Media”.

Social support: Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said initiatives for the protection of seniors and those with disabilities would help to improve residents’ quality of life (Photograph by David Skinner)
Road safety: Shawn Crockwell, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport, says roadside sobriety testing may be introduced next year (Photograph by David Skinner)
Reducing the deficit: Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, says progress is being made (Photograph by David Skinner)