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Budget 2016: businesses will suffer, says Burt

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Shadow Minister for Finance David Burt makes his post-Budget statement outside sessions house (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

David Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, has warned that local businesses will end up closing as a result of the tax increases contained in the Budget.

Speaking shortly after the conclusion of the 2016-17 Budget statement by Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, Mr Burt said the Government’s repeated failure to diversify the Bermuda economy would cost the public. “We are going to see some businesses that will go out of business because they cannot afford the tax burden,” Mr Burt said. “We are going to see increased strain on families as all families will now be taking home less money.

“In an environment where the cost of living is increasing, we have also seen the minister increase the price of gasoline in the country. These are things that are adversely affecting the people of this country.

“With the lack of attention paid to economic diversification, with the continued loss of jobs that the Minister of Finance has presided over, the people are being made to pay for his poor management of the economy and his lack of attention to economic growth.”

Mr Burt also noted the topic of economic diversification was not mentioned once in the statement given by Mr Richards despite years of urging by the Progressive Labour Party.

“For going on three years now, the OBA has refused to diversify the economy, shown a lack of vision for the future of this country, and now the people of this country are going to be made to pay for their lack of action on economic diversification and economic growth with increased taxes, which will cause increased pain,” he said.

“We agree with the Minister of Finance that the budget has to be balanced, but the lack of attention to the growth of the economy, the lack of investment that has been given to tourism and the ineffective use that, given to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, has resulted in the lowest air arrivals in 49 years and employment falling again this year.

“Next week the PLP will present an alternative vision for this country. As we saw in the by-election that happened in Constituency 13, the people of this country have grown tired of the One Bermuda Alliance and they deserve an alternative vision that they can believe in, that they can understand will provide the security and the pathways to Bermudian success that the Bermudians of this country deserve.”

Questioned about the announced introduction of General Services Tax, Mr Burt said the PLP supported the broadening of the tax base, stating that it would look at what the OBA proposes.

“We are not going to attack that proposal because the fact is we have said a broadening of the tax base needs to happen. We are going to examine that. The one thing that I would remind the people is we called for a review of the tax system in 2013. When the minister is talking about these new taxes, he said at the earliest they would go into place was next year. It is likely that it will take longer to put in place.

“The fact is that the minister’s past mistakes of not listening to reason and not trying to focus on economic growth, economic diversification and the modernisation of the organisation and reform of our tax system today is seeing the people of this country with an increased tax burden.”

Mr Burt also said that Mr Richards’s mention of introducing a progressive tax structure provided a degree of vindication, reiterating that the opposition have called for changes for years.

He added: “It is too late for the people of this country, and right now the country is being made to pay for the Minister of Finance’s short-sightedness and his mistakes.”