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OBA ‘paved the way’ on economy, says Atherden

The Progressive Labour Party government can reap the benefits of an economic transformation led by the One Bermuda Alliance, Jeanne Atherden claimed yesterday.

The Opposition leader and Shadow Minister of Finance said her party had laid the foundation for a better future with a strategy to steer the island out of debt during its 4½-year term.

Delivering her first Reply to the Budget, Ms Atherden told MPs: “The OBA has paved the way. We have bought Bermuda this far. Bermudians are relying on the Government to take us the rest of the way.”

She said the OBA had rejuvenated Bermuda with hotel investment, the creation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the airport redevelopment, while the America's Cup had helped improve tourism after decades of decline.

Ms Atherden said: “The America's Cup was one of the most important projects which the OBA government realised. It had a significant and positive economic impact for all Bermudians.

“This was despite significant and vitriolic criticism from the PLP opposition and deafening silence from the PLP government.

“This outstanding fiscal performance is borne out in the America's Cup Review Report, which confirms the overall positive impact of this historic event on Bermuda and Bermudians.

“It should be noted that the America's Cup Review Report has not yet been formally released to the public.

“As well, the Government has not acknowledged that the expenditure on this event produced the desired results and was a fiscally prudent risk/reward revenue growth option.”

Ms Atherden added that the 2017-18 Budget, delivered last week by David Burt, the Premier and Minister of Finance, was “built upon many policy initiatives started under the OBA Government”.

She said that in 2013 the OBA had faced a choice between “continued PLP insolvency and financial survival”.

Ms Atherden added: “We chose the latter, and Premier Burt stands here as the beneficiary of that choice.

“The OBA stopped the decline in the economy by improving the efficiency of Government without laying off government workers. We brought public spending under control, while ensuring key investments in Bermuda and her people.”

She said jobs were created through hotel developments at Morgan's Point, The Loren, Hamilton Princess and St George's, as well as at the airport.

Ms Atherden was concerned that the PLP expected revenue from customs duty to continue at the same level as 2017-18, despite not having the America's Cup to boost the coffers.

She said: “Rather amazingly, the PLP — in Opposition and then in Government — has refused to acknowledge the phenomenal impact of the America's Cup to the Bermudian economy.

“And yet they are continuing to hope for the America's Cup dividend to continue to deliver government revenue.

“It is simply not realistic to expect this in a year where there will be no America's Cup, or any other significant revenue event.”

Ms Atherden backed the PLP's plan to tighten payroll tax on notional salaries in owner-managed businesses, but warned about problems with implementation.

She said: “For too long, some firms have sought to avoid responsibly paying their fair share. We support this as an equitable tax rise. However, our concerns centre on the implementation of the tax, on Government's ability to collect these taxes and on the pressures that this initiative will place on the Office of the Tax Commissioner.”

Mr Burt announced in last week's Budget that the Government would consult on expanding the types of banks that can operate in Bermuda.

Ms Atherden said: “We question whether the Premier has properly investigated the economic implications of this initiative. Would new banks realistically come to Bermuda? Would there be significant new business to attract new banks? Or would this simply divide existing levels of banking needs among more participants?”

She said many of the Premier's Budget ideas, including the proposal to reverse the 60:40 ownership rule, left question marks over details.

She added: “In the future we will not just simply hold the Government accountable on the numbers spelled out within their Budget but also in the commitment to their policies.”

To read the 2018 Reply to the Budget Statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition (File photograph)

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Published February 24, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 24, 2018 at 7:59 am)

OBA ‘paved the way’ on economy, says Atherden

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