Burt blasts OBA pessimism
David Burt blasted the Opposition for its pessimism about the island's economy last night, pledging he would reduce our debt by next year while growing and diversifying the economy.
The Premier took to his feet in the House of Assembly after about six hours of debate on Opposition leader Craig Cannonier's Reply to the Throne.
“We will, next year, begin to reduce our debt. That is a fact,” Mr Burt said.
“This year, is the last year that net debt will increase and next year net debt will decrease. It is going to happen.
“We will grow the economy. We will diversify the economy and we will take on the forces that are holding us back.”
Mr Cannonier had said in his reply that urgent action was needed to stimulate the “flatlining economy” but Mr Burt accused the Opposition of being agents of the past.
He said that those on the international stage were much more optimistic about the potential of the fintech industry than the Opposition.
He said that Brian O'Hara, former CEO of XL, said the way that people speak of fintech now reminded him of the way people spoke about the insurance industry in Bermuda in the 1980s.
“He [Mr O'Hara] is on the board of a fintech company started up in Bermuda under this government. Doug Soares [managing director of Hamilton-based Expertise] … says that the start-up activity he is seeing in Bermuda is something he hasn't seen in a very long time.
“It is not going to happen overnight.”
The Premier's remarks were followed by a statement from Damon Wade, the chairman of the Progressive Labour Party, which noted that the Chamber of Commerce had approved of the Throne Speech's “focus on people caught in the gap between income and expenses”.
Defending the PLP's plans for the economy in the House, Mr Burt said his party would “jealously guard” Bermuda's reputation globally in the area of fintech.
Long-term, sustainable economic growth was the focus of his party, he said.
“The way you create that economy is by ensuring that there is equity inside of society. That is the only way you get sustainability.
“If you reduce costs across the economy people have more money to spend and it creates more jobs because the economy is more productive — that is how you build long-term growth.
“Anyone can spend $100m on a one-time event [the America's Cup] — what is hard work is putting sustainable things in place to ensure that we have a sustainable future.”
Mr Burt mentioned the PLP's work in creating a living wage and more competition in the mortgage market to drive down costs as examples.
Mr Burt disputed claims from the Opposition that the issue of immigration was controversial, insisting that trust was lost in the former government when it tried to push through the Pathways to Status legislation the day after losing a by-election.
“It is not controversial if the people trust what you are doing.”
Mr Burt added: “This government recognises that you need to have a bipartisan approach to these problems.”
UPDATE: This story has been amended to show that Mr Burt pledged to “take on the forces that are holding us back” rather than “take out” as first reported.