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MPs wrangle over solutions for economy

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Premier laid down a challenge for the Leader of the Opposition to come up with a plan to boost the economy instead of repeating “slogan after slogan” without substance.

David Burt offered Craig Cannonier, the One Bermuda Alliance leader, six weeks before MPs return to the House of Assembly in September to put together a proposal.

He said in the early hours of last Saturday: “Week after week we are treated to slogans from the Opposition leader and it’s literally slogan after slogan after slogan but behind it there is never any substance whatsoever. So all we hear from the Opposition is ‘stimulate the economy’.”

The Premier spoke after Mr Cannonier chastised the Government for failing to court inward investment for Bermuda.

The Opposition leader commended the Progressive Labour Party for extending maternity leave and proposing a living wage, calling them “noble things”.

He continued: “But if we’re not getting investment back into this country, who is going to pay for it?”

Mr Cannonier noted that Dennis Lister III, a government backbencher, had supported a tax-generating local cannabis industry earlier in the debate.

“It would probably grow faster than fintech,” Mr Cannonier said. “Maybe he has a point.”

In a statement to The Royal Gazette, Mr Cannonier said the OBA’s economic plans were already stated in the Reply to the Throne Speech and the Budget reply.

He added: “We would be happy to supply the Premier with copies. But all he needs to do is look at our successful track record for lessons in stimulating the economy.”

Mr Cannonier extolled the former administration’s “twin-track policy” of reining in the “out of control debt we inherited”, along with “securing huge inward investment in new hotels and the airport, which are employing a large number of Bermudians”.

The Opposition leader said: “We would also have balanced the budget by now, unlike the PLP and its promises to do so.”

He said the OBA had brought the 2017 America’s Cup to Bermuda, created the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and set up the independent Casino Gaming Commission.

“In short, we performed a near economic miracle that was needed to stop this country falling into an out of control spiral of despair caused by the PLP’s mishandling of the economy.”

The adjourning of the House on Friday came with speeches from both parties about the PLP’s record over its first two years in Government.

Two PLP MPs on Friday night lamented that the predominantly white supporters of the Opposition were automatically against its work.

Scott Simmons, of the PLP, said he was “concerned about the community, that is the other 41 per cent, who are completely galvanised together” and “only interested in themselves”.

Mr Simmons told the House: “No matter what we do as a government, what I’m afraid of is that we are only seen as a black government that is without credibility.”

Kim Swan, a PLP backbencher, blasted the One Bermuda Alliance for failing to bring solutions to the House as Opposition.

Mr Swan said the island’s white community voted “96 or 97 per cent for one party — it’s true” and had “not moved towards the black community”.

He added that Mr Cannonier’s remarks reminded him of the Bob Marley lyric “can’t take no slogans no more”.

Mr Burt, who spoke last before the House adjourned, said: “It’s a very simple challenge to the Opposition leader, because if he believes that he has all of the answers and the ideas, he has about six weeks until we come back and he has the ability to lay down a motion, in this House ... for support, with his ideas on stimulating the economy and let the public actually see what proposals are coming from the other side.”

The Premier cited 19 jobs created so far in fintech with more to follow and said that after Circle International Bermuda became the first major crypto-finance firm to get a full licence under the Digital Assets Business Act 2018 on July 22, another company was issued a licence last Thursday, July 25, “staffing up their operations here”.

He added: “I’m not trying to play the short game.”

Mr Burt said: “Smoke and mirrors are easy, but building sustainable, economic development is a lot more difficult, but let’s be clear, we are going to continue the work, because we know that it is the right way to go.

“We know and understand in the exact same way that someone bright had an idea about the insurance industry, and someone bright had an idea back then, we are going to push the envelope and we will make absolutely no apologies for it.”

To read Craig Cannonier’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”