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Leaders’ forum: Burt targets full recovery by 2023

David Burt, the Premier, at the pre-election forum last night (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Private investment will drive many of the projects promised in the Progressive Labour Party’s platform for the October 1 General Election, the Premier said last night.David Burt explained that the PLP had put together a collaborative document with input from union partners and other groups and that the island faced “a unique opportunity” amid the coronavirus pandemic.He said: “We do not have a large amount of grandiose promises inside of this platform that are going to cost public money because we don’t have that public money.”The PLP leader added: “When we look at the near-term investments, which have been laid out here, most of them count on private-sector investment, which is necessary.” He said examples included the Fairmont Southampton refurbishment and relocating the Hamilton docks. The Premier cited plans to create a national digital bank, open up competition in the banking sector and a green energy revolution from the PLP platform.Mr Burt said 2023 was a “realistic” target for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with the potential revival of tourism accelerating next year with the return of cruise ships.He said the PLP would stimulate recovery with capital projects in the meantime, which would not be driven by borrowing.Mr Burt conceded he had been politically combative in the past, but said he had “taken a step back” to become “a unifying leader for these times”.Asked about the planned national bank, Mr Burt assured the forum shares would be “open to everyone”.He added that housing planned for younger residents in Hamilton could cater to Bermudians hoping to return from overseas — with international business investors being able to share the space.The Premier said that pensions could be used as security on housing purchases.Mr Burt said the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation would reap “incredible” support for new business, and said entrepreneurs would benefit if Bermuda became “a leader in digital payments”.He explained that the Cabinet approved the second stage of a feasibility study for medical tourism.Mr Burt said: “The benefits of which it has, is that it will allow for some procedures where persons would typically fly overseas, to be done here in Bermuda and that actually benefits our economy.”The Premier said that “political will and courage” was needed to help bring down the cost of healthcare.He added: “You have to have the political will to change things that are longstanding.”Mr Burt called for healthcare financing reform to bring better care at more affordable prices.He said a national drug formulary could help to reduce pricetags on the top 20 prescription drugs.“Energy fairness” on renewable energy would get targeted in the Green Energy Fund, with a first step focused on solar water heating.Solar panels are to be installed on all government buildings and schools.Mr Burt said that the PLP had worked on education reform and made “progress without question” since the party won the 2017 election.He categorically ruled out the possibility of his party forming any coalition government, despite the emergence of the Free Democratic Movement ahead of Thursday’s election.Mr Burt said: “What we have laid out is something that will rebuild the economy with Bermudians at heart, for the future.“We cannot rebuild the same economy we had before the pandemic.”