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Opposition takes a swing at Budget

Cole Simons named the new leader of the One Bermuda Alliance. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A drive to create business opportunities should be launched by the Government, the One Bermuda Alliance said tonight.

Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition and shadow finance minister, said that support was vital, particularly for the young because they accounted for 46 per cent of those left jobless by the pandemic.

Mr Simons added: “Many residents see the Budget as very aspirational and one that lacks detail.

“It is likely the most non-specific Budget ever presented.”

He asked: “Where is the PLP’s detailed economic recovery plan?

“It’s as though the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic was viewed as a ’get out of jail free’ card for the pre-existing economic challenges facing Bermuda.”

Mr Simons claimed that debt and unfunded liabilities were “completely out of control” and would hit $5.7 billion in the next financial year.

He said that Britain’s exit from the European Union had left the island vulnerable.

Mr Simons explained: “The fact is that we have no heavyweight friends or influencers who can successfully lobby on our behalf at the national and international level.

“Bermuda should form a strategic alliance with members listed on the EU’s blacklist, influential lobbyists, non-governmental organisations and other influencers to leverage their collective economic power, their global influence and contributions to the international financial markets.”

Mr Simons was speaking in the run up to tomorrow’s session of House of Assembly, where he will deliver the OBA Reply to the Budget, unveiled last Friday by Curtis Dickinson, the finance minister.

He claimed that the Budget had failed to produce a plan for development of young people.

He said: “Instead, Government spent resources on the development of the cannabis industry, with very little said by the Minister in support of our youth.”

Mr Simons added that an independent education authority should be set up and that a continuing professional development centre for teachers should be created.

He said that Covid-19 was a “shock” to the economy – and revealed that the PLP’s financial management was “seriously lacking”.

Mr Simons added: “We believe that this economic shock will provide opportunities for bold new initiatives requiring us to revisit tried and proven programmes, which deserve immediate attention without political bias.

“This could include the introduction of fiscal responsibility legislation with a cap on the annual expenditure growth and cap on the debt to gross domestic product ratio.”

Mr Simons said the public sector was “disproportionately larger than it needs to be to conduct its business and to deliver necessary services to taxpayers.”

He added that he was pleased the PLP was “finally accepting” the need for immigration changes.

Mr Simons said easier paths to residency and citizenship would protect “the interest of Bermudians and Bermudian jobs” and that it “just makes good business sense”.

He added that the health service needed urgent care and that all the sectors involved the delivery and finance of healthcare had to work together on cost cuts, the reduction of chronic illness and equal access.

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Published March 05, 2021 at 8:48 am (Updated March 05, 2021 at 8:48 am)

Opposition takes a swing at Budget

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