Burt: ‘It’s a question of what is right for the future of country’
David Burt, the Premier, defended the Government’s economic recovery plan and countered suggestions the Progressive Labour Party had strayed from its labour roots.
Mr Burt called a spat over the summer with the pro-PLP activist group Move Bermuda “unfortunate” after the organisation announced it was distancing from the party.
The PLP and the grass roots organisation ended up at loggerheads over a fishing plant at the East End to be funded by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, which Move claimed had originally been intended as a co-operative run by fishermen.
The group withdrew from the proposal with the BEDC.
Mr Burt responded: “I’m not trying to get personal.
“But you cannot be an organisation that wants $2 million from the Government, but doesn’t want to work with the government agency that’s providing it.
“We’re not going to give blank cheques. We’ve learnt our lessons before.”
The Premier insisted the PLP had not sided with the business community but was “pro economic growth”.
“We would not be able to feed people in this country if we did not grow our economy. No one wants us to raise taxes.
“We have to grow the pie so we have less taxes, less cost of living, so our health insurance cost don’t keep going up, so they can stabilise at some point and go down.
“When you have economic contraction, all those things are opposite. So it’s not a question of being pro-business or pro-labour. It’s a question of what is right and best for the future of this country.“
Mr Burt said the Government’s focus remained on its economic recovery plan, which had been honed down from more than 200 suggestions to “the 31 that would have the largest impact on the economy, which would be the easiest ones to execute”.
He added: “Our focus is on the work, whether it’s immigration reform, healthcare reform, economic stimulus, medical tourism or vertical farming. All of those are progressing.”
Mr Burt said that medical tourism, a proposal carried over successive administrations, was set to move forward “in leaps and bounds – we are working with various providers, with private sector in partnership, to advance that”.
“What we have to recognise is the Government does not have significant money or borrowing capacity.
“On medical tourism, we already have a hospital; this is not something to compete with our hospital.
“We’ve seen what’s worked in other places where people have brought investment in to set it up. I’m not saying it will be a P3 like the hospital, but we want to stimulate private sector investment and make it available.”
The Government has been repeatedly challenged by the Opposition in the House of Assembly to give updates on vertical farming plans.
“There are matters happening on vertical farming with teams on island looking at various sites,” Mr Burt said.
Meanwhile a business plan of more than 300 pages on the creation of a national digital bank has been “submitted to be reviewed by Cabinet shortly”.
In May, Mr Burt told MPs during a debate in the House on gaming that it was “expected” for Bermuda’s first casino to open at the new St Regis hotel in St George’s in the summer.
Last week Mr Burt told The Royal Gazette: “There is a process they’re engaged in with the Bermuda Gaming Commission to get approval of their licence.
“That’s not something the Government is directly involved in.
“The gaming regulator is separate. When that process is completed, we can look forward to opening a casino.”
Emphasising that he could not comment publicly on a regulatory matter for gaming, Mr Burt said: “I can’t speak to who else is in line.”
But when asked if a casino could be expected in this year, he said: “Absolutely.
“That is still the fervent view of the Government of Bermuda, and I have no doubt.”