Throne Speech: focus on getting Bermuda out of Covid economic slump
Plans aimed at powering Bermuda out of the economic slump triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic were unveiled by the Government yesterday.
The Throne Speech delivered by Governor Rena Lalgie on behalf of the ruling PLP administration focused on building back business, as well as health and education reforms.
Ms Lalgie made history as the first woman, and first Black person to make such an address.
One Bermuda Alliance leader Cole Simons dismissed the legislative proposals as “weak”.
The Covid-19 crisis emphasised the need for healthcare changes, the speech said.
“The grossest inequity exposed by the global pandemic is in the area of healthcare and health insurance coverage.
“Affordable universal healthcare is a complex, multiyear commitment and is a fundamental part of Bermuda’s Economic Recovery Plan, because it will reduce costs to business, which in turn increases economic growth.
“The Ministry of Health will develop a national digital health strategy to leverage technology that will streamline administrative expenses, so more funds can be spent on delivering healthcare services.
“The Government will commence merging the administration of the Government healthcare plans, which will deliver cost savings.”
The administration pledged the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation would be “modernised” as the organisation was “essential” for business recovery.
“The BEDC will advance residential developments in Bermuda’s economic empowerment zones,” the speech said.
Action on energy costs was also pledged.
“Regulations will also be introduced to address the cost of the fuel surcharge for electricity and also to better regulate the storage and distribution of fuel, with the aim of reducing energy costs for Bermuda’s residents and businesses.”
The speech added: “To execute another initiative of Bermuda’s Economic Recovery Plan, the Government will introduce a Bill to facilitate the developers of renewable energy technology testing their products in Bermuda.
“This legislation will lay the groundwork for additional investment in Bermuda, whose innovation can reduce the cost of electricity for local consumers.”
The Government said it would also “look to protect consumers by reducing the fees charged by service providers to residents with private pensions.”
A Youth Employment Strategy to meet the needs of unemployed people between 18-26 is also to be brought in to combat “social dysfunction” in Bermuda.
Changes to the immigration process were also promised in the form of a new digitised application system.
Measures aimed at protecting seniors from “financial abuse” were also outlined.
Action was promised on the waste management “crisis”.
The speech said: “The issue of Bermuda’s waste management is an infrastructure crisis, to which all efforts must be devoted to solve. The Government must tackle this critical infrastructure project to ensure that
“Bermuda does not have to revert to landfilling its solid waste. The Tynes Bay facility must be replaced, and pending that replacement the Government will take all the necessary steps to ensure a continuation of the service provided by this critical facility.”
Measures were promised on privacy issues.
The Government said it would bring in “a harmonised personal information privacy regime for online services”.
The speech said: “Public safety will be enhanced by marrying technology to crime prevention and detection. During this Session, the Ministry of National Security will advance a new island-wide CCTV system, which will include newer features to assist the police in tackling road traffic offences and violent crime.”
A new cybersecurity Act will be brought-in to “defend our island from dangerous online actors”.
The speech said: “It will establish minimum standards for cybersecurity for critical assets such as energy supply, telecommunications, water infrastructure and government data.”
The Government emphasised the importance of tourism to economic recovery.
“No economic recovery of Bermuda will be achieved without a recovery in tourism.
“Whilst the execution of any tourism campaign and marketing strategy is the purview of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, leadership in tourism policy must come from the Government of Bermuda, who commit tens of millions of taxpayer funds to the organisation, a commitment which demands a far greater return than has been.“
These are the key points of the Throne Speech:
– Health care reforms will see “cost savings” by merging the administration of the Government healthcare plans, and the introduction of national digital health strategy.
– The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) to be “modernised” as the organisation is “essential” for business recovery.
– Action on energy costs pledged with new regulations to address the price of the fuel surcharge for electricity.
– Education reforms.
– A Youth Employment Strategy to meet the needs of unemployed people between 18-26 in order to combat “social dysfunction” in Bermuda.
– Changes to the immigration process in the form of a new digitised application system.
– Measures aimed at protecting seniors from “financial abuse”.
– Action promised on the waste management “crisis” with the Tynes Bay facility replaced.
– A “harmonised” personal information privacy regime for online services.
– An island-wide CCTV system, which will include newer features to “assist the police in tackling road traffic offences and violent crime.”
– Introduction of a new cybersecurity act to “defend our island from dangerous online actors”.
– Commitment to boost tourism with leadership in the sector coming from Government.
– A boost for community organisations promised as a reward for their efforts during the pandemic.
– A Marine Development Act to improve investment in fishing, offshore renewable energy and “blue tourism”.
– A “Strategic Plan” for the Town of St George
– A national sports strategy.
– New protections for consumers by reducing the fees charged by service providers to residents with private pensions.
A boost for community organisation was promised as a reward for their efforts during the pandemic.
“Led by the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, the Government will work with the island’s lending institutions to provide financial, loan and mortgage assistance to communities of faith and third-sector entities.
“The role they play has proven vital to community wellbeing and will be increasingly important as we weather the storms of economic recovery.”
A Marine Development Act was promised by the Government aimed at boosting investment in fishing, offshore renewable energy and “blue tourism”, while upholding sustainability.
The speech also pledged a “strategic plan” for the Town of St. George.
Building on the Olympic triumph of Flora Duffy, the Government said it would pursue a national sports strategy.
The speech added: “The Government’s agenda remains as promised to the people of Bermuda, and “moving beyond the pandemic” signals a necessary priority on these and other critical issues that have been delayed due to resources diverted by COVID-19.“
The Governor said: “I look forward to working in partnership with the elected Government to tackle violent crime and all forms of serious crime in order to maintain Bermuda’s global reputation as a safe place to live and to do business.”
Mr Simons accused the Government of having “lost the plot”.
He said: “Today I stand here shedding a tear for Bermuda.
“I have been in the House for 23 years and this by far is the weakest and least impressive Throne Speech presented.
“It appears that the Government has lost the plot and is short of details on which the people of Bermuda can hang their hats on.
“The Government has thrown around high level concepts with very little detail which will show how peoples’ lives will really be impacted.”