PLP criticises Budget reply, but OBA says attacks won’t solve island’s problems
The Opposition’s Budget reply was last night criticised by government MPs as too long – but short on substance.
Wayne Furbert, the Cabinet Office Minister, attacked a claim by Cole Simons’, the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, that payroll tax would not go down.
Mr Furbert said there was a break for employees who earned less than $96,000 a year.
Mr Furbert also criticised Mr Simons for hints in his speech about “an all-out assault” on increases in annual rental values.
He suggested Mr Simons had confused ARVs in his reply to the Budget with war footage on television.
Mr Furbert added that the government would do everything it could to ensure the success of the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton.
He said: “We will do what we can, to make it work.”
Jarion Richardson, the One Bermuda Alliance Whip, said the Budget was full of “unresolved resentment” against the OBA.
He added it was hard to ignore the number of empty stores and unrepaired roads and that answers to Bermuda’s problems were not in the government’s Budget.
Mr Richardson said the Budget was “sketchy” on detail.
He added: “We need transparent language and we need to be clear and precise.”
But Jache Adams, a PLP backbencher, said the party continued to bring up the OBA because the island owed its difficult position to the party’s time in office and its high budget deficits and minimum revenue guarantee for the airport redevelopment.
Mr Adams insisted government policies had delivered economic improvements in 2021.
He pledged the PLP would continue to build on the momentum, with the key to regrowth to be found in the economic recovery plan.
Susan Jackson, the shadow transport minister, appealed to the government to establish a level playing field with legislation to build the green economy through vertical farming and solar development.
She added that the island needed to find a way to “up its game” in tourism to bring visitors and deal with minimum revenue guarantees.
Ms Jackson said that the Government planned to cut car licensing costs, but that more Bermudians should be encouraged to buy electric vehicles because of the rising cost of fuel.
Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House defended the decision to issue a $50 million guarantee for the Fairmont Southampton.
He said the economic losses because of the hotel’s closure probably amounted to “$2 million a week that could be circulated in the community”.
Zane DeSilva, a PLP backbencher, dismissed the suggestion that the Budget was an “election budget” and insisted the Premier was “not going anywhere”.
He added that although the OBA attacked the Budget’s tax breaks, struggling members of the public would welcome the relief.
Anthony Richardson of the PLP said there had been a “media frenzy” around talk of a government sweetener for the Fairmont Southampton redevelopment.
He listed concessions for other hotels and said getting the resort back open was critical for the country.
Scott Pearman, the shadow legal affairs minister, said the Budget was “a missed opportunity” but commended moves towards immigration reform and an increase in the workforce.
But Mr Pearman condemned the repeated blaming of the OBA and said much of the debate had been like “a bad episode of the Twilight Zone”.
He told the government benches: “You can keep talking about the OBA – but it’s not going to solve Bermuda’s problems.”