OBA urges Government to cut sugar tax and Belco fuel tax to help cost of living crisis
The Opposition has called on the Government to eliminate the sugar tax and reduce Belco’s duty on fuel to help families dealing with the cost of living crisis.
Last month, MPs approved spending $5.8 million as part of a $15 million package that includes reductions in duty on petrol and diesel and the elimination of customs duty on unspecified essential foodstuff.
The call from Opposition comes as inflation in May reached its highest recorded level since December 2007.
Jarion Richardson, the deputy leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, said the Government must “stop the talk” and do more to help families dealing with soaring prices.
The Progressive Labour Party last night hit back outlining the measures it is taking claiming that the Opposition had doubled taxes on fuel in Bermuda and increased payroll taxes for workers to the highest level in history.
Mr Richardson said: “These are unprecedented times and we should expect the challenges of high costs to continue due to the world still staggering to rebound after Covid and now the impact of the war in Ukraine.
“Sadly, Bermuda is feeling the pain in one way or another at every turn.
“Belco prices are skyrocketing. We hear it every day and people are pondering if their household can sustain any more financial weight. Any reduction of food prices would be welcomed.
“The OBA is well aware there are no easy solutions but Premier Burt and his colleagues must stop the talk and promises and actually make decisions.
“How about reducing the duty on fuel so Belco can pass that on to the consumer?
“How about eliminating the 75 per cent sugar tax so all those items can be reduced drastically?
“The OBA is ready and willing to work with the Government using our experience and knowledge for the good of all Bermuda as we work through tough times.
“It is imperative that the country experience some form of economic relief that will truly make a difference.”
Mr Burt, who is also the Minister of Finance, said there would be a $3.8 million payroll tax rebate for lower-income earners, $567,000 for school supplies for students in public schools and a $931,651 increase in the food allowance for people on financial assistance.
A further $500,000 will go towards the purchase of LED bulbs to be distributed to families.
Separately, Mr Burt tabled an order enabling him as finance minister to set the duty rate for fuel without the requirement of legislative authority. It would allow the minister to set the fuel price at the February rate when it was frozen and will cost the Government $6.3 million this financial year.
Duty reductions on foods, which are not yet before the House, are expected to cost the Government about $3 million.
Mr Burt said the measures were designed “to provide relief to the people of Bermuda to address the increase in costs of living”.
A government spokeswoman said last night that the Government had reduced payroll tax to the lowest level in history for workers, increased pensions for seniors and provided a “first time payroll tax rebate”.
She highlighted the Government’s purchase of LED light bulbs to reduce energy costs, the freezing of vehicle fuel prices, ending the practice of across-the-board increases in government fees and reducing private car relicensing by 10 per cent as well as eliminating import duty on many food items and reduced rates for clothing, household linens and shoes.
She added: “This Government will continue to build on its record of putting more money into the pockets of working Bermudians to assist with the impact of global inflation and looks forward to announcing further measures to reduce the burden of escalating food prices when the House of Assembly returns on September 16.
“We look forward to debating those measures with the Opposition and hope they will support the measures that will provide even more relief to Bermudians.”