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Reduce costs and cut the cost of doing business, MPs told

Budget Day: David Burt, Premier and Minister of Finance (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The cost of government must be reduced in order to allow the economy to rebound, the Opposition said during the budget debate.

Speaking in the House of Assembly last night, Scott Pearman, shadow legal and home affairs minister said the Government needed to take a “firmer” stance.

“We have a responsibility to Bermudians to make sure their government works for them and does what it is supposed to – delivering on the ideas,” he said. “We need to reduce the cost of doing business here. We need responsible spending which requires us all to look at cost of government.”

Mr Pearman said the biggest flaw in the Progressive Labour Party budget is that it fails to identify where the inward flow of foreign capital is coming from. “We need to find it,” he said.

He questioned the Government’s post pandemic economic recovery, saying: “Going from zero to hero is no great achievement”.

Craig Cannonier, the Shadow Minister for Works, Engineering and Tourism, said more work should be done to improve government efficiency and get more people to the island.

“I am not for more taxes right now,” he said. “I am about improving the economy by getting more people to the table.”

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, said while Bermuda’s rate of inflation is lower than much of the world, it was still “alarmingly high”.

Mr Hayward said more business activity was required to create jobs and further grow the workforce, and that government intends to use immigration to help build economic activity in a measured way.

He added that he had reached out to the OBA for its input on immigration but said he had yet to receive a response. Mr Hayward said he would not be extending another invitation.

Cole Simons, One Bermuda Alliance leader, said the PLP had said previously in the House that if the OBA makes a recommendation, the Government would go the opposite way.

Susan Jackson, the Shadow Minister of Transportation, said action must be taken to protect the island’s growing senior population, stating: “Seniors are living in damp, dark, cold, small dilapidated dwellings.

“They are silent and they need a voice. They are not well.”

Ms Jackson said the optimism from the PLP members stood in sharp contrast to the experiences of the public.

Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister for National Security, Health and Seniors, said he supported revisions to the sugar tax and immigration policies.

And while he was happy to hear about progress to restore airlift, he said “we cannot support it with failed promises on hotel development”.

Jache Adams, PLP MP, said claims by Mr Simons that Bermuda has a current account deficit are a fallacy.

He said: “The last time we had a reoccurring current account deficit was during the entire time they [the OBA] were in government.”

He said from a fiscal perspective the Government’s primary objective is to achieve a balanced budget.

Mr Adams said: “The current account balance in our sinking fund is what we have to cover future deficits. We have to get to a balanced budget before the sinking fund runs out.

“We can’t normalise a lifestyle of overspending. It is the role we have accepted and it is what this government is prepared to do.”

Jarion Richardson, Shadow Minister of Labour and the Cabinet Office, said he did not believe the PLP’s economic recovery plan was going well.

Referring to the website that provides updates on the plan, he said: “The updates for the projects are all made at the same time, they are fluffy and ill-defined.

“Some of these ideas are quite risqué and aspirational – everything from vertical farming to medical tourism to a shore side fishing plant.

“It causes uncertainty in the economy. No one is going to put their money or their time into a lost cause.”

Anthony Richardson, PLP backbencher, highlighted the reduction in the cost for school uniforms, which will have an impact on the bottom line for parents.

Zane DeSilva, PLP backbencher, said the Opposition had "spent their entire day talking about the PLP’s budget“.

David Burt, the Premier, noted that by the end of the debate only one OBA member was still in the house and that no members had defended the party’s budget reply.

“None of them, as was said by members earlier, could stand up and defend anything in this book,” he said.

He said that most workers and businesses would pay less in taxes under the upcoming budget, and that despite economic challenges, government revenues in the past year were higher than previously forecast.

“The highlights in the budget are simple,” he said. “We will move to a path of a balanced budget, we will invest more in our communities, we will invest more in our infrastructure, we will cut taxes for most people in this country and we will cut taxes on most businesses in this country.”

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Published February 25, 2023 at 4:08 pm (Updated February 25, 2023 at 4:08 pm)

Reduce costs and cut the cost of doing business, MPs told

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