Gaming not on Jason Hayward’s radar for economy
The impact that gaming will have on Bermuda’s economy was thrown into question at a press conference led by the Minister for Labour and Economy.
Responding to questions regarding the first-quarter economic performance of the year, Jason Hayward said that while gaming was highlighted as a key strategy in the Economic Recovery Strategy, that strategy has now been replaced with the Economic Development Strategy, which does not prioritise gaming.
Mr Hayward, who was joined by Leslie Robinson, the Junior Minister of Labour, Economy and Public Works, said: “It [gaming] was a key area in terms of the opportunity to create jobs and greater levels of economic activity.
“If that industry was to take off, we will see that the economy is still expanding without the need to increase that sector.
“It was highlighted as a key strategy in the Economic Recovery Strategy, which has been replaced with the Economic Development Strategy and it was not a strategic priority in the Economic Development Strategy.
“Notwithstanding, it is still a key area in terms of where opportunity is presented in our economy.”
As reported last week, gaming regulators redacted large portions of discussions they had about Bermuda’s failure to launch a casino industry to date.
The Bermuda Gaming Commission disclosed minutes from ten meetings its board members held between March 2022 and February this year, but the records revealed little about why the sector has stalled.
The Royal Gazette asked Mr Hayward yesterday if he could say with any certainty that the planned casino at St Regis is to go ahead, but did not receive a response by press time.
At the start of the year, Century Casino, a US gaming company that had been developing a casino at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, announced it had pulled out because the project was taking too long.
Mr Hayward also said during the press conference that the introduction of a fish-processing plant is not expected to be a key priority for the economy going forward.
He said: “Some of these initiatives will provide greater levels of economic activity if they get off the ground. However, when we talk about the entire economy we clearly outlined in the Economic Development Strategy which industrial sections are growth drivers, which industrial sections drive employment and which industrial sections present the greatest level of opportunity to the Government.“
Jason Hayward, the Minister for Economy and Labour, was asked if the transit visa required by visitors from 115 countries could be seen as a barrier to economic growth.
He would not be drawn, saying the Government would be releasing information in short order.
“The ministry intends to issue a full press statement and I would ask you to park that particular question for now,” Mr Hayward said.
He said the timing of the Immigration and Protection (Prohibition of Entry) Order 2023 he issued last Friday, just days before a flight was due to land on the island from the Dominican Republic by new Bermuda airline TXKF Direct, would also be addressed in the statement.
Mr Hayward also spoke about the potential for a vertical-farming industry, adding: “Once we began to have media coverage we had outreach from locals and overseas individuals who wanted to partner with Bermuda to increase use of technology to move forward with greater levels of local agricultural production.
“That will be a key feature in the Integrated Agriculture Strategy, which the Ministry of Home Affairs is working on.”
Mr Hayward explained that the Economic Development Strategy is the “robust plan” that is going to drive economic development.
He added: “There are strategic priorities in those plans and strategic initiatives. Execution of the Economic Recovery Plan is still a key priority. Within that Economic Recovery Plan were 31 initiatives. Some of those initiatives were highlighted to produce a greater level of economic results if we were able to execute on those particular items.
“None of that takes away the value that project [the plant] will bring if it is executed, so I don’t want you to think that if executed it will no longer bring economic activity. What I am saying is we have a more robust economic strategy that we are focused on at this point in time, and that is only one project.”
Addressing questions related to the high cost of living in Bermuda, Mr Hayward said the Government is considering expanding an existing list of products subject to tax deferrals.
“The Government and Cost of Living Commission will continually explore options as to how we reduce the cost of living,” he said.
He added that the Government was working on increasing the level of engagement with the public on how plans and strategies are progressing.
He said: “The Economic Development Advisory Board is responsible for the key performance indicators pertaining to each of the initiatives that are featured in the Economic Development Strategy.
“What I have promised going forward is to give full, robust updates [in each fiscal period] on the progress we are making on initiatives and the priorities we will set as it pertains to which initiatives we will move forward with.”