David Burt: ‘people are gunning for us’ on tax issues
Optimism about business and economic opportunities for Bermuda, and its ability to navigate any reforms to the global tax system, have been expressed by David Burt, the Premier.
He gave opening comments at the Bermuda Captive Conference, which is being held virtually for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.
Finance ministers of the Group of Seven countries (G7) this month issued an accord supporting the outlines of a new global tax system, and a commitment to a minimum corporate tax rate of 15 per cent.
When asked if that presented an obstacle or an opportunity for Bermuda, Mr Burt said the island had shown resilience in dealing with challenges in the past, and must do so in the future.
“Bermuda will remain a jurisdiction of choice. That's what is vital. If we are pessimistic we will lose,” he said.
It was a question of seeing what is happening and dealing with it, he said.
“We have done that with all the changes that have happened. We recognise that people are gunning for us. But I also know that there are insurers that are here not just for tax reasons, they are here for other reasons. And that means we have to get better at doing the other stuff.”
Mr Burt said Bermuda recognised the principles the G7 is trying to implement as “a matter of fairness”.
The Government is looking at fairness in Bermuda and recognised that the island can have a fairer and better tax code “to make sure that we provide for our needs, because that is something that is a challenge for our long-term sustainability, our social conditions, our income inequality, our costs of living and our costs of doing business”.
Mr Burt said: “The G7, the G20, the OECD and all the rest, they are going to keep coming. Our resilience is what has taken us through each and every single time they have done it. We are going to continue to do that, because we have demonstrated to the world that we are a high quality jurisdiction.”
Bermuda can say it is number one in the world for technical compliance and anti-money laundering, according to the Premier. He said: “That's what we are about, so we will remain a jurisdiction of choice and we will innovate through this as well. I'm confident the future will be bright.”
The pandemic has taught Bermuda how to be nimble, Mr Burt said, adding that it is vital the island continues to allow innovation to happen.
He said the Work from Bermuda programme had shown the value of “long-term tourists”.
"As the world changes, people recognise that you don't have to be in a place where your job is in order to work for that job,“ Mr Burt said.
“Bermuda has a unique opportunity. We have changed the laws, approved residential schemes and we are going to be looking for more residential developments in our economic empowerment zones – whether in the centre of the country, or the east or the west. It provides the opportunity for us to see more longer-term tourists.
“People can live here and work remotely. They don't necessarily have to work inside our economy, they can still be a contributor to our economy.”
Mr Burt said Bermuda had demonstrated how to use technology to manage the pandemic, and this has led to “significant opportunities”.
He said technology companies had taken note of the Government’s strategy to make the island a test bed.
In addition, he said: “There are going to be amazing opportunities for us as we embark on being the world's centre for climate risk finance. It provides a huge opportunity for Bermuda to combine with what we have already done.”
Bermuda are leaders when it comes to protecting the environment, and with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, leaders when it comes to researching the ocean, Mr Burt said. He added: “We will have an excellent role to play when we talk about climate risk finance.”
Innovation is key, and Bermuda had become successful in insurance because it was able to bring products to market quickly, Mr Burt said. He warned: “If we do not enable this innovation to happen on our shores, it will happen somewhere else and we will lose.”
Mr Burt added: “So, when we look at what is taking place inside the digital asset space or inside the insurance space, where we have new innovative insurers issuing new products, working with new technology – it only bodes well for opportunity.”
The Bermuda Captive Conference started yesterday and concludes today.