The airport redevelopment project announced by Finance Minister Bob Richards “continues to gather momentum”.

In his Budget Statement in the House on Friday, Mr Richards said “construction will commence creating hundreds of jobs for Bermudians”.

But well known columnist Larry Burchall, also dubbed the ‘Number Bomber’, after crunching the numbers has labelled the Minister’s plan both asinine and stupid.

Speaking live on Orders of the Day hosted by Kim Swan on Hott 107.5FM on Sunday night, Mr Burchall while discussing the new Budget said the Minister spoke on the airport project like it’s a fait-accompli, or a done deal.

“The Finance Minister’s airport development plan is both asinine and stupid because at a time when debt service is $187 million a year this plan will give away $20 million in government revenue for 30 years,” said Mr Burchall.

Instead he said: “The airport can be rebuilt or renovated in stages using local contractors and the money – totalling over $600 million – which the Minister plans to give to Canada would stay in our Bermuda economy.”

Bombarded by phone calls from listeners, the two-hour programme was extended for an extra hour by Mr Swan who signed off at 11pm. Several callers expressed their views on Government finances for the next fiscal year which begins on April 1, 2016.

Mr Richards told MPs on Friday: “At a time when Bermudians have been crying out for projects to create jobs, this project fits the bill. Aecon does not intend to import an army of Canadian workers to build this terminal. It will be subcontractors and workers that will build it, by the hundreds. This project is a major job creator for Bermudians, something no Bermudian could object to,” said Mr Richards.

Mr Burchall however, zeroed in on the 2015 National Economic Report of Bermuda released by the Minister with the new Budget.

The figures on unemployment in Bermuda, he said, are sobering. As for the bottom line he said: “There are less Bermudians working in Bermuda now than there were in 1980.

“With 23,513 Bermudians filling jobs in Bermuda in 2015, as reported in the 2015 Economic Report, there are now fewer Bermudians filling jobs in Bermuda than there were in 1980 when there were 24,191 Bermudians filling jobs here.

According to the 2015 Labour Force Survey Executive Report, produced by the Department of Statistics in December 2015, the unemployment rate “was measured at 7 percent”.

“The unemployment rate fell two percentage points from the 9 percent recorded in 2014.”

The national report said: “Preliminary data from 2015 Employment Survey indicates that the total number of jobs in Bermuda decreased by 298 from 33,475 in 2014 to 33,177 in 2015, which equates to a 0.9 percent decline. 2015 marks the seventh year that the number of jobs in the economy has declined which corresponds to the reduction in the level of GDP or economic growth in the economy. Overall the island has lost 7,024 jobs since 2008, a reduction of 17.5 percent.

The report continues: “Growth in the number of jobs began to moderate in 2007 when the increase was 0.4 percent. The number of jobs peaked in 2008 at 40,213 reflecting year-over-over growth of 0.9 percent. Consistent with the decline in the economy, the number of jobs in Bermuda has declined in seven consecutive years; 1.7 percent in 2009; 3.6 percent in 2010; 1.8 percent in 2011, 5.2 percent 2012, 2.6 percent in 2013; 2.3 percent in 2014 and 0.9 percent in 2015.”

And that said Mr Burchall is a “crucial point Bermudians shouldn’t miss”.

On that note he said: “My next article in Bernews puts this fact into context and digs deeper into this, and examines the huge significance of this bit of raw data.”

By Ceola Wilson

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