Premier David Burt has reaffirmed the Throne Speech initiatives announced on Friday saying it’s “about people and not money for money’s sake”.
Speaking at a news conference to discuss the new Progressive Labour Party (PLP) administration’s legislative agenda yesterday, Mr Burt, in his opening remarks recalled his party’s recent landslide General Election victory.
“On July 18th, this Government was elected to create economic opportunity, to solidly educate our future generation, and to fight the rising cost of living.
“We were elected to protect our seniors, stamp out anti-social behaviour, and to harness all of the energy and resources at our disposal to close the gap between the Two Bermudas,” said Premier Burt.
But when it comes to diversifying Bermuda’s economy, admittedly, he said the Government cannot do it alone. “Through collaboration, including with the Opposition, we can create the conditions and avenues that produce economic empowerment. We can build a better, fairer and stronger Bermuda.”
Highlighting “a few methods” to fulfill their promises, he said: “Bermuda’s current tax system creates inequality and is a major contributing factor to limiting economic growth. The Government will establish a Tax Reform Commission with participants from both political parties, international and local businesses, trade unions, and the Bermuda Bar.
“The Commission will analyse Bermuda’s tax regime, explore alternative regimes, and apply the principles of equity and fairness to produce a more just system of taxation.”
He reiterated the PLP’s pre-election promise to re-establish the Bermuda First Think Tank, which will consist of local and international business representatives and community leaders “to produce a long-term economic and social plan for Bermuda”.
On International Business and Tourism, the “two economic pillars” of Bermuda’s economy, Mr Burt said as a country, Bermuda “cannot remain fully reliant” on the two entities that “have propped Bermuda up for many decades”.
“The world economy has developed with new technologies and Bermuda must not be left behind,” he said. “A responsible Government should make new avenues for its people to create wealth. We will establish an Economic Diversification Unit to address the urgent need to diversify our economy.
“I want to be clear – the Throne Speech is about people and not money for money’s sake. Growing the economy is central to our plan because it will provide jobs for Bermudians and empower us to help one another more.”
To support hardworking Bermudians, he said: “The Government will reform the Parliamentary Committee to recommend a Living Wage; there is inherent dignity in work, and in Bermuda, work will be justly rewarded.
“We must ensure that the most vulnerable of us have access to the support they need. We cannot penalise financial aid recipients for finding part-time employment; nor can we leave people unable to protect their legal rights due to their financial situation. Therefore, the systems of Financial Assistance, Child Support, Legal Aid and Debt Collection will all see significant reform,” he said.
You may recall the $46.7 million total attached to child support payments in arrears, announced by the Governor on Friday involving just over 1,800 cases. It was not stated what period of time that figure covered.
While noting that “the children represent our future”, Premier Burt stressed that “we must not forget our past”. “Our seniors made many sacrifices to push Bermuda forward, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We will protect our seniors and others in care homes by establishing protective and responsive Regulations.
“Additionally, the Government will ensure that subscribers of its Health Insurance Plan (HIP), and its Future Care patients gain access to local radiation treatments; removing the anxiety of having to travel to undergo serious treatment.”
On the appointment of a new Minister for Government Reform, he said his administration is “determined to improve the functions of government to serve the people more effectively”. The Government plans to implement a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians and the Parliamentary Rules will be amended to include a time slot for the Premier’s Question Time. This will allow MPs to ask him questions concerning Government policies.
Recognising “the struggle of our fellow Bermudians, Mr Burt said: “We want to help, but we also want to put mechanisms in place so that people can help themselves. Simply put, if Bermuda does not work for its people, it will not work for anyone else.”
While noting that both he and his Cabinet colleagues have a full plate “with this ambitious agenda”, he said his administration remains “committed to changing the status quo to ensure that hopelessness is replaced with opportunity”.
Said Premier Burt: “Inequality is not inevitable and it is not coincidental; it occurs when Governments serve profits and not people and wishes for wealth to trickle down from the markets. We will continue to focus on what the economy requires in order to give the people what they need, as we go forward to build a better and fairer Bermuda.”
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