Finance Minister Curtis Dickinson reminded MPs on Friday that “the main contributors” to the high cost of living in Bermuda are “energy, healthcare, housing and food prices”.
Reaffirming the Government’s pledge “to focus on reducing the cost of living for Bermudians”, the Minister updated his parliamentary colleagues on the progress made over the last 15 months, in his Budget Statement on Friday.
But he said: “There is more that needs to be done.”
On the high cost of food on this island, he said new legislation will be tabled in the House to require local grocers to report their prices to the Government.
“The Government acknowledges the impact that food prices have on the cost of living. In an effort to promote more price transparency and aid consumers in identifying alternative food pricing, the Government will be amending the Cost of Living Commission Act to require reporting of prices from grocers to the Government,” said the Minister.
“This information will be made available to the public via mobile application so that consumers can compare the difference in prices of staple goods.”
On that note, he added: “The Government is working to support start-up and cooperative companies who are looking to supply foods at lower prices by partnering with the Financial Assistance programme to reduce costs not only to taxpayers but also to the general public.
“This is an innovative way in which money that is already being spent by the Government can be redirected to support competition in Bermuda and reduce food prices.”
On energy costs in Bermuda, he said: “The Government is committed to reducing energy costs and has supported a number of initiatives.
“Last year, we funded an LED bulb exchange programme which saw thousands of Bermudians participate to reduce their energy bills.
“Recently, Bermudians saw reductions in core energy rates due to a tough line the Government has taken with Bermuda’s energy supplier.
“Additionally, the Government has made it clear to the proposed new owners of BELCO that increased costs to the people of Bermuda will not secure our approval.
“Finally, to support the transition to renewables outlined in last year’s Throne Speech, the Government, in partnership with international companies, will set up a Green Energy Fund to provide capital to deploy solar installations throughout the island.
“The objective is simple: to provide jobs for solar installers and relief from high energy bills. Bermuda can lead the world in renewable energy adoption and this Government will work to make that a reality.”
The Minister also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment “to reduce the amount of money that Bermudians spend on healthcare”.
“Health insurance and out-of-pocket costs provide a real challenge to most Bermudians, and that is why the Government is focused on bringing needed reforms that make our system more efficient, while reducing co-pays and providing better coverage for preventative care.”
“When it comes to housing, the Government has taken and will take further steps to reduce the cost of housing and mortgages,” he added.
“First, we boosted competition in the mortgage market by eliminating taxes when you transfer your mortgage to a bank that may have had a lower interest rate. This year the Government will, in partnership with a local financial institution, pilot a mortgage guarantee programme aimed at reducing mortgage rates for some Bermudian families.
“Last year we changed laws that will allow international companies to invest in approved residential schemes in our economic empowerment zones,” said Mr Dickinson.
“Investment in city residential developments will result in construction jobs and an increase in the available housing stock.
“The objective of this initiative will be to increase the supply of quality, affordable residential accommodations in Bermuda.”
  • More on the Budget Statement 2020/2021 in subsequent reports…