It would be just over 90 minutes before he got right down to the real dollars and cents earmarked for the Bermuda Government’s next fiscal year.
But even then, one of the first things to resonate loud and clear, was – there is no balanced budget on the books – not yet.
That won’t become a reality until next year, according to Premier David Burt, who said the Government must move on plans for the island’s infrastructure and cover the finances of Bermuda’s only hospital.
On that note, he said plans for the development of a “world-class” medical tourism facility in Bermuda will be announced later this year.
He was delivering his second Budget Statement delivered in the House of Assembly on Friday (Feb 17), as the Minister of Finance, since the abrupt departure of the former Minister, Curtis Dickinson, last year.
That statement included sweeping changes to the current payroll tax system with no extra taxes for exempt company businesses.
Sugar tax revisions are still pending and import duty cuts on school uniforms, aggregate and other products.
Once the Government pays off the balance of the $50 million bond from the Sinking Fund and by the next fiscal year, the Premier anticipates that interest payments would be on the decline by $2.4 million.
As for Southampton Princess – the new finish date announced was listed as 2024.
Consideration of a revised Special Development Order and legislative amendments to strengthen the protections for the Government are due to be carried out in the interim.
And after all these years, Morgan’s Point has been reimagined as a housing development – not a hotel.
But before getting down to the figures, he took another swipe at the track record on that multi-million dollar guarantee by the former One Bermuda Alliance administration.
To date, he said that decision has cost local taxpayers around $210 million, before reaffirming the Progressive Labour Party’s track record on managing their “fiscal debacles” in the aftermath.
While his administration has yet to produce a balanced budget, he said the island was still on track for a balanced budget in the next fiscal year of 2024-25.
Moving forward, he said an economic development strategy would be advanced “in the coming months” by the Minister of Economy and Labour, Jason Hayward.
Taxpayers were also told that the hospital had to run on an overdraft.
Cabinet has also approved a $15 million payment to BHB, which is due this year, and that King Edward VII Hospital would need increased funding next year.
The latest interest and guarantee management costs are projected to be $143.4 million, 10.5 percent more than what was originally budgeted.
On the flip side, he said that was expected drop to $130.4 million in the next fiscal year.
Net debt by the end of this fiscal year will be $90.5 million lower than what was anticipated.
Current account expenditure for 2023-24 is estimated at $972.6 million, up 2.9 percent over last year.