Minister for the Cabinet Office, Wayne Furbert told MPs that more businesses owned by Blacks, women and disabled people will get Government contracts under a new initiative designed to level the playing field in Bermuda.

Speaking in the Lower House on Friday, he said the Government would expand its programme, which has already issued contracts worth $38 million over the past three years.

“Our aim is to replicate the success of awarding contracts to small business, and we intend to use Government’s purchasing power to promote equality of opportunity with regard to disability, gender and race.

“We will still seek to utilise the public purse to create opportunities for business owners who were marginalised in the past, particularly black-owned small businesses, as well as others deemed unsuitable by past governments,” said Mr Furbert.

“If we genuinely want to diversify our economy and economically empower those Bermudians who up until now have not had a piece of the economic pie, we must take steps to make this happen.”

Moving forward, he said the Government would identify companies that are doing business with Government whose ownership is at least 51 percent Black, women or disabled to give them a better chance of receiving more contracts from the Government.

“We have learnt that the impact of the Government purse is so strong that maintaining ‘the status quo’ is not good enough. Talking is not good enough; action must be taken, and action we will take,” said Mr Furbert.

“It vital that business owners know that Government is ‘open for your business’, because it is and we are.”

He also noted that more than $70 million in contracts were issued to small businesses in Bermuda over the past six years.

But he said: “For the first time a Government is able to identify and measure the value of what it pays to small business. But this does not go far enough.

“For decades, business owners who joined the right golf club, went to the right private school or knew the right people, would always win Government contracts. “Having been awarded a contract once, they would subsequently get more contracts, partly by doing good work, and partly by ‘playing the game’ to get another contract.

“Some businesses being more successful than others is normal as we choose to live in a capitalist society, but not if that success is earned by unfair practices.

“This Government is not going to rest on its laurels and pat itself on the back; we are pushing for further diversity.”