- The following statement was released by Progressive Labour Party MP Scott Simmons for publication today, Thursday, February 28, 2019
The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party via the Minister of Finance has expressed the belief that the National Budget must reflect not just the times in which we live but must also reflect our core values; Protecting the vulnerable, expanding opportunity, employing the unemployed, preparing our children for the future and striving for a better, fairer Bermuda.
Highlights of the Budget include:
- Government has achieved a budget surplus for the first time in 17 years
- The Debt will decrease for the first time since 2003
- The forecast for current, interest and capital account spending in the 2019/20 Budget is $4.3 million lower than the amount approved in 2018/19. This reduction was achieved despite the Government’s pay awards to public officers for this fiscal year. That’s right, government spending is down
- The Debt Ceiling will not be raised
On top of payroll tax relief to those taking home the smallest wages, the government will work with private sector banks to pilot a mortgage guarantee program in return for a reduction in interest rates on mortgages. We will also create a government-backed mortgage lender to relieve pressure on public sector employees by providing them with reduced mortgage rates. These measures along with the elimination of taxes on mortgage refinancing can save the average family carrying a $500,000 mortgage $5,300 a year. This would give more Bermudians more money to spend and invest in our economy which would benefit local businesses.
Our retail sector employs over 3,000 Bermudians. Their jobs must be protected. That’s why the Government will continue the existing relief for small business and provide targeted payroll tax relief to the largest employers of Bermudians.
In Education, the Government is supporting programmes to benefit Bermudians at every level
At pre-schools, the Autism Spectrum Disorder programme will be implemented, foreign languages will be introduced to expand learning opportunities and an Early Childhood Quality Assurance Officer will be hired to provide professional training and coaching for preschool teachers.
At our Primary Schools, Government will continue to support STEAM Learning, including professional development training for teachers; update the Social Studies curricula, and hire a reading teacher to strengthen the literacy programme.
At our Senior Schools, the City and Guilds Programme in English and Mathematics will be expanded; and a virtual job shadow programme introduced to create a unique experience for students as part of the Career Pathway Programme.
The Government will continue to support Bermudian college education through the funding of our College Promise programme and help the Bermuda College to assist students in financial need. Programmes to support Bermudians seeking nursing degrees and certification in compliance and landscaping will also receive funding, creating opportunities for Bermudians to earn the skills they need to gain employment in those fields
For teachers, the Government will fund the development of the National Educator’s Institute to facilitate professional development, professional learning and research.
Upgrading the skills of Bermudians through the workforce development plan is critical to Bermuda’s future. This year that plan will be implemented. The Government will also modernise our labour laws, implement a living wage and introduce pay equity for Bermudians.
Further, as Bermuda seeks to be a leader in the FinTech industry, the Government will support education, training, and awareness programmes, to provide Bermudians with the technical skills needed for jobs in the FinTech sector.
At the Cabinet Office, talent development programmes will be launched including a Summer Internship Programme which will see three (3) postgrad or Master’s Degree candidates assigned to our overseas offices.
At the Ministry of Labour, Community Affairs and Sports, funding has been allocated to support sporting bodies, youth organisations, apprenticeships, scholarships, the arts and community and cultural events.
Bermuda is spending too much on healthcare. Health financing reform has begun creating the foundation for long term sustainability of Bermuda’s healthcare by creating a unified system that will drive down costs.
In the 2019/2020 fiscal year, the Ministry of National Security will support the Gang Resistance Education and Training program, aimed at preventing gang affiliation among school-aged children through early intervention. The government will also launch the Redemption Farm Program, a therapeutic, incentivized program for at-risk individuals that aims to restore and discourage criminality.
In the 2019/2020 budget, funding has been allocated to the Ministry of Legal Affairs for establishing a cannabis licensing regime that will create a framework for permitting cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
The Ministry of Legal Affairs will also establish a Unified Family Court and Mediation Centre to provide coordinated services to those who have family-related matters within the judicial system.
Recognizing that Bermuda’s transportation infrastructure is ageing, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport will continue its phased investment in a new bus fleet, while ensuring that both Marine & Ports and Public Transportation have increased capacity to undertake proper maintenance and refits of buses and ferries after years of neglect.
In Fiscal year/20 Ministry of Home Affairs will further regulate debt collection agencies while enhancing protection for Bermudians. In addition, The Ministry will reform legislation surrounding landlords and tenant relationships.
This year’s budget is a result of the values we believe in, the recognition of the times we live in and the need for that to be balanced with the fiscal discipline to create a better and fairer Bermuda for Bermudians.