The next fiscal year will see more investment in Bermuda’s infrastructure, as the Government moves to “preserve access to healthcare while reforming the system” and “strengthen the social net” by making “affordable housing a priority”.

These were some of the assurances given by Premier David Burt in the Budget Statement on Friday (Feb 16).

Mr Burt, who is also the Minister of Finance, said the Government is set to record its first Budget surplus in more than 20 years.

He also told MPs that the Budget for 2024-25, that the Government has managed to balance the Budget, with a projected surplus of $210,000.

“This budget surplus is only the second budgeted surplus in 35 years,” he said.

“The last time Bermuda achieved a balanced budget was in fiscal 2002-3, but today, 21 years after that was last achieved, through the turmoil of a great recession and after being battered by a once-in-a-century pandemic, we will return this country to a balanced budget.”

He also said $40 million of unused borrowing by the Government, would be used to fund more affordable homes.

And the Government would put a freeze on health insurance rates in the next fiscal year ahead.

Mr Burt went on to say: “In this Budget we invest in infrastructure, we invest in education, we preserve access to healthcare while reforming the system, we strengthen the social safety net, we make affordable housing a priority, we make home ownership available to more Bermudians, we make our Island safer, and we invest in the young people of this century through scholarships and education awards.

“This is no fluke.

“The ability to do these things and deliver a balanced budget for the people of Bermuda has been and delivering on our promise to reduce the tax burden on the working families of this Island.”

While noting that “by nearly every measurement the economy is headed in the right direction”, he said: “Yet we know that too many Bermudians aren’t feeling the impact in their lives.

“Too many continue to struggle with high food prices, while businesses boast about their profits.

“Too many face growing rental costs and shrinking housing options.

“From groceries, to healthcare, to mortgage rates, the escalation of prices in Bermuda is causing an escalation of financial hardship, and frustration.

“We also know that these frustrations are compounded by the condition of our road infrastructure and the impact it has on our quality of life and the condition of our vehicles.

“All of this serves as a humble reminder that though we have made significant progress, and though Bermuda has seen lower inflation than other jurisdictions, we haven’t gotten everything right, more must be done, and this Government remains determined to address these issues and improve the lives of our people.

“The increase in the cost of living is, at its core, a product of our small size, our need to import nearly all of our goods, and the fallout from wars, supply chain disruptions, and rising interest rates overseas.”

“Government policies such as the elimination of duty on staple are goods, reduction of the sugar tax, the freezing of fuel prices, the reduction of payroll taxes for all local businesses and 86 percent of Bermuda’s workers, the two year freeze of Government Health Insurance Premiums, the reduction in vehicle licensing fees, all of these play a part in doing what we can to slow the rising cost of living and reduce the impact of global inflation here at home.”

The Premier went on to say that revenue in the next fiscal year is expected to reach $1.23 billion, or $76.8 million over the original estimates for this year.

Current account expenditure is projected to be $992 million, representing an increase of $19.4 million.

On the rising cost of health insurance in Bermuda, he said: ““The Government’s actuaries have advised the Ministry of Health that in order to keep up with health insurance claims, which continue to escalate due to our ageing population, the Government will need to increase its health insurance rates by $45 a month.

“This government cannot and will not allow that to happen”, said Mr Burt.

“Therefore, we intend to transfer $30 million from the excess borrowing fund to the Mutual Reinsurance Fund to ensure that our health funds are able to pay claims without asking every resident in Bermuda to pay an extra $540 a year.

“The Government will invest an additional $10 million into the Bermuda Housing Corporation to accelerate the provision of affordable housing and enable a significant expansion of the private sector rental programme,” he added.