Premier David Burt

It is time for new rules to “create a new normal that will use the force of government to heal the ills that plague our society”, according to Premier David Burt.

Addressing the PLP’s Annual Delegates Conference opening at St Paul Centennial Hall on Monday night, Premier Burt said it was time to “commit to systemic change”.

“Change is required to break down systemic barriers that have hindered the advancement of all in Bermuda.

“We require a change in mind-set, a change in the way we view our economic system. We must create a new normal that will use the force of government to heal the ills that plague our society.

“It is clear to me that the challenge is not rooted directly in the Government’s management of the economy, as some would have you believe. Why not? Because the structure of our economy is not set up to reduce costs or make life easy for the working class. It’s not who is managing the system, it is the system itself!

“The fundamental basis of our economic system is broken,” said Mr Burt.

“Although the forces behind the status quo may be less well off than they once were, they are still well off, while the vast majority struggle. Duty changes for food, energy-efficient light bulbs, and mortgage duty elimination are mere tinkering around the edges, when – as our dear departed colleague, the late Walton Brown, stated – direct action is needed.”

To achieve that he said the Government “will take direct action in tackling these forces, by using recently changed laws that allow the Government to start corporations through the BEDC that will keep our local companies honest, while providing relief to many in this country. Not only will we start these companies, but all of you will have the option to become shareholders, so you can enjoy the collective benefit.

“What does this mean? Does this mean that the Government is going to get into the business of providing food? Not entirely, but this does mean that a government-backed company must challenge the high prices of food on our island.

“We want to empower Bermudian entrepreneurs to start a business and provide competition for the established players, using technology and a more efficient model. Just one problem, right? You will need to go to a bank to get the money, and we know how, in the Bermuda of today, that story will end.”

How will the Government finance this initiative?

“Where will we get the money, Premier? We are barely able to save as it is,” he asked.

“We don’t have the money to start our own supermarket Well, yes, you do. In 1998, one of the last acts of the then-UBP Government was to create mandatory savings plans for all, called the National Pension Scheme.

“The plan was to boost savings, and provided a government-mandated steady stream of income for the money managers at local pension companies,” said Premier Burt.

“Much of this money – now worth $3 billion dollars – is invested overseas, creating jobs and economic opportunities for people in other countries and not for all of you. Yes, that’s right, I said the mandatory savings, less the fees that you are paying to Argus, Colonial, and BF&M to manage your money, are being used to create businesses overseas, while you struggle locally.”

On that note he said: “It is time to bring that money home.

“The hopes and dreams of entrepreneurs who wish to compete with the established generational wealth, to make our economy more efficient and to create wealth for them and future generations, can no longer be deferred,” he said.

“In Singapore – a country that many want Bermuda to be like – they allow their citizens to use their mandatory savings to put a down-payment on a new home and invest in the shares of Singaporean companies. I want that for all of the people here, who have toiled hard and who want hope for the future.

“Collectively we can unleash the power of cooperative banking and give you, the citizens who have been paying our local financial institutions for years, the power to start your own cooperative financial institutions. What does that mean? You can pool your resources to start your own bank!

“So instead of the $200 million of profit that Butterfield earned last year being exported from Bermuda, those profits can be translated into lower mortgage rates that can be used to reduce your monthly payments and increase your standard of living.

“This is the time; this is the opportunity to practise collective economics and pool your resources,” the Premier added.

“If we can make our local economy more efficient, while keeping companies honest that are profiting off the backs of hard-working Bermudians, we will have lower prices in the country. And that means that we’ll be able to save more, spend more, grow this economy, create jobs, and ensure that the future of this country is prosperous.”

We will have more on the Premier’s address in subsequent reports.