PLP Deliver Reply To The 2013/14 Budget

March 1, 2013

[Updated with video] Shadow Minister of Finance David Burt is delivering the Opposition’s Reply to the 2013/14 Budget in the House of Assembly this morning [Mar 1].

This was the first budget devised by Finance Minister Bob Richards on behalf of the One Bermuda Alliance Government, who took control following their 19-17 victory at the polls in December 2012.

Budget highlights include raising the debt ceiling from $1.45 billion to $2.5 billion, reducing the fees for non-Bermudians to purchase property, commencing negotiations with the unions about reducing staff compensation, a two year payroll tax break for new Bermudian hiring and more. Finance Minister Bob Richards predicted an overall deficit of some $331 million.

Mr Burt acknowledged past errors of the PLP saying, “The Progressive Labour Party cannot absolve itself completely of responsibility for the country’s financial position. During our time in office we made mistakes, mistakes that we cannot make again.”

Mr Burt continued, “There are no easy options going forward. The situation at hand requires ideas and vision for the future. Short term fixes are not enough; short term stimulus is not enough. What we require is a fundamental transformation of our economy; and on that measure, the Honourable Minister’s Budget Statement came up short.

“Where is the OBA ‘Jobs and Economic Turnaround Plan’? Last year in this Honourable House the now Minster of Finance castigated the previous government for not having a plan. Now that the election is over we must ask, where is the OBA’s plan?

“Before the election, the Honourable Minister spoke about overseas investors waiting for the OBA to take office so they can come to Bermuda, but makes no mention of this in his Budget Statement. We hope that the extent of the OBA’s plan is not just short term tax breaks and breaking election promises by scrapping term limits.”

“Gone is the pre-election talk of reducing the debt and tackling wasteful spending. Now, we hear excuses about stubbornly rigid expenses, while we see spending increases. Two successive PLP budgets have reduced spending, but the first OBA budget gives this country a spending increase and a record deficit. Mr. Speaker, where is the leadership, where is the decisive action that the Bermudian people were promised?” continued Mr Burt.

“These are not ordinary times. The fact that the new Honourable Minister of Finance committed this country to a record deficit of $331 million dollars puts that fact in stark terms.”

“To sum up my party’s views on the budget presented, we were expecting something more. We were expecting a plan; instead, we got an increase in spending, an increase in borrowing, a record deficit, and a $2.5 billion debt ceiling. Instead of vision and long term conviction, we got short term moves.

“It seems as though the Honourable Minister came to grips with the fact that you cannot change the laws of economics and simultaneously cut taxes, increase spending and reduce the debt, no matter how many times you tell the electorate that you can.”

Mr Burt said the PLP was pleased that the Minister saw fit to leave in place the tax relief for the retail, restaurant, and hotel sectors. He also said although they support the aim of the OBA’s two year payroll tax holiday for new Bermudian employees, they question whether the impact of this election promise was fully considered.

“The Honourable Minister of Finance continues to state that this proposal is revenue neutral, however we beg to differ,” said Mr Burt.

Speaking on the changes to seniors vehicle licensing, Mr Burt said the PLP “does not support the move to punish our seniors by reintroducing vehicle licensing fees to some seniors and not others. We feel this is the wrong move, and that is precisely why we did not move forward with this proposal last year.”

“Many seniors affected by this tax increase do not have SUVs but have station wagons or sedans that are over 10 years old and they will see their cost of living go up,” continued Mr Burt.

Expressing the Opposition’s support for Immigration reform, the Shadow Finance Minister said, “It has been the long standing position of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party that we will not support the reintroduction of granting of Bermudian Status outside of our current laws prior to Bermuda becoming an independent nation.

“We support immigration reform as foreign labour and talent is vital to our economy and our future, but we will not support such reforms to be used as a pretext to extend status to PRC holders. That, Mr Speaker, is our red line.

“Mr Speaker, that redline withstanding, we can neither close our doors, nor can we open the floodgates. We must engage in a balanced approach and have an adult conversation about this topic.”

The full PLP Reply to the Budget is below [PDF here]:

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Comments (18)

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  1. sonoso says:

    you, my friend, have no room to talk! the problem was this: things were portayed under the PLP govt as not being anywhere near as bad as the OBA thought they were, thinking that once in power the OBA would be able to turn things around in a reasonable amount of time. when they finally unearthed the real situation of our finances, it is now clear, to all of us, that the bus we are on is going to take a little time to slow down.

    • sponge bob says:

      Yes, they didn’t add up correctly and it appears that another 850 million was not accounted for. Now we’re informed that the debt is upwards of 2.5 billion that probably changes things.

      Still only three months in and change is not going to happen overnight be patient and get it right.

      • Black Soil says:

        The PLP basically said “we screwed up”. Now they are mad cuz they’ve lost the purse strings of the taxpayer. Well screw them!!!!!!!! And may God save us all.

  2. navin johnson says:

    thank you Mr Burt…totally irrelevant….based on your Governments performance on financial matters your opinion means nothing…..

  3. Bermy Gooner says:

    That’s a first. A reasonable and rationale reply devoid of emotional nonsense.

    Maybe there is hope for our political scene. But with the likes of Commissiong, Burgess, Desilva et al still in power my optimism will be kept on a very short leash…

  4. I jus don't understand says:

    Burt is an intelligent guy. Its a shame politics will stain him.

  5. So David finally admits that Bob was right all along. If only he stood up and talked like this when PLP were in power…

  6. Pastor Syl Hayward says:

    That is a very thoughtful document. Although there are some areas I don’t completely agree with, all in all, it is clear there was considerable effort expended to find alternative solutions to our fiscal problems. Some of them actually sound workable to my untrained ear. Also I note that the language is particularly collaborative. I hope and pray that the spirit of collaboration translates into actual, genuine cooperation.

  7. Rockfish#1 and#2 says:

    Burt’s response is based on the knowledge that more PLP financial transgressions will be uncovered in due course.

    He really has no choice but to speak in moderate terms.

  8. concerned local buisnessman says:

    Mr Burt obviously cant beleave that his party the PLP ,only had a small part of the failure of this country please ! The PLP destroyed this piece of heaven that we call home. and in 14 years they have crippled this country financially . Now you Bermudians elected the OBA to take over the reigns, because you elected for change .Give the OBA a chance, Rome wasn’t built in a day .It will take several years to show strong positive reform.why knock them down everytime they make a change to better our country . I can tell you one thing International Buisness will not continue buisness in Bermuda ,if we go back to the idiotic ways of the PLP goverments Term limits in our Immigration Act. Hats off to Minister Fahay great job sir ! .Stand up to the idiots of this country !and hats off to the Preimier , Dont falter and dont stumble .

  9. I jus don't understand says:

    I’m listening to Wayne Furbert speak on the Budget response. I’m embarrassed that he was elected again. His comments seem designed to draw laughs….very unbecomming…Thanks to Hamilton West we are stuck with an MP that seems to be ineffective at best.

  10. mpartiality says:

    Shocking is the word I would use to describe my reaction to Mr. David Burt’s Reply to the Budget Statement of the OBA Government. He started by acknowledging that the PLP made mistakes. He then gives two examples of the most blatant and damaging of these mistakes. But then he says “we are proud of our economic record!” What is he proud of? The debt? The crippled economy? The 3,000 largely PLP supporters who are out of work? Exactly what is he proud of?

    After saying that we all need to work together, he proceeds to quibble with the 2 year tax relief plan and he attacks the licensing break. He then shares his bold vision of Bermuda, encouraging the OBA to take on board his ideas. Mr. Burt calls for swift action on energy reform. Where was the swift action under the PLP? They took the Energy White Paper to Parliament in early 2009 but little has happened since. But now he is giving advice to the new Government to move swiftly.
    He asks for reform of Occupational Pensions pointing out the inequity between Bermudian employees and foreign workers. This inequity was brought a about by the 1998 Act so why didn’t t the PLP fix this in 1999?

    Mr. Burt states that the tax system is based on 1880′s model and calls for it to be reformed. Well why wasn’t this done in 14 hears of PLP rule? Did they even do a study?

    He next calls for reform to the monetary policy of Bermuda. Now this comes from the Chief of Staff of the last Premier no was also sister to the man who runs the BMA. Are we to believe that this could not be done then but can be easily and quickly done by a new Government trying to grapple with the mess left by the PLP?

    The Shadow Finance Minister then calls for debt collection reform expressing concern for those losing their homes and those sent to prison for debt. Where was this concern over the last 14 years? Why couldn’ t the PLP put a stop to people being sent to prison for debt and find some workable alternative????

    Mr. Burt then states that the Finance Minister should have regular release of statistics and notes that all that is needed is “little more work than running a report on a software programme!!” Amazing, so easy yet the PLP could not do this!!!

    He then talks about foreigners in simple jobs like cashiers in convenience stores while Bermudians are out of work. Surely this did not begin on 17 December 2012. Where was the Plp Immigration Minister while this was happening? I think Buzz was formed during the PLP reign so why did they end up with almost all foreign workers? Explain that, Mr. Burt.

    Lastly, he calls okra immigration system outdated and broken, claiming it to be founded on a 1956 Act. Surely the PLP had 14 years to move beyond the constraints of a 1956 Act.
    This Reply is an incredible indictment of the PLP Government and the indictment is coming from none other than one of the PLP’ s Rising Stars.

    • Robb says:

      mpartiality, I totally agree with you.

    • Zombie Apocalypse says:

      I agree with you as well. His reply is an admission of the abject incompetence and failure of the PLP government, of which he was a part.

  11. Standing on Transparency, Inclusiveness and Fairness says says:

    Well Done, Mr Burt,

    What an great a talent to Bermuda. Bermuda is blessed to have someone of your intelligents and talent to provide service to his country. Great delivery and important presentation in response to the Budget. Mr Burt your delivery was strong, and very informative. I am proud of you as a young black male in our society, and others should be as well. I think you made some key points and provided a powerful response to the Budget. I think you out spoke the government of the day, and made the Minister look weak. Mr Burt you did extremely well for your first time on the hill, you out done many of those senior politicans. WEll DONE !! Keep pushing on Mr Burt, you are so refreshing….. I love it !!!

    • Mad Dawg says:

      His “first time” on the hill? He’s been there years. He was Jr Transport Minister a few years ago, under Ewart. At that time he was advocating we get new ferries every 5 years, rather than maintain them. Oh yeah, he’s a real bright spark.

    • Sir George Somers says:

      I’m pretty sure you are the same person who writes under the name Betty Trump on the RG, how can I tell? Because she/he’s an idiot as well!