Full Text: Opposition’s Reply To Throne Speech

November 20, 2015

The Progressive Labour Party delivered their formal response to the 2015 Throne Speech today [Nov 20] in the House of Assembly, covering a number of topics including finances, crime, tourism, economic diversification, education, immigration and more. The full response is below, as well as some extract highlights.

Financial Actions

The next PLP Government will focus on 6 key financial actions over the short term.

We will:

  • 1. Balance the budget by the end of our 5-year term. This will be accomplished by increasing investments in diversification, business development, tourism infrastructure, and our human capital, all of which generate return for our economy. Our focus on diversification will yield additional tax revenue due to the increase of jobs and economic activity as a result of economic diversification.
  • 2. Freeze spending at 2013 levels for 3 years, forcing us to be more efficient in the civil service. Any extra spending will be used to invest in Vision 2025 initiatives on education, training, the youth, and seniors.
  • 3. Reform social insurance to make it more progressive. Instead of contributions being fixed, they will be set at a percentage of a person’s income. This will increase the take-home pay for any worker making less than $65,000 a year.
  • 4. Stop the OBA’s development of the airport. This will create immediate jobs by committing to renovate the current airport to extend its life by 10 years, and use the additional funds to invest in tourism development, with the goal of increasing air arrivals to 375,000.
  • 5. Create a Bermuda fund to invest in businesses that bring jobs to Bermuda. Bermudians need jobs; we will provide new sectors of growth to create jobs, and Bermudians can use our savings to invest in companies that will create these jobs.
  • 6. Implement Vision 2025, a long-term economic vision. Although it will not yield immediate results, the investments made over the next 5 years can determine our future for many years to come. Technology is changing many things around us, and Bermuda must invest in our people and our infrastructure to lead small island states as a technology and intellectual property hub.

Immigration

The new PLP Government will immediately embark on comprehensive immigration reform.

Our policy goal is to ensure that the rights of Bermudians are advanced and protected, while recognizing the need to grow our economy with fair and balanced work permit policies, and the starting point is the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956.

This reform process will have as an essential component an extensive public consultation. It will address the issue of Bermuda status grants – how they are to be granted going forward and what criteria needs to be met, and what number of PRCs should be issued on an annual basis.

We will create a policy of equal political status for individuals in a family, rather than the current circumstance where one sibling could hold Bermuda status and the other have no rights at all to permanent residence.

Bermuda College

The next PLP Government will transform the Bermuda College into a University College.

The Bermuda College will work to acquire accreditation for full Bachelor programs in multiple subjects, but in particular, those degrees in which our economy requires adequate and trained manpower, such as Nursing, Accounting, Tourism Management, Business Administration, Education, Law, and Information Technology.

The University College will also provide training for those persons who are interested in working within those new sectors of diversification. In addition, our University College will be utilized for the purpose of providing opportunities for students to gain professional designations similar to that of the Bermuda Insurance Institute.

Sex Offender’s Registry

The next PLP Government will create a public registry of pedophiles.

This is long overdue, Mr. Speaker, and with the prevalence of such heinous acts, violating the innocence of many of our young people, it is time that the country as a whole is made aware of who these perpetrators are.

This ‘name and shame’ approach is from the standpoint of safety, and to send a clear message that we know who they are, and we will not tolerate further attempts to defile the dignity of our young people

Good Governance

The recent report by the Auditor General highlights the need for the Good Governance Act to be implemented. The next PLP Government will do just that, and without delay.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss the findings and recommendations contained in this report, as we also look forward to the Auditor General’s reports on the time period of OBA governance. We hope that this is done prior to the Auditor General’s well-deserved retirement after years of public service.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, this provides us with an opportunity to repeat the most serious of our many policy positions. In the next PLP Government, we will have zero tolerance for any form of corruption and graft by any member of parliament, the civil service, or the public. This zero-tolerance approach also applies retroactively to all activities under the former UBP, PLP, and current OBA Government.

As mentioned, the first step we will take is to implement the Good Governance Act. Members of the public should take note: while I, as the leader of your future government, can boldly state this anticorruption position with clean hands and a pure heart, neither the Premier nor any of his colleagues can honestly state the same.

The mere presence, in the Dunkley Cabinet, of a former Premier who had to belatedly resign in disgrace for good governance issues destroys their opportunity to be trusted on this issue

Absentee Voting

On the matter of enhancing democracy, the PLP supports the intention to introduce absentee balloting for Bermudian students. The PLP will join the government in a joint select committee to determine the details of its implementation and operation.

Cannabis

The next PLP Government will legalize the use of recreational cannabis, creating a market-based, private sector licensing framework for its production and distribution.

Mr. Speaker, Last year, we also acknowledged the need, in addition to the proposed legalization of medicinal cannabis, to look at the CRC report recommendations on the issue of recreational use. The global trend is such that we will not hesitate to turn this into an opportunity that can help stimulate tourism and provide entrepreneurial and job opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, The next PLP Government will legalize the use of recreational cannabis, creating a market-based, private sector licensing framework for its production and distribution.

Social Insurance Program

There are other opportunities to make our tax system more just and more progressive. The next PLP Government will examine the Social Insurance Program, with the view to changing employer and employee contributions from a fixed rate to a percentage of earnings with the appropriate level for a cap on social insurance contributions.

The objective of this change would be to increase the take-home pay of low earners while having high earners pay more into the fund. Any changes resulting from this examination should be revenue neutral or revenue accretive to the Contributory Pension Fund.

Currently, a low-wage earner [$18 / hour] pays 4.75% of their salary to Social Insurance whereas a high-wage earner [$75 / hour] only pays 1.14% of their salary into the fund. If all workers paid into the fund at the same rate as a worker earning the median income [2.7%], the change results in low-wage earners receiving $720 more take-home pay a year, while contributions from high-wage earners would increase. We will make this system fairer in line with social insurance programs around the world, in which contributions are based upon how much you earn

Middle Schools

A PLP Government will end the middle school system.

Mr. Speaker, As we have repeated on multiple occasions, the middle school system will be phased out and replaced with 5-year decentralized high schools. Some middle schools will revert to senior schools. Clearwater, Whitney Institute, Spice Valley, Sandys Secondary and The Berkeley Institute are schools that will be converted into secondary schools.

It must be made clear that students transitioning into high school will not be placed according to where they reside, rather, it will be determined by academic assessment and other non-geographic factors.

The full PLP response to the 2015 Throne Speech follows below [PDF here]:

click here banner 2015 Throne Speech

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Comments (33)

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  1. hmmm says:

    Why have they given us an election platform…it isn’t an election year.

    Bizzare the PLP is.

    Constantly in election mode and not helping this country or us at all.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Caught the last 10 minutes of it. That was my first impression too. They went & dragged out one of their old “We are gonna do” election speeches. No how anything gets paid for. Just a bunch of pie in the sky feel good stuff for the gulible voter to swallow.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        Got that as well, huge lofty actions to improve people’s live, but when it came to how they would raise the huge increase in revenues needed… only vague statements of notions with no meat on implementations. All this while freezing government spending at 2013 levels.. Would like to see some definite to how they will raise revenue to make that budget balance, especially since they want to spend the huge amount of money just to keep the airport operating for 10 years… and expect money left over for tourism, when the issue is right now we don’t have any money for either.

      • Eagle's eye says:

        Sad thing is that people who are led by color and emotions believe what they say.

        • Truth Teller says:

          Eagle Eye,
          Are you referring to white Bermudians who do make their political decisions based on colour. Obviously they are far more
          monolithic in their voting preferences than black Bermudians are.

          Their behavior when it comes to voting is almost lemming like.

          It must be an emotional thing right?

          Or is just an old fashioned “racist” thing?

          • Eagle's eye says:

            True teller

            Their are many black Bermudians( I am one), who are not interested in the business side of things or how things should be done to be effective other than deciding matters based on (1) angry emotions (2) “racist as was pointed out) (3) plain and willful ignorance)
            and (4) fear. because they don’t know and don’t want to know they become fearful of any opposition to there thoughts.

    • mixitup says:

      Watch closely in the coming months, I will bet an election will be called by July of next year.

      • Kangoocar says:

        @mixitup, good!!! Then that would give the OBA 5yrs from July to continue the fiscal/social damage repair your plp created!!!
        Also, the budget reply from your plp has now confirmed you still don’t have a clue??? Your plp Voodoo economics didn’t work when you were in power, why do you think it would work now??? That reply could only be considered an insult to anyone with intelligence!!!!

    • REPLY TO Hmmm….

      RUBBISH!!
      GET OVER IT!! I love the P.L.P’s intelligent stand for the future.

  2. Makes No Sense says:

    Absolutely impossible to balance the budget within their time frame noted and increase spending in every area of their Throne Speech.

    The PLP have complained that the OBA have increased the debt, but then they say they will run deficits until at least 2022!

    And all this diversification and implementation of new industries will require massive concessions to get it off the ground and running. Despite some people’s beliefs businesses will not move from their existing jurisdiction to, or start-up a business in Bermuda without some sort of incentives. Firstly, Bermuda is a highly expensive jurisdiction in which to do business in, so you will need incentives to attract brand new industries. Therefore, by granting the necessary concessions to begin the process (with no guarantee of success) the Government will be foregoing the very same tax revenue they claim will be generated to fund their massive spending spree outlined in their Throne Speech. It doesn’t make sense as the PLP and their supporters have railed against concessions for the last 3 years now. Guess their concessions are better somehow?

    And how will inviting more insurance companies into Bermuda drive down costs as it is the Doctor’s and hospital that are setting the fees being charged? And again do you think that any foreign insurance firm will is dying to get into the very expensive Bermuda jurisdiction?

    Sorry, but the Throne Speech reply is full of contradictions and fairy tale ideas. There is no meat on any of the bones outlining how they will achieve their pie in the sky ideas. Not one.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      It is important to note that their idea of letting foreign insurance in is probably one of the most dangerous. It isn’t the insurers that drive the costs up, they want them to come down as it improve their margins, but one of the biggest factors is the government set fee schedule. So the only way for any insurer to improve their margins will be to reduce operating costs, i.e. outsource jobs. I mean why would they need underwriters locally if they have huge underwriting staff pools overseas, or marketing, legal… about the only people safe would be claims and sales reps. I other words, the PLP to outsource our insurance would result in more job losses and the monies from their margins the inurers would be making would be going back to some big company overseas that only has a business interest here.
      Course it is a bit moot as the PLP would nationalize healthcare anyway… they just won’t tell us how much it going to have to cost to do so… i.e income tax somewhere around double the payroll already in place, and that wouldn’t be going anywhere. But that’s OK, they will be making SI income based as well, so all the money plus more that those with low incomes would have saved with a reduced SI contribution would be going out to the insurance part on the income tax. The premise of benefits of their entire taxation mantra, is that there will be enough rich people to pay for the services of the unemployed or underemployed… that worked really well under their last administration, when many of their previous ‘Bermudians first’ policies caused thousands of high contributing jobs to leave this island for more competitive juristictions

  3. jt says:

    This is just strange.

  4. Faulk says:

    Congratulations PLP, there is some very good stuff in there – in particular, Immigration Reform so that families are not broken up (I know a horrible case where a brother is not Bermudian, whilst his sister and brother are); Cannabis Reform, very good for tourism too and sensible, (one caveat, pharmacies and liquor importers should not be allowed to zero in on this new industry); social insurance, fair enough; Sex Register for Paedos, fair enough; Good Governance, well I guess there had to be a joke somewhere…

  5. aceboy says:

    Sorry PLP. You claim you can magically diversify the economy and balance the budget in 5 years. I don’t need to read any further. The hole you lot left us in is much deeper than anyone dreamed possible and you have opposed any all attempts at cutting costs, particularly in the monolithic Civil Service you created. So, I don’t believe you. You are lying. We’ll be lucky not to go bankrupt from the debt you amassed and the servicing of that debt that is now required. To claim you can balance the budget in 5 years is a promise you cannot keep and if you don’t know it you are not qualified to lead this country.

  6. jt says:

    How do they intend to roll back expenditures to 2013 levels for 3 years while simultaneously initiating the programs they propose? (Do not answer ‘by growing the economy’ unless you are Onion Juice).

    You never know though, maybe there’s an extra $853 million just laying around. It might have been part of the backup re-election plan all along. The brilliance of Burt?

    • Zevon says:

      Yep. Another way to frame it….
      If they were elected in 2017, they plan to roll back to the 2013 budget….so presumably the 2018-19 budget, the first one after the election, would be capped at 2013 levels. Five years prior.
      So how would they reduce the expenditure? Who would they fire?
      Or, is this promise worth nothing really, becauuse they’re expecting the OBA to have already achieved that expenditure level by then?

  7. Terry says:

    Sex offenders list?

    Maybe they should start with ‘Thief Offenders’ list……..
    Were doomed.

  8. Rhonnda aka Blue Familiar says:

    I think they missed the point.

  9. Are you kidding me? says:

    There is a lot of hot air,and I hope PLP will never get back in,OBA is not perfect but again the mess that they had to deal with from day one ,no government is going to fix it overnight OBA is heading in the right direction ..

  10. Kevin says:

    The PlP are a lost soul wanting to believe this is what Mr and Mrs Bermuda wants to hear. They have to be like an alcoholic and first admit that they have a problem face all of the issues related to their decease and admit them , only then will we believe you won’t fall into the same pitfalls as in the past. I love the diversification of revenue sources its quite broad and has no substance all of the previous hokas pokas ideas i have heard in the past news conferences are pie in the sky.
    Glad there is an option to them and one that has show that they have our future at heart. they aren’t perfect but i believe we are heading in the right direction

  11. Navin Johnson says:

    Zero credibility….zero believability. A joke really……..

  12. mixitup says:

    I actually love this Vision! Don’t know about halting the Airport Project though.. Maybe too far gone.

  13. Devonshire says:

    A lot of typos. Like the Rastafarai colors. That’s all that got my attention.

  14. Flooding says:

    I must say that I read the entire reply and I was impressed. I am not sure about any typos, but what I did notice is a comprehensive vision for our country. This fintech idea is excellent. Its a perfect fit for our economy, based on the KPMG report. Very good job PLP and Marc Bean!

    • A Few Queries says:

      “As the PLP recognizes that our plans for diversification will require at least half the new jobs created to be filled by highly skilled and experienced international labor, balance is required. Our policies will reflect this reality.”

      The above was stated by Mr. Bean.

      If their ideas of economic diversification, and some of the ideas are unrealistic , yields, say, 1000 jobs and at least will be 50% foreign labour, that translates to 500 local jobs at the most.

      And since the PLP admit, in the above quote, that the immigration policy will ‘reflect this reality’ why would they in the next sentence promise to repeal the Job Makers Act? Makes no sense.

      And as I asked below, what incentives and concessions will be granted to all these new industries as a means to attract them to our shores? They won’t come because we ask nicely and show them our pink sand.

    • aceboy says:

      You are kidding right? How could you be impressed by such a display of hot air? Lemming.

  15. A Few Queries says:

    So you are going to decrease the departure tax to pre-2015 levels resulting in the airport registering either a loss or tiny net profit, but yet you will somehow finance a major renovation to the airport? What other area will you cut to make this possible or will you simply borrow more? Also, does this mean you have dropped your Airport Authority ambitions?

    You plan on cutting payroll tax, but simultaneously you will increase the tourism budget by 50% or $10mn. What other area will you cut to make this possible or will you simply borrow more?

    You complain about crony capitalism, but then say you will gift tax payer monies to private sports clubs of which you (still believe you are at least) and another PLP MP are Presidents and thus presenting a conflict of interest Why is it ok for you to give away public monies to private ventures and what other area will you cut to make this possible or will you simply borrow more?

    You claim the blue economy can possibly result in $200mn of annual economic activity and that local fishermen can export their catch overseas. How is this going to be achieved since currently local fishermen can’t fully supply the island as of now? Will you lift the moratorium on fishing licenses and allow more people to go and decimate our stocks or will you allow overseas long lining companies to enter the Bermuda market to compete with the locals? And local restaurants buy imported fish as it is cheaper for them in terms of overhead, but yet you think we can simply export Bermuda fish at Bermuda prices to lower cost jurisdictions?

    Bringing in more insurance companies won’t really affect insurance prices. We will still have the same top heavy demographic in which the healthier, younger employees are outnumbered by the older population. And how will this temper the recent increases brought on by the overpriced hospital wing?

    Regarding online gaming you noted Gibraltar’s industry and the fact they have a budget surplus because of the taxes paid by this economic sector? Does that mean you will institute a corporation tax and income taxes as Gibraltar does? Will the corporation tax be levied on all businesses? If so, have you gauged the impact on businesses domiciled in Bermuda already as they are generally here for our low tax nature?

    How will you entice the technology and online gaming companies to set up in Bermuda? As Bermuda labor is quite expensive along with the need to import everything, what concessions will you offer as means for them to decide Bermuda is a desirable location to set up or transfer their business? If it is tax relief, how will that affect your plan to balance the budget within 5 years?

    How will the balanced budget be achieved with the increased spending (2013 amount) levels you have included in your plan? Do you plan on borrowing more and thus will you raise the debt ceiling again? If so, how will we cope with the increased interest payments from this borrowing which is currently costing the tax payer something like $400,000 a day as of now?

    • jt says:

      Too easy isn’t it? And you stopped short. Much more to feed on.

  16. Couch Stew says:

    IF PLP would have targeted the throne speech it would have sounded like sour grapes I am glad and impressed with what they presented. Try working with some of these ministers they are a joke yep I witness it daily.

  17. Northshore says:

    And you speak of sour grapes!! Get over yourself Conch Stew!

  18. aceboy says:

    Ok, I did it. I read on to point number 2:

    2. Freeze spending at 2013 levels for 3 years, forcing us to be more efficient in the civil service. Any extra spending will be used to invest in Vision 2025 initiatives on education, training, the youth, and seniors

    So, the PLP will freeze spending in one breath and then state what they will do with extra spending in the next?

    Seriously?

    This is good? This is the type of thing that makes a solid plan for balancing the budget?

    What an absolute joke.

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