Video: Premier On Cost Of Living Commission

December 18, 2017 | 32 Comments

The costs of living and the costs of doing business is what is “crushing us, and we have to find a way to improve that,” Premier and Finance Minister David Burt said, adding that we need to look at how “efficiencies can actually drill down to the consumer.”

These were some of the comments from Premier Burt when he sat down with Bernews for a live interview on a wide range of topics on Friday,

Earlier this month the Price Commission Amendment Act 2017 passed in the House of Assembly with bipartisan support, with the Bill seeking to change the Commission to the “Cost of Living Commission”, with an aim to focus on cost of living matters.

Speaking in the House when the Bill passed, the Premier said, “Bringing down the cost of food and other goods will require a collective effort and original thinking to be successful and sustainable, and the Government is committed to working with all relevant parties to find means and ways to reduce expense.

“It is not this Government’s intention to control prices, this would be contrary to Bermuda’s free market economy,” the Premier told Parliament.

“If prices were fixed and suppliers were unable to make a reasonable profit, they would simply stop stocking the item, which would have a negative impact on consumers.”

During our interview, Premier Burt said, “We recognize that there are places inside of law where we there are things in place which will allow the power of inquiry to be used, and we’re going to do that. And it’s a broad cross-section, we talk about food, but there’s also cost of healthcare, costs of medicines and different items.

“So, as I told the Parliament, the person who is going to be leading this for us is going to be Senator Anthony Richardson, he was actually on the Price Commission before, and we’re confident that we’re going to be able to have that broad cross-section, have that discussion, and talk about this issue, which is the most important issue to the residents of this country.

“The costs of living and the costs of doing business is what is killing and crushing us, and we have to find a way to improve that.”

Asked what he want to accomplish, Premier Burt told Bernews,  “I can tell you what the specific result is – a reduction of the cost of living in Bermuda.

“I’m not going to pre-judge the work of the Cost of Living Commission, what I am going to say is that I believe there are places inside of our local economy where it can be more efficient, which can deliver lower prices for consumers.”

“When we’re talking about food importers and food production, I think there is food importers, production, and sale. I think there’s places where we can be more efficient there to pass on savings towards consumers.”

When asked what his idea of efficiency would be, the Premier replied, “Our idea of efficiency is possibly in some cases cutting out middlemen, in some cases.

Asked by Mr Deacon if that would risk unemployment, the Premier said, “In the broad sense, someone would say it would risk unemployment, but if you look at the economy as a whole, if you have a reduction of the costs of living, which means that the costs of doing business is less inside of the country, that means that it allows other people to spend money in other areas in the economy, and you create additional growth in other places.”

Asked who may be regarded as a middleman, Premier Burt said, “It would be food importers, the transportation, different things, all the rest. There’s lots of different ways, but I think that we should look and study this in its entirety. We should not look to pre-judge, but I think that there are places where we can be more efficient.

“Another issue is when we talk about healthcare and prescription medicines, which are extraordinarily expensive,” he added.

“It’s 2017. The world is changing, the pace of logistics are changing, distributed ledger technologies in the block chain can make things more efficient, and so far supply chain management and otherwise. And we can look to how those efficiencies can actually drill down to the consumer, and that is where this Government is focused.”

“I feel very sorry for the people who work in IT inside of the Government of Bermuda because they have a leader who understands information technology very clearly, and so when they come and say, ‘Well, this is something that might take a while and all the rest,’ I say, ‘I know exactly how long it should take, and we need to start pushing and moving forward on these measures.”

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The video above was extracted from the full interview, in which Premier Burt discussed a wide range of topics including the island’s finances, the Government’s plans for economic growth, Brexit, the U.S. tax plan, the Paradise Papers, and more. You can watch the full video here, the excerpt on the Domestic Partnership Act here, and the excerpt on Bermuda’s relationship with the European Union here.

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Comments (32)

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  1. Ok says:

    By the time we stop hearing about the “plans” it will be the next election….can anyone tell me something positive that has been done so far? Where the jobs at?

    • Bill says:

      True
      This guy is a joke. Cut taxes on essential items and items that will create jobs ie food, some building supplies, vehicle/boat and electrical parts etc. People are rather throwing away stuff that could be fixed rather than paying for a part or parts to fix. The other problem is high rents and high healthcare/insurance. High rents from people being greedy and high health care from doctors, dentists and hospital charging crazy prices.

      • Created says:

        Seems like every day, there is another Commission, another board, another panel set up or consultant hired!

        Why !!!!! You had all the answers to the islands problems didn’t you! At least that is what you and your members promised during your campaign.

        Every day the buses remain broken, and so do many of the things you promised to fix. You sure found the time to swiftly knock down the Shelly Bay Beach complex! If only you could build is quickly as you destroy.

      • Ringmaster says:

        Cut out the middleman = reduce Government. What do all these admin people do to create a benefit to Bermudians? Government is the most inefficient use of revenue. Most of the tax receipts go to pay the public sector, and I would say 30% at least are not needed. $200 million a year saved straight away, plus 18 MPs. Why do we need 36?

  2. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The costs of living and the costs of doing business is what is “crushing us, and we have to find a way to improve that,” Premier and Finance Minister David Burt said, adding that we need to look at how “efficiencies can actually drill down to the consumer.”

    Well, if we did not have a crushing debt that cost Bermuda $500,000 per DAY in interest we could perhaps lower import duty on certain items and reduce the cost of goods that way. Just as increasing taxes will increase the cost of goods, so will decreasing taxes.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      This is Bermuda. Decreasing taxes will simply mean a greater profit margin for suppliers of goods. As far as they’re concerned we’re all used to the high prices and will continue to pay anyway .

      Besides , weren’t we supposed to see a marked decrease in freight costs when the price of oil plummeted a couple of years back ?

  3. Legalgal says:

    Perhaps also consider lifting restrictive, protectionist practises which prevent supermarkets trading here. Other islands like Guernsey have real M&S and Waitrose stores with only a small premium put on prices to cover cost of importation. Those big companies can afford to operate there and do not need to mark things up by 2-5x retail cost. Cut out the middleman. For food basics we cannot be expected to prop up the Bermudian import companies. And these businesses will still provide jobs for us.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Guernsey and Jersey are 110 or so miles from the UK and less than a 1 hour ferry ride from France.

      They have DAILY ferry service to and from the UK, both mixed passenger and freight and dedicated freight.

      Comparing Bermuda to Guernsey or Jersey is like comparing Bermuda to Martha’s Vinyard. It is simply unrealistic.

  4. Chingas says:

    Start by crushing the ridiculous interest rates we are forced to pay to the banks for our mortgages.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Absolutely. Then try and find a bank to lend money by way of mortgage. That is price control. Eliminate the financial incentive and eliminate the availability of the product.

    • Politricks says:

      Local mortgage rates are very reasonable when compared to other similar sized jurisdictions. Do some research if you don’t believe me.

      Of course they will be lower in the US and Canada where they have central banks that provide for rate discounts etc.

      The real problem in Bermuda is the housing prices.

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        And well over 60% of building a house is labour. Labour that loses a good portion of its gross pay to taxes. Taxes that pay almost one in four wages in Bermuda.

        Cut the cost of Government & everything else can go down. The cost of financing the debt alone is huge. Almost $10 per person per day, 365 days a year. THINK about it. It is real. Who is responsible for this debt?

  5. ConcernedBermudian says:

    Great job Burt. This is a serious issue in Bermuda, from tourism products to groceries, to health insurance to getting your car fixed, every industry needs to be looked at. So glad finally someone is looking into it.

    • Ringmaster says:

      The vast majority of the costs are labour. Will you be willing to take a pay cut? If not you are a large part of the problem.

  6. Mike says:

    “In the broad sense, someone would say it would risk unemployment…”

    A useful word “broad”, as you find yourself unemployed.

  7. Lavern Simons says:

    Stop sounding silly. It will not be an unemployment risk then what it already is. We do need to do something with the price control in this Island. Stay at the wicket Premier, no matter they have to say. It is always those whose grass is green on their side want to have all the say. Enough is enough!!!!! Premier you do what you have to do in regards to the high cost of living. Our Bermudian people are suffering etc. groceries, health etc.

    • Politricks says:

      So you think by cutting out the middleman (Butterfield & Vallis, BGA, Pitt & company et al) that it won’t result in some potential job losses?

      I agree that cost of living needs to be contained, but the current proposal will result in further job losses for Bermudians. Just because it doesn’t affect you directly, doesn’t mean it is a good thing for all.

    • Izzypop says:

      Don’t forget to ask our dear Premier to find a way to pay the huge debt he and his fellow plpers left us
      And instead of giving everyone pay increases how about they give us a propers day work for what they r getting paid.
      Ever watch W and E build a bus stop or make a side walk.
      The workers are ripping the govt off

      • Trufth says:

        Don’t get me started on the over-bloated Civil Service. Start the cuts there!

  8. jt says:

    Excessive costs and inefficiency – now where might one find a shining example of that?

  9. Jus' Wonderin' says:

    WHERE ARE THE JOBS AT?!

    • JUNK YARD DOG says:

      There are pleanty of jobs available. BUT !

      Have you ever heard of 6 for a 9, or 6 for workdone with 9 for pay

      The problem is two fold Incompetance and Lazy.

      People can’t do them, and people don’t want to do them.

      We have no apprenticehip program here to speek of.

      Management have no management skills.

      I have worked under a bunch of incompetant managers.

      Dont buy a house ! you may wind having to paint it ,and cut the grass.

      Actually,the day the U.K. incredibly went under was when……………………….

  10. Mary says:

    why not subsidize or make them duty free, stable items like flour milk eggs etc ?

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Oh yeah , that’s going to make a huge difference . How much of one’s monthly expenses consist of eggs and flour ?
      (Groceries are expensive but they’re an absolute bargain compared to eating out )

      Meanwhile they’re struggling to pay rent on a place that is being charged out for 3xs what it’s really worth .
      That’s where the root of the problem lies .

  11. aceboy says:

    Burt’s brilliance is going to lead to price controls…and bread lines.

  12. Rocky5 says:

    Start with privatizing Govt. Depts. Then less tax revenue is required and import Duties can be lowered leading to lower prices of imported goods & transportation costs (lower gas prices).

  13. Oh I see a premier who has read a bt about the new technology bit coin block chain etc whic has not been fully embraced by the business word and is know going to have a commission to tell us how to save money on imports. A dreamer a best. When u look ant an import it is all the extras that add up for the cost. Let only nothing on the as a percentage for shelf life
    Ask any of the importers what the throw away percentage and you might be astounded asxthis will still have to be in the accounting mix.

    Burt Maths always astounds even some one that has a little knowledge.

    Let alone when the Bitcoin bubble blows up there is going to be some mighty pissed off people

  14. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    I know , you know , and they know , what is hurting Bermuda …….they still are ! & its Rain days ?

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