Opposition Leader’s Response To Pre-Budget

February 12, 2018

Jeanne Atherden OBA 2015“As the Premier brings forward the first budget under the new PLP government it must be noted that the OBA has left the Bermuda economy on solid financial footing,” Opposition Leader Jeanne Atherden said this evening.

Ms Atherden’s statement comes in advance of the 2018/19 Budget, which will be delivered by Premier and Minister of Finance David Burt this Friday [Feb 16], marking the first Budget delivered by the PLP Government following their victory at the polls last year.

“This Friday Bermudians will not have to hold their breath any longer as the 2018 – 2019 Budget will be tabled,” said Ms Atherden, who is also the Shadow Minister of Finance.

“This will be Premier/Minister of Finance Burt’s maiden Budget and it will set the tone for Bermuda’s fiscal policy going forward. The People of Bermuda are waiting to see if Premier Burt has the discipline to implement a budget which Bermuda families can afford whilst meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

“The OBA had a strategy to grow jobs, lower crime, enhance tourism and lead Bermuda out of debt. Evidence today confirms that this strategy was being successfully executed.

“The Bermuda Tourism Authority’s [BTA] figures, recently released, show that the 2017 results were extraordinary. The release noted that 2017 brought the highest number of visitors to the island in recorded history and stated the total arrivals for that period [692,947] is ‘the best statistical performance dating back to 1965′.

“The BTA release also indicated that ‘in 2017, the 35th America’s Cup played a critical role in driving demand and higher visitor spending not only in May and June but throughout much of the year’. The release stated that ‘Bermuda’s Tourism industry has been on a path for growth since 2015, after decades of decline, the America’s Cup helped to accelerate the growth trajectory.’

“This outstanding economic performance is borne out in the America’s Cup Review Report which confirms the overall positive impact of this historic event on Bermuda and Bermudians.

“It should be noted that the America’s Cup Review Report – ‘Economic, Environmental and Social Impact of the 35th America’s Cup on Bermuda’ has not yet been formally released to the public,” Ms Atherden said.

In November 2017, the ACBDA held a press conference where they announced the release of the ‘Economic, Environmental and Social Impact of the 35th America’s Cup on Bermuda’, and also provided a copy of the 64-page report [PDF] to the media, so we asked the OBA for clarification, and they explained the reference is as the report has not been tabled in the House of Assembly.

Ms Atherden continued, “As well, the Government has not acknowledged that the expenditure on this event produced the desired results and was a fiscally prudent risk/reward revenue growth option. This tourism success was also coupled with success in other critical economic areas.

“The Updated Review of The Bermuda Economy 2017, released in early December, reported that there was an increase in the total value of new construction projects started and that employment income increased.

“Additionally, there was significant revenue growth resulting from the collection of higher payroll taxes and customs duty. No doubt, the OBA’s success in securing new hotel and resort development helped to drive these positive results.

“So as the Premier brings forward the first budget under the new PLP government it must be noted that the OBA has left the Bermuda economy on solid financial footing. Will the new government build on this base? The 2018/19 Budget will provide some answers.

“To support the 2018/19 Budget, the Premier has developed and presented the Pre-budget Report. The stated purpose of the Pre-budget Report is two-fold: first, the government wishes to ‘increase public awareness of government’s fiscal and budget policy objectives. ‘And second, the Pre-budget Report is intended to establish a bench mark for evaluating the conduct of fiscal and budget policy.’

“With regards to the first purpose, educating and keeping the public informed is a worthwhile objective, that every democratic government commits to achieve. The Pre-budget Report offers the public an opportunity to comment on the fiscal options that the government is considering implementing. It cannot be overstated that without looking at the cost of options and impact on our debt, it is difficult to provide informed feedback.

“Our future debt will grow and the economic safe-being of Bermuda families will be jeopardized if we do not manage and provide better control over our health care costs and the size of government.

“We must not let the debt problem get so out of control that it cannot be effectively managed by reducing expenditure and increasing revenue. The capacity of Bermuda families to shoulder more debt is coming to an end. Focus must be on job and investment growth, not debt growth.

“In the Throne Speech on 8th September 2017, Premier Burt promised new initiatives – all of which have financial implications. In order to have a balanced budget which then starts to reduce the debt, and help working Bermudians, the Premier in his capacity as Finance Minister will have to construct a budget to take into account several variables.

“The Premier must factor in the impact of expenses for the new initiatives as well as any delays in the growth of the contemplated revenues, while at the same time adjusting for changes in the global markets in which Bermuda operates. The recent US Tax changes implemented by President Trump cannot be ignored.

“When considering options, Bermuda wants to be assured that the government will be fiscally prudent and mindful of the interests of every day Bermudians. People need to be informed on how these options will be managed in order to impact on our debt reduction.

“As the Premier has indicated, the second purpose of the Pre-budget Report is to ‘establish a bench mark for evaluating the conduct of fiscal and budget policy.’ It is assumed that this approach indicates a commitment to fiscal responsibility and to use this information to improve our economic position, while at the same time meeting the needs of the People.

“It is also assumed that this will include, at a minimum, an enhancement of the mid-year review. The mid-year review must include commentary on whether the budget is predicted to be achieved and any corrective action that must be taken to adjust for revenue shortfalls or overspending.

“At each step of the way there needs to be some assurance that we do not start a trend that takes us backward to increasing debt and job losses. If revenue does not grow as government intended, expenditure, which is influenced by government, must be reduced accordingly to protect the needs of the people.

“It is normal to talk about revenue generating options, but Bermuda’s debt woes have generally been attributed to overspending which makes it so important for Bermudians to have a clear understanding of the cost of the spending choices.

“The Bermuda Economy 2017: Updated Review stated that at the six months point, the overall current expenditure, excluding debt service, was tracking at $3.6 million over budget estimates. It is possible that this was related to the removal of the salary freeze and the discontinuation of the voluntary retirement scheme.

“The Pre-budget Report indicates that the Government’s revised current account expenditure, excluding debt service, is expected to fall between $914 and $932 million, which is said to be in line with the original estimate of $923.5 million provided in the 2017/8 budget. This confirms that the spending discipline carried out by the OBA Government provided the base to achieve this, so perhaps there is no reason to be concerned.

“However, given this, it is mindboggling that the Finance Minister brought forward a Supplementary so soon after taking office. Being fiscally responsible, this is usually done after making adjustments to offset any cost overruns, and once it is confirmed that expenditure, will actually result in overspending. One explanation is that the Finance Minister has done this in order to provide the government with a cushion.

“The sooner we get reduce our current account deficit and get our debt problem under control, the sooner we will reap the benefits of debt reduction such as faster economic growth, enhanced employment opportunities and faster wage growth. We will have more flexibility to spend our money the way we want – to address Bermuda’s priorities, to meet the needs of all our people in the near term and for the future.

“The new Government has incorporated the use of various Committees in its policy and decision-making. Delays in establishing or obtaining reports from those committees will negatively impact the timing of decision making and thus strategy implementation.

“It is clear that the start-up of programmes and policy initiatives must be achieved in a timely manner if they are to have the desired result. Given the importance of the Tax Reform Committee it is critical that work on tax reform starts without delay.

“The Pre-budget Report is presented by the government as an indication of its desire to be more transparent and accountable. As the Opposition Party, the role of the OBA is to speak up on behalf of all the people of Bermuda. The Government has asked to be held accountable, and the Opposition will ensure that they are held to account.

“The OBA expects the PLP government to deliver on the programmes which are important to the wellbeing of the people of Bermuda, and for the PLP government to demonstrate for the Bermuda people how it intends to lead us out of debt – to reduce the financial burden on our children, and not spend now with a promise to address the issue later, which will only take us back to an all too familiar precarious financial position.

“We will support policy options which lead to growth in the economy, increase employment and address social issues. However, we believe that it is time to change how we measure success from ‘on time and on budget’ to include ‘programme objectives met’. Only then can the public know that monies are well spent on their behalf.”

click here Bermuda 2018 Budget

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Comments (17)

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  1. Oh really says:

    They have not a clue on taking us toward. They have already shown us their ways spend spend and more spend. Lord help us all here we go again. Who knows what the debt will be after one year let alone four. They definitely do not have the economic education to take us forward. Bob did a fantastic job If Burt humbled himself he could follow Bobs plan we all know that will never happen though. Very sad.

  2. While there are things that we can agree that the U.B.P / O.B.A did accomplish during there time in office to help Bermuda on it’s road to recovery, let’s not forget it equally made many economic blunders that has cost us dearly and some that will cost us for many years to come.

    The America’s cup was a big financial joke as it catered to the elite foreigners who got more out of the Bermuda public purse then it should have at the end tally, and the local’s that really benefited from it, was the elite of our society, which basically means that main stream Bermuda had very little to benefit percentage wise, that what these joker’s make it out to be with their rhetoric.

    The airport deal was a win win situation for the finance minister and those of his colleagues who actually got be in on the deal, but as for the Bermuda public and the public purse, it is the greatest disaster that this country has had financially in many years, and will effect us negatively for many years to come, with a great lost of revenue stream taken from us.

    Under the previous administration we saw seniors suffer greatly, financially and with benefits being slashed tremendously, we saw our education for our youths and youth programs being slashed drastically, and so for the middle class Bermuda and below, the U.P.B / O.B.A, took care of their own kind and the elite in this country was top priority.

    Under the the former administration we saw great deterioration of our fleet of public transportation, both on our roads and our ferries on our seas, and not lastly but added to their so called time in office, there was so much over growth of vegetation of tree’s and bushes along our roads, that the eye sore was not dealt with until the P.L.P came into power.

    There is much to say but the history books will conclude, that the O.B.A / U.B.P, Under the Leadership of Michael Dunkley the former leader and Premier, was by far the worst Administration Bermuda has had to deal with in more then 40 years.

    So Mr. Dunkley with all your photo up’s you really did make history, as being the worst leader we have had in a very long time, and now your colleagues are trying to do the back stroke to cover your mess up’s.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Really Mr. Santucci, have you researched what you just wrote?

      The Americas Cup brought in about 5 times what we spent, not taking any account of the world wide publicity we got for it. That is a long lasting benefit for everyone in Bermuda.

      Please do explain what you mean about the former finance Minister being in on the airport deal. The kind of corruption you suggest should be exposed. By the way, are you really suggesting that Bermuda borrow another 1/4 billion dollars or so to build a new airport?

      Yes, budgets were cut for seniors and others. That is because we had to borrow money to meet the interest payments on the debt we had in 2012.

      • Gullible says:

        “The Americas Cup brought in about 5 times what we spent.”

        That sentence tells me you don’t know what you’re talking about

    • Justin says:

      You are clearly someone who believes money grows on trees. Soon come you’ll get a reality check.

    • Kevin says:

      There seems to be awful lot of folks who fell Hook line and sinker for the PLP rhetoric about the Americas Cup , What a snow job they did on their followers the AC made millions and millions more than what we invested probably will go down in History as the single biggest contribution by an outside event to our economy and we will continue to reap benefits from all of the worldwide marketing exposure from TV coverage …lots of ostriches around …sadly we hope through the repealing of the SSM we don’t get trashed too badly.

    • Ty says:

      @Duane –

      “The America’s cup was a big financial joke as it catered to the elite foreigners who got more out of the Bermuda public purse then it should have at the end tally, and the local’s that really benefited from it, was the elite of our society”

      Duane – make sure you let the young lady that ran Ashley’s Lemonade stand that she is nothing more than an “elite of our society”

      You sir – are an absolute idiot.

    • A concerned citizen says:

      Errm, the official and independent report shows Bermuda took $483 million in America’s Cup revenue. How was this a joke sir? And the cost as I recall from the same report was between $70 – $80 million – again well below the budgeted $100 million. The Americas Cup LIE, yes OUTRIGHT LIE toted by the PLP certainly seems to have stuck fast. Accept the FACTS! The PLP won a ton of votes on A COMPLETE FALSEHOOD!

  3. Tyrone says:

    Shouldn’t she just wait for the budget?

  4. Athena says:

    Can’t wait for Friday. Fasten your seat belts and get ready for a rough ride!

    Lots of regression and no fiscal progression.

  5. Kevin says:

    Its coming that’s a guarantee we need to brace ourselves , we have no chance we will see his creation of jobs they will be in the civil service so the expenditures will rise and deeper we will go
    Like the Buses and the Trash collection already mis managed more will follow

    When you don’t know … You just don’t know

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Brace yourself for another massive government induced cost of living increase.
      All the while your money becomes more and more useless.

  6. Wake up, Atherden….get with it… you are a means to an end.
    When the END arrives,you will fully realize the errors of your allegiance!!
    Until then, mon ami!!

    • Justin says:

      And you PLP members are Ewart Brown’s puppets… What makes you different?

  7. Stay woke says:

    1. BTA Full Year report page 22: Leisure air visitor purpose of visit: America’s Cup Spectator:
    2015 – 1,074
    2016 – 192
    2017 – 6,508

    Translation: $100m spent for 7800 visitors

    2. BTA Full year Report, page 10: Total Visitor Arrivals for 2017 = 693,000
    breakdown: approx 260,000 air visitors; approx 430,000 cruise vistors

    Translation: Thank heavens the PLP built Heritage Wharf or we wouldn’t have survived the recession

    • Politricks says:

      Stop being obtuse. No one argued against the need for a new cruise ship dock.

      What the issue was (and I know you remember) is the way in which the contract was tendered, who received the contract (again), the arrangements for reimbursement (as per a leaked email) of a crane rental, the fact that it went tens of millions over budget as well as the shoddy workmanship conducted (despite all the money spent) that required another $20mn or so to rectify the issues.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Have the cost over-runs and the fact that Heritage Wharf had to be massively re-constructed even been recouped yet by the pax tax ?

      When you and ‘Gullible’ above finally get you hands on that PWC A/C report maybe then you can talk about numbers and costs on the A/C
      Until then ,stop making up BS