Full Text: Opposition Reply To 2020/21 Budget

February 28, 2020

A One Bermuda Alliance Government would “explore the feasibility of decreasing payroll for employers by increasing the cost of work permits.”

The OBA believes the move would be revenue neutral and could encourage the hiring of Bermudians, Shadow Finance Minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin said in today’s Budget Reply.

In addition, the OBA said they “would lay down the groundwork for an education authority and fund an independent report into DCFS.”

On payroll tax, she said: “The cost of work permits could be significantly increased across the board and a tax-neutralizing reduction benefit for payroll tax could be offered for employers.

“The higher cost of permits would encourage companies to hire and train Bermudians, and this can be reflected in opportunities for Bermudians abroad to consider returning home.

“This approach could also fulfill the aim of reducing payroll tax burden on employers while incentivizing them to hire Bermudians; growing the economy; enhancing our talent pool; encouraging the efficient processing of permits; creating a separate revenue centre for government and creating a shift for companies to manage expat employees as a separate cost centre rather than their entire employee base, and could discourage employers from unfairly selecting foreign workers over qualified and or trainable Bermudians.”

She added: “We in the Opposition agree that we must find viable solutions to reduce health care costs and protect the under-insured. We believe in a Universal health care plan, not a unified, single payer health care system.

“The Opposition recommendation is that the government should work through the intended programme for a more equitable solution, listen to the stakeholders and recognize that those who provide health care services know better than politicians what is needed to ensure optimum patient care.

“It also does not serve Bermuda for the Premier and his Ministers to misrepresent the advocacy proponents as being greedy and uncaring, or advancing the conspiracy theory that those advocates are driven by the insurance companies.”

She said the OBA would implement the recommendations of the Fiscal Responsibility Panel and the Future State report by Bermuda First regarding Universal Health Care, Immigration Reform and long-term payroll tax planning.

On the sugar tax, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “This budget reveals a tacit admission that the sugar tax was nothing more than a cash grab from our community and has resulted in an across the board increase in the costs of food.

“We would recommend that the government set the level of acceptability of sugar content based on international health established norms, and tax items that exceed that level.

The OBA has previously recommended the creation of an independent Education Authority and the Budget Reply outlined how this would be achieved.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “We recommend the formation of a Cabinet subcommittee to include the Premier, the Ministers of Education, Finance, Health and Social Services and Works and Engineering.

“The committee would provide immediate active oversight and support to ensure that Bermuda’s Educational agenda is given priority and is delivered.

“One of the committee’s immediate priorities would be to lay the foundation for the exploration and development of an educational authority, which will remove the politics from education and provide consistent professional and accountable leadership to our public education system.”

She said the committee would also explore and develop amongst other things, a Centre for Teaching Excellence, staffed with trainers and equipment to enhance teaching skills, lessons contents and classroom management skills.

“Teachers have for far too long been required to use their personal resources to fund basic supplies within their classrooms.

“To support and supplement the basic classroom requirements and supplies, this cabinet subcommittee would approve an annual $1,000 budget for each schoolteacher, to alleviate the practice of teachers being required to personally fund extras for their classes.

“It will also find ways to reduce the cost to our Bermudian families such as the simplification of school uniforms.

“In addition, the cabinet subcommittee would source a dedicated public transportation allocation of school buses that will get all of our students to and from school safely, on time and on a regular and consistent basis.”

While Ms Gordon-Pamplin welcomed the change in the 60/40 rule, she said: “It does not appear to be a workable solution to require that the Boards of Directors of such blended companies be 60% Bermudian.

“It is possible for the majority foreign investor to appoint Bermudian directors as would be required by the proposed change. We question what investor would invest most of the capital of an entity and be satisfied with having a restriction on how many of his preferred directors could be appointed to the Board.

“While there are service agencies that could provide directors, such individuals may not be the ones to advance the goals of the investor. This approach does not make sound investment sense and could serve to create an impediment for this possible area of growth by requiring unrealistic conditions. We invite the government to rethink this restriction.”

Speaking about DCFS, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said in her Budget reply: “We would recommend that there be sufficient funds to enable a thorough external enquiry into the operations, effectiveness, care and concern underlying the choices made on behalf of our children for overseas care.”

She continued: “Crushed by the costs of housing and mortgages, challenged by food prices, and facing high electricity bills, they wonder if we really understand what is happening in Bermuda.

“These are the remarks made by the Premier. Two and a half years into the Burt administration, we have seen multiple levels of taxation imposed on our seniors, businesses and consumers generally. Our most vulnerable have been alienated by an agency that is mandated to care for them.

“The imposition of the “bait and switch” sugar tax helped raise costs for consumers. In short, we are still crushed.”

The full OBA Reply to 2020 Budget follows below [PDF here]:

click here Bermuda 2020 budget

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