PLP Press Conference: Burt, Dickinson, Morris

September 24, 2020 | 9 Comments

In the lead up to the 2020 General Election — which is now only one week away — the PLP held another press conference, with Premier David Burt, Minister Curtis Dickinson, and Davida Morris delivering remarks.

Premier & Party Leader David Burt’s remarks:

Good afternoon,

Last night, the Progressive Labour Party launched our platform – Rebuilding Bermuda with a Heart for Bermudians.

Today is not the day for us to present, but, to answer your questions about the platform and our vision for the economic recovery in Bermuda.

That being said, any party can make promises. What Bermudians need to now ask themselves is who do they think will do their best to fulfill their promises?

While we certainly have more work to do, we made sure and steady progress on our previous platform and we will work away at this platform as well.

Governing does not happen overnight. It takes time and consultation to make sure you get it right. Those are the processes that we will engage in so we can make sure we can deliver on our promises.

If I may, I’d like to highlight just a few key items from the platform:

Make Hamilton a Livable City. This is part of our youth agenda. Hamilton should not be just a place people commute into and out of for the work day. We want it to be a 24/7 urban environment where people live, work and play. And, there will be units available for Bermudians in these developments with downpayments for first time homeowners at 5%

The Bermuda Digital Bank.We need banks that give our people workable loans and that allow industries to grow. Competition is good for the economy, and now it’s urgent to get these new industries up and running, to provide jobs in our economy.

A Green Energy Revolution. Reducing the cost of energy makes our economy more competitive. And, that is our plan with a massive new investment in green energy to create jobs in the short run and allow Bermudians and Bermudian owned businesses to save money in the long run.

There are so many more policies I want to talk about like the phasing out of middle schools, lower cost quality healthcare and our infusion of capital to create jobs in the short run. But, at the end of the day, this election is about what leadership we want to see rebuilding our economy. Is it our leadership with a heart for the people? Or, would the people want to have a Craig Cannonier-led OBA see us through?

But, the purpose here is not for us to talk to you, but, to answer questions about our platform and vision for the economic recovery.

Minister Curtis Dickinson’s remarks:

Good afternoon,

I want to speak candidly about the impact that COVID-19 has had on the Bermuda economy. It has been profoundly negative. We have seen a number of business closures and folks who have either lost their jobs or seen their hours of work significantly reduced.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on our tourism industry, with cruise ship cancellations and the reduction in air arrivals resulting in lost revenue to our hotel industry, restaurant and bar sectors, and many others. The negative effect on the broader domestic economy and Government revenues has also been significant.

At the same time, the Government has had to incur additional expense in an effort to provide for those who were vulnerable and in need of support; the quick introduction of an unemployment benefit provided critical assistance to those who were negatively affected, and the recently introduced supplemental benefit is designed to assist those who remain unemployed. These programs, while necessary, have come at great expense to the Government.

Notwithstanding the challenges that we face going forward, I have every confidence that we have the skills and resources to get our economy moving again and to continue the progress that we were making pre-COVID. And the policies laid out in our election platform are an ideal place to get there.

When I first assumed office as your Minister of Finance almost two and a half years ago, my focus was on growing the economy, reducing the deficit and limiting additional Government borrowing. Prior to COVID-19, we were making real progress in executing on that strategy. Evidence of this progress included:

  • Reducing the Bermudian unemployment rate from 8.2% in May 2016 to 4.4% in November 2019 according to the Labour Force survey;
  • Creating 719 new jobs; and
  • Reducing the budget deficit from $134 million in 2017 to approximately $20 million [pre-COVID spending] in the last cycle, the lowest in 18 years.

The numbers speak for themselves. We have soundly managed the country’s finances, and the confidence of international markets have recently reflected that assessment.

As we navigate the way forward, I believe that we must be balanced in our approach to promoting economic growth while maintaining a firm hand on the public purse. Our focus needs to be on restarting and growing our economy.

We will do post-COVID-19 as we had done pre-COVID-19: be prudent while making targeted strategic investments that have a stimulative effect on our economy, such as spending on infrastructure including:

  • Capital works and upgrades in a number of buildings including the Department of Public Transportation, Marine and Ports and the Westgate Correctional Facility, and the installation of Solar panels on 6 Government Buildings
  • Capital works to support the community including transitional housing for young people who age out to the Department of Child and Family Services, Refurbishment of Parish Clinics and Shoreside Facility for Local Fishing Cooperative
  • Infrastructure to help our community like Reconstruction and repairing of Retaining Walls & Upgrades to Pembroke Canal

To further support our community we are also providing grant funding for community clubs.

The investments we are planning to make will have a stimulative effect on the economy, and these shovel ready initiatives will provide jobs while at the same time giving us much needed infrastructure and quality of life improvements.

While the Government has a very important role to play in stimulating the economy, the private sector has just as an important role. As such the Government will seek to partner with key sponsors to advance projects that generate economic activity and promote job creation.

Our Platform laid out a number of Public and Private Sector Capital Projects that over the next 5 years could inject $1Billion of investment into our economy. The Government seeks investments to make these projects happen. Under my watch I’ve had to clean up bad projects like Morgan’s point as and Minister of Finance I won’t sign the country up to something else that puts the country at risk. However there is a way to do public and private sector partnerships that work, can stimulate the economy, give Bermudians a chance to participate in the ownership in the project to create a nation of owners.

The key to our economic recovery will be the growth of jobs in our economy. The Government will focus on the retention of people we already have working; encourage those employers who are here to grow their footprints and increase employment; and identify new companies and industries that can start up in or relocate to Bermuda and provide new jobs in our economy.

In this way, our aim is to close the Government revenue gap by broadening the tax base rather than asking existing taxpayers for more. Our plan is simple – grow the economy so that more people can pay taxes and we can look to reduce the tax burden on the middle class.

Thank you.

Davida Morris remarks:

Good afternoon,

Last night, you heard about the PLP party’s economic and social plan to see us through the recovery. Based on that information, I want Bermudians to ask themselves when they go to the polls – who do they want to see us through the recovery? David Burt and the PLP team or a Craig Cannonier-led OBA?

Before you answer that question, first I want to point out a few things:

The Debt. It is spoken about often but is it really understood honestly? There is a massive fallacy in our community related to who is responsible for the debt in Bermuda. Allow me to tell a story of the last 40 years of governance in Bermuda. In the 1980s/90s, we were governed by the conservative United Bermuda Party. They did not invest in public institutions. They built a system that didn’t invest, didn’t build, but just made sure to protect what we had by giving out tax breaks. The PLP swept into power in the historic 1998 election and began to invest in social programs. But, even with this new focus on equity, the debt didn’t increase. The real culprit for the initial deficit increase was the global financial crisis of 2008-11. This caused a massive and unexpected drop in tax revenue and created the initial debt from a government that chose investment over austerity. But, the worst part of our debt story happened under the OBA. The OBA doubled our debt during global economic boom times. I am going to repeat that again because people don’t hear it often enough – the OBA doubled our debt during boom times for the global economy. Let that sink in a moment. Since we took back the government in 2017, the plp dramatically reduced the deficit and was on track for a surplus… and then COVID-19 hit. We chose investment in the face of COVID-19 which I believe is the right move for now.

So, yes, we could have dramatically cut spending when the revenues fell, but, that would have meant no unemployment insurance during the lockdown. So, the two causes of the so-called PLP caused debt were the worst global pandemic in a hundred years and the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The OBA – the so called good managers of money – gave us $1.4 billion in debt during economic boom times. So, let’s call a spade a spade. Let’s not let stereotypical views cloud our thinking and make us believe certain people are good at certain things and certain people are bad at certain things. Let’s look at the facts.

So now we can ask the question, how are we going to pay for our economic recovery plan? First, I think it’s important to note that we got a really good deal on this debt. This was the best debt offering that Bermuda has ever had and as a result, we received millions more than we may otherwise have. We’re going to use that to invest in job creating and economic activity creating infrastructure projects like:

  • Opening new industries. The investment in green energy will bring down our electricity bills to make us more competitive and the new digital bank will allow us to have finance and banking solutions for new business ventures.
  • Hamilton’s expansion. As we expand Hamilton and create the new livable city of Hamilton, we will build our population and build a livable city which will spur economic creation and an expanded tax base of all kinds.

At the end of the day, we can tell you about our complex financing mechanisms and our wins in the debt market and our clear and costed plans for the future, but, you have to ask yourself – who do you trust to see us through this economic recovery? My team and I working under the leadership of Premier Burt and the Minister

of Finance? Or, do we want to see Craig Cannonier managing the economic recovery? That’s the question Bermudians have to answer. We hope to earn your support.

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Comments (9)

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  1. Noah James says:

    How many of the ‘new’ jobs were: non-bermudians and in Government?

  2. Wing nut says:

    800k??????????????
    #CRICKETS

  3. Ringmaster says:

    Minister Dickinson fails to mention the budget deficit was only falling because he stopped paying into the Sinking Fund. The new jobs were primarily in the Public Sector, requiring more debt to cover the expenses. Davida Morris is misleading to say the OBA doubled the debt. The OBA inherited a budget deficit of around $300 million per year. I’ll say it again to mirror her. $300 million. How could the OBA suddenly slash that to $0? Fire half the public sector?
    The PLP enjoyed record revenues above that budgeted between 2006 and 2010 yet instead of putting the excess into a savings account they spent it then borrowed more. They blame the worldwide financial meltdown but in truth it was their own failings that lead to such an increase in debt, and they were warned numerous times but ignored the warnings.
    The PLP may have handled the Covid crisis well, but it was the people who did the hard work, but their record on anything financial is a disaster, and their promises if the get reelected are a wish list of fantasies.

  4. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The numbers speak for themselves. We have soundly managed the country’s finances, and the confidence of international markets have recently reflected that assessment.”

    Really? Our current budget has us going deeper into debt, even after suspending payments to the sinking fund. The mountain of debt is growing!

  5. Sandgrownan says:

    Hilarious. 20 years in power and they can still blame someone else.

    Idiots.

    • wahoo says:

      Scary that people fall for this over and over. We are so F’ed now and when they get in again it will be the last time. No mention of the $800K and I would be willing to guess there are a lot more examples of pure stupidity out there….if not stupidity then something worse?

  6. Ringmaster says:

    Considering it is likely the PLP will be reelected the more worrying the comments from the Min of Fin become. He is saying he will use some of the recent debt to repair Government buildings. That creates no long term revenue so will only create more debt. Due to Covid the revenue numbers are almost certainly going to be less than budgeted over the next 2 years, again meaning more debt because they certainly won’t reduce public sector costs. Just about when interest rates will begin to rise.

  7. Nathalee Simons says:

    Ms. Morris

    Following our talk at the Laundromat months ago, I truly expected you to focus and provide your feedback on the Education ‘system’

    Note, I am not putting you in a ‘box’ but since I think you have the experience of working in Education and have much more insight on what changes/improvements are needed, that would have been your main subject matter and give at least some realistic goals of the part you will play as an MP to ensure our young gain access and have the opportunities to a much higher standard of Education (much like what you had in order to achieve the level of professionalism that you have.

    Come on.. the current Minister of Education mentioned the ‘phasing-out’ of Middle school but to me it’s just a blanket statement… From my own experience, the process of having these types of changes and making sure the results are exceptional and serve every student according to their ability requires additional adjustments, meaning, will there be an additional school year at the pre-school level to ensure the solid foundation/proper preparedness for primary level or is primary going to have the additional school year where children leave at 12 yrs and fully prepared for the secondary level to graduate at age 16/17 and then for tertiary/vocational training?? I am just curious to know how the transition will occur.

  8. Nathalee Simons says:

    I have read Mr. Dickinson’s remarks and wish to give him credit, from my accounting experience, a country’s budget is never and will never be an easy task, however, with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles being adhered to by every sector in Govt. we may find that there will be better results… Yes I’m already hearing easier said than done but in Bermuda’s current economic position, tough decisions must be made for the benefit of ALL.. see I didn’t say ‘US’

    In my humble opinion, every person who decides to vote next week and has the economy as a core decision maker.. need to review the section of the Bermuda Govt. Audited Financial Stmts. for these 2 particular periods March 2012 and March 2017 (just the section of the Statement of Operations and Accumulated Deficit).. Yes COVID-19 is a factor in all of this no doubt..

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