Shadow Finance Minister David Burt *File photo
Shadow Finance Minister David Burt *File photo

Tomorrow the Minister of Finance will present his budget to the country. The PLP are waiting to hear a comprehensive plan that will lead to growth and diversification in our local economy. We also hope that he will bring forward sensible & balanced proposals for growth that we can support as we work together to expand opportunity for Bermudians.

We are also hopeful that he will tell the country if his tax breaks, targeted to non-Bermudians, that were introduced last year to stimulate the construction industry were effective. We continue to experience weakness in the construction sector, and given the delays and controversy surrounding the Former Club Med site, this is a part of the economy that requires urgent attention.

We are equally hopeful that the Minister will not give into the demands of the Chamber of Commerce who seem determined to continue to push for tax breaks for their members and non-Bermudians, while everyday workers are left to bear the brunt of the negative impacts of the budget. Deficit reduction must be done in a balanced and achievable fashion that shares sacrifice across all sectors of the economy. We await specifics on how deficit reduction will be accomplished, not with across the board cuts, but with specific actions such as consolidation of services and winding up of programs.

We are also anxious to hear about the OBA’s plans to control the health care cost crisis in Bermuda. The OBA has ignored the issue of health care and abandoned the National Health Plan - while health insurance costs are rising, straining our budgets, putting stress on employers, and impacting the take-home pay of all employees. Action on this issue is well overdue and we expect for the government to address this issue.

It should be noted that that the Minster promised public consultation on the SAGE report and did not hold a single town hall meeting open to the public. This lack of consultation is a slap in the face to all Bermudians who will be affected by this budget. We hope that the Minister will finally tell the country what recommendations in the SAGE report his government supports and which ones they reject. We expect that the Minister will keep the promises that the government has made to their workers and retirees. We understand that some may want the OBA to break even more promises, but with labour relations at a delicate state, any unnecessary provocation of workers would be counterproductive.

Finally on the Matter of Privatisation, the PLP is already on record of standing side by side with the workers of this country to ensure that we stand up for the rights of workers. We will support any and all initiatives to make the delivery of government services more efficient; but we will not support any action that compromises the rights of workers to organise and rolls back the hard fought gains of the labour movement.

The PLP look forward to presenting our reply to the Budget on February 28, 2014 – where we will lay out our alternative plans for the growth, diversification, education and empowerment or Bermuda and Bermudians.