David Burt
David Burt

The OBA’s Budget failed to come up with a promised plan to boost the economy, Shadow Finance Minister David Burt told MPs today.

Mr Burt said that – in contrast to pre-election promises – OBA Finance Minister Bob Richards had given the country “increased spending and a record deficit”, while the PLP’s last two Budgets had reduced spending.

He added: “Last year in this Honourable House the now Minister of Finance castigated the previous Government for not having a plan.”

Mr Burt said: “Before the election, the Honourable Minister spoke about overseas investors waiting for the OBA to take office so they can come to Bermuda, but makes no mention of this in his Budget statement.

“We hope that the extent of the OBA’s plan is not just short term tax breaks and breaking election promises by scrapping term limits.

“Gone is the pre-election talk of reducing the debt and tackling wasteful spending. Now we hear excuses about stubbornly rigid expenses, while we see spending increases.

“Two successive PLP Budgets have reduced spending, but the first OBA Budget gives this country a spending increase and a record deficit.”

Mr Burt added: “It is alarming to note that this Budget statement is more balance sheet than it is a formula for economic success.

“Bermuda does not need a Chief Accountant – Bermuda needs vision based upon a clear economic policy.”

He added that Mr Richards had been right in saying that Bermuda, while developed, was “undiversified and very small.”

But Mr Burt said: “While we did not expect a plan to increase the size of the island, we did expect something to address our dangerous lack of economic diversity.

“Instead, the OBA’s plan amounts to extensions of PLP concessions for existing business, additional concessions to existing business and ‘welcoming policies’ aimed at restoring 1908s style numbers in a 21st century economy.”

Mr Burt said the PLP agreed with Mr Richards’ view that the only employers can create a job, which is the best social programme available.

But he added: “Where we part company with the OBA is on their approach to job creation. The contradictions are evident in the Budget statement itself.

“The OBA seeks to simply brush aside the inequities and inequalities identified in survey after survey, in the Mincy Report and the Low Income Threshold Report.

“There are ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in this community and simply declaring that to mention that fact is divisive is not only disingenuous but false.”

Mr Burt said that it was untrue that the fortunes of all Bermudians rise and fall together.

He added: “The option of shipping jobs and business offshore does not exist for the small businessman and woman who find themselves in dire straits.

“Some people who call this country home have options and there are many among ‘us’ in this community who do not.

“The OBA is right that there are linkages ‘that bind this economy together’ but the strands are not equal and there is a responsibility for the OBA to acknowledge and to enact policies mindful of this reality.”

Mr Burt was speaking as he delivered the Opposition PLP’s reply to Mr Richards’ Budget of last week.

He said: “To sum up my party’s views of the Budget presented, we were expecting something more. We were expecting a plan. Instead we got an increase in spending, an increase in borrowing, a record deficit and a $2.5 billion debt ceiling.

“Instead of vision and long term conviction, we got short term moves. Its seems as though the Honourable Minister came to grips with the fact that you cannot change the laws of economics and simultaneously cut taxes, increase spending and reduce the debt, no matter how many times you tell the electorate you can.”