OBA's Craig Cannonier. *File photo
OBA's Craig Cannonier. *File photo

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19: OBA big guns Craig Cannonier and Bob Richards have opened fire on Government in the wake of the latest jobless figures.

Mr Cannonier said: “Businesses large and small have been shutting down at an alarming rate and lay-offs continue in all sectors, from hotels to law firms.

“Against these bad developments, the Education Ministry released a report this week that said the income divide between blacks and whites widened over the past 10 years.”

Mr Cannonier was speaking after Premier Paula Cox rallied her troops pre-election at a party conference on Wednesday night.

He said that the latest unemployment figures, from May 2011, showed more than 3300 Bermudians were unemployed, while the jobless rate rose to more than 30 per cent for those aged 16-24.

Mr Cannonier added: “Forget what the Government says at its political rallies. The record shows beyond doubt that it has not stood strong for Bermudians.

“In fact, the record shows that its policies have led us into a full-blown economic crisis.”

Mr Cannonier said Ms Cox had said the OBA “don’t get it’ and would cut services to the most needy to save cash.

But he added: “We get it, because we speak to people every day, week after week, in their homes, at their place of work, in churches and on the streets, talking about the direction this country is headed.

“Who doesn’t get it is the Government, which has said nothing that makes sense to people who fear for their future, who are out of a job, or whose income is not keeping pace with the cost of living.”

Mr Cannonier said: “We are committed to social and economic equity for all Bermudians, leaving no one behind.”

Mr Richards, the party spokesman on finance, listed a series of cuts implemented by the ruling PLP, including 93 teachers made redundant in public schools and cuts in aid to charities like the Sunshine League children’s home and the Mirrors community programme.

He added that allegations, backed by a quote from Mr Richards about the need for austerity, that the OBA would adopt a slash-and-burn policy in public services was wrong.

Mr Richards said: “The choise in this election is not growth versus austerity, the choice is between further contraction under this Government or responsible growth under an OBA Government. That’s the choice.

“This Government is not about growth, it’s about contraction and their record is proof. While there is slow growth overseas, our economy is still contracting.”

Mr Richards added that, in addition to high unemployment, jobs were being exported elsewhere while job creators were choosing to base their operations in other countries.

He said that the OBA would promote economic growth while cutting “wasteful” Government spending to reduce the massive budget deficit.

Mr Richards added that an OBA Government would give two-year payroll tax breaks to firms hiring new Bermudian staff, support small business by earmarking 20 per cent of Government spending on goods and services to the sector and create construction and tourism jobs with the redevelopment of the waterfronts in Hamilton and St George’s.

And he said a special commission would be set up to ensure efficiency in Government and that budgets are stuck to.

He added that a Contractor General would also be appointed to monitor bidding and implementation of Government building projects to avoid “huge overspends from dodgy bidding procedures and cronyism".