Good Afternoon and Thank You for joining me here today.
I would like to begin by welcoming and thanking my Caucus Colleagues for accompanying me. I also wish to give special mention to MP Wayne Furbert, whose assistance and personal sacrifice of time and energy was an invaluable asset to the Ministry during the preparation of the 2018/2019 National Budget.
After last year’s election there was a short time between swearing in a cabinet, and our return to the House of Parliament 6 weeks later. We returned early partly to address urgent international obligations, but also so we could begin to build the framework to carry out the People’s Work.
We hit the ground running as it were, and acknowledged the goals we had accomplished and the progress we made within our first one hundred days; last Friday marked another milestone for the new Cabinet and Government. With the reading of the National Budget statement and the allocation of public resources, your Government can now fully implement the People’s Agenda.
But the People-focused budget we set was not only built on promises; it was built on performance. The Ministry of Finance staff should be highly applauded for their stellar work since July; and even more so, since despite the millions in unbudgeted expenses that were inherited by this government, and despite a well deserved pay raise for our public servants, it is expected that total spending will be below the budget set by the former government just 12 months ago.
This new Government is certain that the best way to restore Bermuda’s economy is to create an environment for growth, to help produce career opportunities for Bermudians, and to be smart but disciplined with public spending.
We will anchor our prudence by not raising the debt ceiling, and will start reducing our net debt in the next fiscal year.
The Pre-Budget Document may have given indications of certain policies that were under consideration, it did not set out the ways in which the Budget works for those who need the most assistance; those people who may have been forgotten in the past.
- This budget reflects the commitment made to struggling workers who have seen wages stagnant and costs increase, by making our payroll tax system MORE progressive by lowering the lowest band of payroll taxes to 4%, meaning that anyone who makes less $96,000 a year will see their take home pay increase.
- This budget reflects the commitment that we made to our entrepreneurs, giving them tax breaks and additional avenues to raise capital to be successful by the revision of the 60/40 rule.
- This Budget reflects the commitment that we have made to our seniors, reinforcing that they are valued and an important part of this community – by ensuring pension increases and also looking to provide seniors with assistance to lower their electricity bills.
- This budget reflects the commitment made to our students of all ages who want to acquire the skills they need to succeed in a global economy driven by technology – by giving $5.8 million more to the Ministry of Education & Workforce development.
For decades Bermuda has lead innovation in reinsurance by being agile and quick to serve market demand. Just as on-island creativity and leadership guides an industry that produces globally influential companies, our Island can also attract and develop the human resources and technology to launch a vibrant, new economic sector.
We are creating legislation to lead the ‘digital’ currency revolution; and we are ensuring that innovators who want to develop the latest Financial Technologies (FinTech) will find a jurisdiction that rewards innovation. With a view to the future, the Budget allocates funds for the application of Blockchain technology in our Land Title Register so that we can be an example to the world.
The Government is going to attract companies here whose investment in Bermuda will create jobs and show why Bermuda’s greatest asset is her People.
As Finance Minister I have come to rely on the professionals in the Ministry whose commitment to all of our People’s standard of living should never be doubted.
We have had enough time to assess the current and short term performance of the economy, and to also analyze medium and long term forecasts. By prioritizing the People, by stimulating growth, and by encouraging innovation, it is possible to produce a Budget that can enhance the lives of Bermudians and cement the social contract that we have with the electorate.
This Government will create additional competition in our economy leading to lower prices which are so desperately needed by Bermudians consumers. This government will make our economy more fair and balanced so our economy works for more people than it has historically. And finally this Government can and will modernise our laws to create the next generation of business owners - without giving up our identity.
It is about leadership and priorities, and the 2018/2019 Budget places our Bermudian standard of living and our envied quality of life at its core; we look forward to the next weeks of debate before the full implementation on 1st April.
Thank you for your kind attention. I am happy to take your questions.