First let me say that some will look at the $62.4 million allocated for my Ministry in the 2018/19 Budget and assume there has been an unexplained and significant cut in funding year-over-year, from the revised 2017/18 total of nearly $94.4 million.
Of course, this would be comparing apples to oranges, because the Ministry has been restructured, as have been other Ministries.
Firstly, the numbers reflect a near $30.4-million drop in estimated current account expenditure for the Ministry headquarters, down to almost $14.4 million of anticipated spending. Of that $14.4 million, $13.3 million comprises a grant to the Bermuda Airport Authority.
The difference in current account expenditure is because this Ministry was previously The Ministry of Tourism, Transport & Municipalities, with a different set of spending priorities. We no longer provide a grant to the Bermuda Tourism Authority and are not responsible for funding initiatives such as the World Triathlon Series.
The largest part of our Budget - $21.6 million – is funding to ensure that Bermuda can have a dependable, public bus service.
As the Premier stated in the Budget Statement, rebuilding the bus fleet is a priority for this Government as we support public transport and are committed to a reliable, efficient and well-used service.
To assist with this, the Ministry has also been provided capital acquisition resources of $3 million for the purchase of eight new buses.
The costs for the Department of Marine and Ports Services are budgeted at $20.25 million. For both Marine and Ports and Public Transportation there will be a move towards electronic fare collections. Public transport must be looking to the future, and a modern fare collection system will be a part of that.
Spending for the Transport Control Department is expected to be about $5.38 million. During the coming year we will be upgrading TCD systems to enable driving licences and identification cards with embedded smart chips.
The Department of Energy comes under my Ministry also, and that current account allocation is $783,000. In addition, we have been allocated $500,000 in capital spending to restart the solar rebate programme. This new rebate programme will be targeted at seniors on low or fixed incomes in order to reduce their electricity bills with solar-thermal water heating.
Elsewhere, $2.5 million in capital spending has been set aside for the Airport Authority for a number of projects including the replacement of the ageing Doppler weather radar system, which in recent times has experienced a number of outages that have resulted in costly repairs. The capital spending will also address ongoing code compliance works at the airport. These compliance works include: repairs to the runway apron lighting and upgrades to the airline instrument landing system as well as the security fencing and CCTV.
Finally, I would like to say that there will be significant steps toward making Bermuda’s roads safer in the coming year, as we seek to curb the bad behaviour too prevalent in Bermuda motoring.
To that end, the Government will also commit $25,000 to the Bermuda Road Safety Council to establish an effective campaign to influence driver behavior and attitudes on our roads. This is more than twice the $11,000 provided to the Council a year ago.
We are working with the Police and the Ministry of National Security on a number of fronts to make our roads safer, but we can’t do it without the help of the driving public. We need to exercise better judgement and far more care and caution on the road.