Good afternoon and thank you for coming.
There is no question in my mind that of all the challenges the Government faced following the 2012 election, rebuilding the economy and fixing government finances loomed as the most intractable.
This was made especially clear after the Finance Minister looked ‘under the hood’ to discover the extent of problems that had grown unchecked for years.
Two facts reflected the seriousness of the situation:
- The first was the cost of paying interest on government debt – then surging to $134 million a year.
- The second was the out-of-control deficit, which in the first year of this government was $330 million, meaning Bermuda spent $330 million more than we were taking in.
Minister Richards laid down a very simple two-track strategy to get Bermuda back on its feet – one track was to pursue any opportunity to grow the economy so that it could once again meet the needs of Bermudians, from jobs to public services.
The second track was to impose control and discipline on government finances and get costs back in line with what the people of Bermuda can afford – in other words, to make government financially sustainable.
Today’s Budget is an opportunity to measure our progress since then, and for that I want to commend the Finance Minister and the team at the MOF for helping us get to a point where we can see that there is not only light at the end of the tunnel but a bright horizon ahead for both this generation of Bermudians and, just as important, the next.
While this road to recovery has been challenging, and there will continue to be bumps along that road, when we look back at how far we have come… how much progress we’ve made… Bermuda is once again moving in the right direction.
Our economy is getting back on track locally and our Island is getting more competitive globally.
Major projects that will generate much-needed jobs, new jobs, good paying jobs, are moving forward:
- In St. George’s where a new hotel development is weeks away from breaking ground;
- At the Airport, where preliminary work for a new terminal building is already underway;
- At Morgan’s Point where progress toward resort development is taking shape;
- At Pink Beach, which is nearing completion of a $51 million rebuild;
- At Hamilton Princess, now in the third phase of its $100 million restoration, and
- And at Dockyard, where the America’s Cup Village is being built.
All of this work reflects new confidence in Bermuda as a place to do business that generates more jobs and greater opportunity for every Bermudian.
The signs are good, but, as I have said often, and a point the Minister of Finance makes very clear in the Budget statement: economic recovery is never even, especially those who are looking for a job, or that contract of employment, to each one of you listening today and to every Bermudian I say, with total commitment, we have been working hard for you, we will continue to work hard for you – and we are turning the corner toward a brighter economic future and turning around this Island so that it’s once again working for you, your family, your children and every community across Bermuda.
The Minister of Finance’s careful and responsible management of the public purse is helping to make that happen, helping to rebuild the financial foundation of the Island for a better tomorrow.
With those words, I will now ask the Deputy Premier and Finance Minister, Mr. Bob Richards to say a few words.