The OBA Government’s Number One objective is to get Bermuda’s economy on track to recovery and renewal, where people are finding jobs, incomes are growing, government finances are stable and there is care for people most in need.
That objective may be hard to see given the noise and strife attached to our national politics, but it remains at the centre of all that we do.
It certainly lies at the heart of the Government’s 2014-15 Budget, which the House of Assembly has been debating for the past few weeks and which the Senate takes up today.
The starting point for the Budget is captured in the following words: “The status quo is the enemy. If we don’t change, there will be no improvement.”
It’s a blunt statement, but it reflects our no-nonsense approach to the economic realities of Bermuda today.
And what are those realities? They include massive public debt, thousands victimized by hard times, business confidence that must be repaired and a government that we simply cannot afford.
These realities form the outlines of our job, and that job is to fix the mess we inherited and move Bermuda to recovery. We will not pass the buck.
That’s what the Budget is about: Confronting the realities to start us down a road that gets our financial house in order and grows the economy while taking care of people in need.
It was a tough assignment, but Finance Minister Richards struck the right balance between all the competing demands and limitations facing Bermuda today.
Yes there are disappointments and cutbacks, but in the main we’ve put in place a plan that navigates between financial imperatives and the needs of people.
Specifically, we wanted to stimulate job growth, help business get on with business and keep pressure off people – protecting them from higher costs of living.
The Budget met these marks through no new taxes, no tax increases, no lay-offs for government workers, continuing tax breaks for businesses that keep Bermudians working and continuing support for people in need – most particularly in budgeting nearly $50 million for Financial Assistance.
The Budget also brings discipline and control to the country’s finances. It pays down the national debt by $120 million, achieves a 7% reduction in government spending and cuts the deficit by 19.4%.
In short, this Budget gets Bermuda on the most promising road to recovery.
But it’s a road that will not be easy. It will challenge our ability to work together for the common good.
On that point I would like to urge everyone to consider and absorb a vitally important message for the days ahead, and it is that we are all in this together.
We have such a great opportunity to work together, to find solutions that work for the community and to emerge stronger as one people.
Our lives will be the poorer if we don’t pull together and work first as Bermudians to solve the big challenges we face.