FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24: Thank you Madam Premier, Honourable Colleagues, Members of the media
I am pleased to be able to speak, briefly, about the upcoming plans for the Ministry of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Strategy.
Compared to other Ministries, we are the smallest by budget size and staff size. But our scope is broader than most. Included in our Ministry are a number of regulatory and protection functions, in addition to responsibility for planning and managing the maintenance and development of our national infrastructure. Perhaps our role is best described by our Mission Statement –
“We Lead Bermuda Toward Sustainability by Protecting our Natural and Built Environment.”
Our budget for the upcoming year is fifteen million, seven hundred and forty-five thousand dollars, representing an increase of one million, five hundred thousand dollars or eleven percent when compared to 2011-2012.
You might ask why, given the economic climate in which each of us now finds ourselves, are we realizing an eleven percent increase. The additional funds have been provided to enable the Department of Telecommunications to implement telecommunications reform, as enshrined in the recent passage of the Regulatory Authority Act 2011 and the Electronic Communications Act 2011. As a result of reform, we expect to see a wider range of services at a higher quality for a decreased cost, to the benefit of both consumers and businesses.
This allocation will enable us to bring order to the regulatory environment, by implementing the long awaited and much needed reform. No doubt you will be aware that the telecommunication marketplace has seen much disruption and rancor of late. The uncertainty that is created by the current transition period between regulatory regimes is providing opportunities for carriers to push the envelope. While we do not wish to stifle innovation or competition that will be the norm in the near future, we must still retain control of the regulatory environment to ensure that upon implementation of the new regime all carriers will be able to compete fairly.
I can assure you that we will take all necessary steps to ensure that implementation is a success, including ensuring that no one provider obtains an unfair advantage over others.
Other than the increase provided to the Department of Telecommunications, all other allocations to the Departments under our Ministry remain the same as those for 2011-2012. We will therefore focus on our principal mandates.
Our revenues are expected to remain relatively flat at just under seventeen million dollars. I am therefore pleased to note that we will be generating more revenue that we will be expending.
Our total expenditure on Capital Development and Acquisition will be nine hundred and fifty six thousand dollars. Four hundred and eighty-three thousand dollars of that total will be dedicated to the development of a shore side facility for the processing of fish. In our efforts to find new revenue streams for Bermuda, our Ministry, through the Department of Environmental Protection, will work to develop an offshore fishery. The shore side facility will be a necessary component to ensure the success of the offshore fishery.
In this regard, we will also seek to implement a licensing regime for international vessels who fish inside of our Exclusive Economic Zone. A critical component of such a regime will be the need for adequate enforcement of our EEZ. We are exploring options by which this enforcement will be effective, and I expect it will be through a combination of maritime and aerial capabilities. We hope that by facilitating the development of our own offshore fishery, combined with increased control via licensing and protection of our EEZ from international vessels, the Government and people of Bermuda will benefit by increased economic activity and revenues.
Three hundred and forty-three thousand dollars of our capital budget will be used to assist the Department of Land Surveys and Registration to equip itself to implement and manage the registration of title for private land. You will recall that the seminal Land Title Registration Act 2011 was approved by the legislature in December, 2011.
A major initiative for us will be the continuation of the work to protect the Sargasso Sea. This large body of water, not bounded by any land masses, and in the middle of which sits Bermuda, has been described as “The Golden Floating Rainforest of the Atlantic Ocean.” Government is a lead member of the Sargasso Sea Alliance, and will soon consider the Science Case in support of implementing protections for this critically important body of water. Our next step will be to approach other Governments and international bodies to join us in considering protections for the Sargasso Sea. To strengthen our case, we are working with the Pew Environmental Group to consider protections within our own Exclusive Economic Zone. We will engage in a broad public consultation to obtain the views of the general public and specific stakeholders with regard to the size, location, and nature of protections before the Government makes a decision.
Many countries are now seeing value in the development of a national infrastructure strategy. Our Premier had the foresight to see that such a strategy would be essential for Bermuda’s continued development, particularly given the need for us to prioritize and judiciously allocate scarce funds to projects.
We are in discussions with our neighbours to the south to see if there are opportunities for us to work together and to learn from each other. While one project, on one small island, might not attract a wide range of investors, many projects across many islands might generate significantly more interest. The more interest generated, the better the opportunities for each of us.
Our recently debated Energy White Paper sets aggressive goals for us to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels. The majority of our fossil fuels are used to generate electricity and for transport. We will continue discussions with our local utility to find ways to reduce this use and also consider options for public transportation.
But there is much that each of us can do to assist. The Department of Energy will lead our efforts to educate the public on the steps they can take to reduce their energy usage, while increasing their use of resources that are readily available to us, such as sun and wind, and other energy saving technologies.
There is much for us to do, and we stand ready to play our part to Lead Bermuda Toward Sustainability by Protecting our Natural and Built Environment.