Just last week, the Senate rose to complete an extra session of Parliament the Government needed to complete our first-year legislative agenda that was set down in January’s Throne Speech.

It was only a “ten-month year”, but one that saw Big Accomplishments and Big Strides toward making Bermuda work better for Bermudians.

It was clear to us before entering office, and even more after looking “under the hood” at the state of government finances, that we had to put in place conditions to grow jobs and opportunity that had been lost in previous years.

Bermuda had more than 4,000 people out of work and many more earning less than before.  

As Premier, I am very aware of their anxieties, their stress and their doubts. Every day I talk with people who’ve lost their jobs; the young and not-so-young, mothers – family bread winners – who’ve had their hours cut back; men who don’t want to be dependent on government support, who want to provide for their families; Bermudians who fear their grip on their piece of The Rock is slipping.

I am moved and motivated by what I see: people keeping it together, holding on for a better day. I do not want to let them down.

There is nothing more important than restoring their access to jobs and opportunity. Take care of them and we take care of a lot.

From the start, our work has been focused primarily on rebuilding Bermuda’s economic foundation. The Island we were elected to govern was in a financial and reputational tailspin; something I believe all Bermudians understood in their gut, if not their pocketbook.

Our look “under the hood” took us to a new level of concern. Within weeks of coming into office, we had to seek emergency loans on Wall Street because the government was running out of money, literally days away from not being able to pay its bills, including the salaries of civil servants. Incredible but true.

Beyond the chilling numbers, Bermuda’s reputation as a place to do business had taken a beating. International business, the mainstay of our economy, had been shifting people and jobs overseas or shutting up shop all together. There are all sorts of reasons for this – competition, red tape, alienating attitudes and policies – but the end result was the loss of Bermudian business and jobs.  

More than 7,000 people have left Bermuda, taking with them jobs and the business those jobs generated. The most conservative estimates – each person spending on average $1,000 a week – put this loss to the economy at $150 million a year. That’s money no longer circulating through our shops and businesses and into the pocketbooks of every Bermudian.

We needed to move quickly to generate confidence and job-creating conditions.

We ended term limits which had become a barrier to jobs for Bermudians. We passed payroll tax exemption for employers who hired out-of-work Bermudians. We lowered taxes on real estate purchases to trigger new business for service providers such as plumbers, electricians and painters.

We set up a Cabinet-level Economic Development Committee to bring forward developments such as the Hamilton Princess project faster.

We signed off on micro-loans to small business and pushed our cruise ship partners to hire Bermudians. We set the stage for a Tourism Authority to re-boot tourism, the industry that offers the greatest hope for new jobs. 

We took steps to stabilize our debt situation, with plans that won the support of Wall Street.  We met with potential investors on both sides of the Atlantic carrying the message that Bermuda is open for business; that we are ready to work with them to make things happen for our people.

It’s early days, but we have been encouraged by the biggest upticks in new jobs and company formations in recent years. Indications are that Bermuda is finally starting to move in the right direction.

As Premier, this good news is tinged with concern that continuing improvements may not happen as fast as they need to happen. People out of work are still looking for work. We’ve got more to do to create the jobs they need.

Beyond our work to rebuild the economy, we used our first Parliament to stand up for a more inclusive, accountable and fair Bermuda.

We outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and age. We passed municipal reforms to make sure taxpayers had a place at the table where decisions are taken. We provided Police with more manpower. Their work has resulted in the lowest crime figures since 2000, with polls showing Bermudians are feeling safer.

And after ten months, I would say that Bermuda is starting to turn the corner, starting to move in the right direction. We’re not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. But we know the challenge and we know the problems. You can count on us to continue steering our beautiful Island toward recovery and renewal, leaving no one behind.

It’s all about building a Bermuda that works better for you.