SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2: Government is panicking over the spiralling job loses and downturn in the economy.
This from Bob Richards, One Bermuda Aliiance Shadow Minister for Finance.
Mr Richards said the OBA welcomes temporary payroll tax relief for Bermuda’s retailers, but Friday’s "announcement falls far short of what is needed to restore life to the industry.
"It has been clear to even the most casual observer that the retail sector has been in desperate straits for years, recording an astounding 38 consecutive months of sales declines.
"The Government has had years to come forward with a comprehensive plan to help retailers, and the thousands they employ, but done nothing."
Mr Richards said Thursday's "shocking job loses" at Willowbank and Citigroup, which shed 151 positions from the economy, saw Premier Cox "comes forward with temporary tax relief.
"This move has all the hallmarks of panic.
"Temporary tax relief is not enough, tantamount to putting a band aid on an open, bleeding wound. Retailers deserve more.
"The OBA would allow retailers to pay the import duty due once the goods are sold.
"The problem of retailers paying upfront duty and then having to wait sometimes many months to recoup that duty from sales has been a loud complaint for many years. This reform would significantly improve their cash flow positions.
"The OBA takes issue with the Premier’s 40 per cent tax increase on goods declared by residents returning from overseas. We consider 35 per cent duty to be punitive and coercive and oppose it. We would roll it back to 25 per cent.
"We do not want to penalize everyday people for trying to find better value with their hard-earned dollars.
"If Government was serious about restricting competitive pressures on retailers, it would have also addressed the online shopping, which has become a significant challenge to local retailers. The best way to help retail is to fix the economy.
"The fundamental trouble facing retail is fewer tourists and fewer international business people on the island, meaning fewer people shopping in stores.
"Much of the shortage in the latter group, international business people and their families is a direct consequence of the bad immigration policies, unwelcoming attitudes and unpredictable tax policies of this government.
"As for fewer tourists, retail has been the primary victim of unwillingness by government to directly tackle our lack of competitiveness in tourism.
"Finally, there is a question whether the government has the legal authority for this action without bringing it before Parliament.
"The standard practice for payroll tax and duty matters is to bring it before Parliament first."
Mr Richards said Friday's announcement "reflects a government floundering.
"It has no plan, no direction and no meaningful answers, other than to say that all these woes have been caused by the evil outside world. Bermuda deserves better."