Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, FEB. 24: Smokers will soon have to cough up more cash to feed their habit.

Tax on cigarettes and tobacco will be hiked from April, in a move expected to raise about $1 million for Government.

But there were no tax hikes elsewhere in what some feared would be an austerity Budget. Instead Premier Paula Cox rolled back some existing tax concessions.

Ms Cox signalled an end to the 0.1 per cent stamp duty tax on sums secured under a mortgage transfer – a change aimed at helping people get the best deals and to promote competitive lending from financial institutions.

Ms Cox said that an open Budget consultation, which encouraged comment from members of the public, had sent a clear message.

She added: “We recognise that the community would prefer that taxes not be increased but the community has also signalled a willingness to accept the rollback of some of the existing tax concessions. This we have done.”

Ms Cox added: “Actions taken to preserve jobs by concessions and duties levied have helped to shield and to stem the tide of job losses and the risk of an even greater number of business closures.

“We continue to take necessary actions to provide the economic buffer and backstop. Some 8,500 jobs were at risk had Government not responded with assistance.

“Government was seeking to avoid a deepening of the recession that would take a more severe toll on families and businesses in Bermuda.

“Government considers that it did the right thing. Preserving jobs and helping to stabilize vital sectors of Bermuda’s economy was the right thing to do.

“In contrast, some in the community have called for austerity measures including slashing public sector expenditure and shedding jobs in the public sector in an already weakening economy.”