February 26, 2014 at 8:55 a.m.
BDA Budget 2014 / Comment

The road to recovery is long, but we’re making progress

The road to recovery is long, but we’re making progress
The road to recovery is long, but we’re making progress

By Sen. Lynne Woolridge- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

By now most Bermudians understand that the road to recovery will be a long one with plenty of potholes on the way to trip us up.

From Day One, the Government had a strong sense of what lay ahead and it has been busy making decisions to move Bermuda away from a situation that, without change, threatens us all with disaster.

The following is a list of five decisions by the OBA Government that are helping Bermuda get on the road to a brighter future:

1. Getting a grip on the debt

Finance Minister Bob Richards early last year put together a multi-year borrowing strategy to reduce the cost of our national debt and start paying it down. During the summer, he took advantage of historically low interest rates to borrow $800 million on the international and local markets — enough to cover the next three years of anticipated operating deficits. These actions stabilized the situation, reduced borrowing costs by retiring high-cost debt and put the Island on a trajectory to lower the national debt. This year’s Budget will pay down that debt by $120 million.

2. SAGE — looking under the hood

Perhaps nothing has focused national attention more on the need to change the way we do business as a country than the appointment of the SAGE Commission. Its report concluded that the cost of government was “unsustainable and out of control” and, together with the national debt, threatened to “destabilize the financial foundation of the country”. SAGE’s recommendations, along with those by other bodies, will help guide us to decisions that provide us with a government that is accountable, affordable and a positive force in restoring the Island’s competitiveness. 

3. Cutting red tape — formation of the Economic Development Committee

One of the problems that Bermuda allowed to build over the years was ‘red tape’, which made it difficult for people to invest their money in projects that created jobs. One of the first things Premier Cannonier did was set up a high-level Cabinet committee meeting each week to expedite job-growing activities. The idea was to have big project applications reviewed by all relevant ministers at the same time, thus reducing the amount of time taken to get government approvals. One example of the EDC’s work is the Hamilton Princess marina project, which moved from proposal to actual construction in record time.

4. Ending term limits

PLP leaders have been saying for months that the decision to end term limits was a broken promise. But was it? The OBA promised to suspend the term limit policy for two years, giving the government time to draft a better policy. But on taking office, it found analyses held by the previous government that concluded term limits were ineffective and counter-productive; in effect becoming a barrier to jobs for Bermudians. Instead of keeping a bad policy, the Government ended it while enacting provisions “to protect Bermudians’ jobs while encouraging new job creation” — as promised in its election platform. The decision has played a critical role in restoring long-battered business confidence, leading to a surge in company incorporations, some of which will lead to jobs.

5. Selling Bermuda abroad

It is the primary mission of the Government to create conditions that grow the economy, grow jobs and pay cheques, and end the scourge of unemployment that has been hurting so many in recent years. For more than a year now, Government ministers and public servants, supported by the private sector, have been beating the drum abroad saying “Bermuda wants your business”. Why? Because we need outside investment to grow the jobs we need. This something we have always done throughout our history, and it has helped our Island grow and prosper. 

Making people feel welcome and appreciated is critical to this goal and it appears that positive things are happening, as Global Reinsurance magazine reported last week: “Economic activity is picking up, and with the OBA government taking steps to remove barriers hindering Bermuda’s attractiveness, the atmosphere in Hamilton is decidedly upbeat… Overall, the OBA appears to be moving in the right direction.”

There have been other important decisions, but these are the ones that stand out for me. 

Lynne Woolridge is an OBA Senator


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