‘They broke it. We’re trying to fix it’
‘They broke it. We’re trying to fix it’
Friday night’s motion to adjourn the House of Assembly saw Finance Minister Bob Richards earn his spurs as the newly-named Deputy Premier with a vigorous defence of the Government’s economic policies.
Mr Richards clearly had heard enough from Opposition spokesman Kim Wilson, who said Government policies favoured big business, leaving the people with nothing but “scraps”.
She said the PLP would extend construction industry tax concessions beyond hotel building projects to other areas such as “building up our workmen’s clubs”.
Mr Richards responded as follows: “The Ministerial statement I gave this morning about concessions for the construction industry did not specify they were just for big business… The fact is that small contractors or subcontractors get work from big projects. So the notion that this (tax concession) only applies to big business is a misrepresentation of the truth…
“The example (Ms Wilson gave) that we should renovate the workmen’s clubs around the island — I have to ask: Who is paying for that?
“…If it means that the Government is going to pay for it, no, no, no. We had enough of that for the last 14 years and the Government is broke because of it.
“We don’t need any get broke ideas from the Opposition. We had enough of that when they were the government. So we need to get real here and stop the pandering to people who want to believe in some magic bullet. It’s just not there. We’re doing the best we can to balance the interests of trying to stimulate this economy against the interests of keeping the government solvent…
“I took over a Ministry of Finance that was bleeding red ink to the nth degree. Government spending was totally out of control. It’s the loony tune ideas that we’re hearing from the other side that got us in this situation in the first place...
“We have pragmatic, realistic solutions for this country and we’ll not be deterred by the kind of rhetoric that I just heard. We have to be realistic here. And the realistic situation is that the Government this party inherited was broke.
“They broke it. We’re trying to fix it.
“And the way we fix it is to not do what they did. We don’t have the freedom to say the debt doesn’t matter; we’ll just borrow some more money to give to this person and that person. That’s not the strategy of this Government. That’s their strategy. That’s the strategy that got us to where we are today. The people of Bermuda have to understand that in a fundamental way…
“We cannot lose the discipline that has to be put on this Government. I hear we’re not doing anything for this person or that person. We’re taking money away. The facts are we are just trying to recover things that were given away before…
“The fact that the pensions are out of control, government spending is out of control, the civil service is too big…. You think we made that? No, those are chickens that have come home to roost from policies of the past.
“I’m not going to apologize for a control policy that this Government put in place to replace the former policy of profligate spending with no regard to the resources of this country.
“We’re focused on what we now have to do, to recover not only the finances of the Government but to recover the health of this country and recover employment opportunities for Bermudians, because the future of the government is inexorably tied to the employment prospects of Bermudians. We can’t just throw money at Bermudians and expect the government to survive. It won’t.
“These are the realities. They’re not pretty. But this government didn’t make them. We didn’t paint this picture. We inherited this picture. We’re trying to fix this picture.
“So I don’t want the people who caused us this problem to start giving us these totally fatuous solutions as something that’s real. They are not. They’re not realistic. And they’re evidence of the kind of thinking that put us in this situation in the first place.”
Toni Daniels is a former senator for the OBA.