What I like about the Government’s Budget
By Glen Smith, One Bermuda Alliance MP, February 25, 2015
The Government’s 2015/16 Budget is a working plan to keep Bermuda moving toward recovery that meets people’s needs and gets government finances back on solid ground.
It’s a big document that addresses global issues, local economics, the needs of various sectors of our economy and the pressure on government finances.
To simplify my take on the Budget, I read through it marking statements and plans that made sense to me. Here is a partial list of things I marked up:
The Budget makes things clear:
The world of competing economies, international politics and how it can impact Bermuda is tough to understand. What I like about this Budget is the care Finance Minister Bob Richards takes in simple language to explain how these things can impact us here. I’m pleased we have a minister who uses the Budget to tell it like it is. It’s important for people to understand the context in which decisions are made. This Budget does a good job of that.
It provides direction:
One of the things I’ve learned in business is the importance of having everyone understand the direction a company needs to go and its goal. Clarity of purpose between a government and the society it governs is not easily achieved, but this Budget helps that understanding. I like the fact that Mr. Richards sets definite objectives for the years ahead, particularly balancing budget within three years. That’s important because as long as government runs a deficit, we will not make any progress on paying down the debt. As a Bermudian concerned for the future of our Island home, the Government’s deficit reduction goal is a goal I support.
It gets real about diversifying the economy:
This Budget makes clear the Government’s determination to diversify the economy – through a tourism industry revival. The Opposition has been calling for diversification, citing deep-sea mining and online gaming, two industries with serious question marks over them, not to mention their limited potential to meet Bermudian job needs today. Instead, Mr. Richards and his colleagues took a close look at real world options before us and concluded that a tourism sector that “functions properly” is Bermuda’s best immediate option for diversification and jobs today. The Government’s efforts to re-set the Island’s marketing strategy through the Bermuda Tourism Authority, get hotel developments underway and secure the America’s Cup have set the table for a tourism industry revival to happen. That’s the kind of sensible, grounded thinking that will move us forward.
It shows confidence is returning:
Ever since the election, the Government has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes to rebuild investor confidence in Bermuda, opening new job and revenue-creating opportunities and new pathways for Bermudians to make a living. Now, just over two years on, this Budget reveals a line-up of projects and activities – from the America’s Cup to hotel developments – totaling more than $900 million in spending. This represents a massive investment in our economy over the next three years, providing Bermudians with the jobs and opportunities they need. It represents a remarkable turnaround for a jurisdiction that just a short time ago was a no-go proposition for investors. It is a testament to the hard work of my colleagues, their faith and confidence in the Island and their levelheaded approach to the people’s business.
The Budget works for people:
Budgets are mostly about numbers – in this case raising taxes, cutting costs and deficits, paying debt service… But I think it’s important to be reminded that the end game here is to make Bermuda work better for Bermudians. Restoring our economic and financial health may well require more sacrifice and a renewed commitment to national recovery, but in the end it’s about solutions that create opportunities for people to provide for themselves and for government to provide the support we all need – good schooling, safe neighbourhoods, affordable health care, infrastructure that works, and protection and care for our seniors.
Mr. Richards makes very clear there is much to do to get the Island back on its feet and working. This Budget is simply the next step in a multi-year national recovery plan. It keeps us on the path to growth and responsible management of the public purse, and that’s one more thing I like about this Budget.