Richards: Give us time to finish the job

  • Left to right, Andrea Moniz-Desouza, Finance Minister Bob Richards and Nick Kempe at this morning's OBA press conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Driving tourism, balancing the budget books and boosting capital development were among a raft of plans the One Bermuda Alliance pledged in order to drive the economy forward.

This is according to Bob Richards who reiterated the plans set out in the party’s platform at a press conference this morning.

Mr Richards was joined by OBA candidates Nick Kempe and Andrea Moniz-DeSouza who delivered her short speech in both English and Portuguese.

Mr Richards highlighted that the press conference was the third of its kind on the economy as “it is the most important issue for the people of Bermuda.”

He outlined six areas of activity the party will pursue in 2017 should they remain in power.

Capital attraction, he said, is the “lifeblood” of the economy. “So, in the event we are elected on Tuesday, the OBA government will make a concerted effort to attract capital, whether it is for government projects or to support efforts to grow sectors of the economy. The Bermuda Business Development Corporation is one government supported entity that was created to help us sell investors on Bermuda. The aim is to grow the level of economic activity. Why? Because it grows jobs, opens career opportunities and creates earnings that make it possible for the government to provide social services, build roads and educate our children.”

Referencing the Progressive Labour Party’ promise to work with the Price Controls Committee to drive down cost of living, Mr Richards added: “There is a lot I could say about Price Controls and its history of failure wherever it’s been used but in terms of Bermuda and its need for capital, Price Controls would be a significant inhibitor.”

The second area Mr Richards highlighted was driving the restoration of tourism. The revival of tourism, he said, was “arguably the greatest single accomplishment of the OBA.”

Two pieces of legislation would help to keep the momentum going — the Tourism Investment Act which aims to attract investment to strengthen hotels, restaurants, small business properties and other tourism-related attractions — and the Vacations Rental Act designed to capitalise on Airbnb. Mr Richards assured the public that the OBA will not tax rental income or any passive income.

He went on to speak on infrastructure building, saying that there will be a focus on the Causeway. A balanced budget was also key saying that while the OBA had made inroads to balancing the books, it needed time to finish the job. Mr Richards said: “The journey to a balanced budget is not yet finished. The government deficit is still with us and there is also a lot of work to do. The job, in short, is not yet done and the OBA needs voter support to finish it.”

Tax reform was also on the agenda with Mr Richards saying it “will require more from those who earn more and less from those who earn less.”

Finally, an issue close to Mr Richards’ heart — defending Bermuda against “the forces that threaten to dismantle the way we do business with the rest of the world.”

He was referencing threats, including accusations that Bermuda is a tax haven, from the likes of European countries, the European Union and the British Parliament.

“All it takes is one failure on our part for Bermuda to suffer serious damage to our reputation, our integrity and our ability to conduct business. The stakes for Bermuda could not be greater. The threats are existential, meaning that our very existence as a bustling economy supporting Bermudian life as we know it is endangered. We will fight these unjust attacks”.

Asked whether the OBA would give any projections on how many jobs it would create in its next term should it be elected, Mr Richards replied: “We won’t have any numerical projections. What we are promising now is the continuation of the plan that is working. We know the elements that make the economy tick and we are making sure that we stimulate those elements.”

Speaking on the economy under the OBA, Ms Moniz-DeSouza said: “As a Bermudian and as a lawyer, I have watched the OBA take a bad situation with the economy in 2012 and make it better and I believe they will continue their good work for you and your families.”

Mr Kempe highlighted efforts made by the BEDC recently including micro loans and flexible cost structures for small businesses.

Mr Kempe, who is chairman of the BEDC, said he disagreed with Opposition Leader David Burt on doubling the loan guarantee of the BEDC for small businesses, saying: “The BEDC has the capacity to give out loans guarantees to support loans and we are not at capacity presently so doubling the capacity might sound like you are going to help small business but it will really have zero support unless you are giving support in other directions.”