Burt praised for scrapping policies

  • John Wight, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce (File photograph)

The Chamber of Commerce praised David Burt yesterday for scrapping “outdated policies” as Bermuda aims to compete in the modern world.

President John Wight pointed to the relaxation of the business ownership 60:40 rule, which will mean foreigners will be allowed to own 60 per cent of a business, up from 40 per cent.

Mr Wight said: “The Budget has some bold new initiatives such as revisions to the 60:40 ownership rules in Bermuda, which should improve access to capital for Bermuda’s entrepreneurs to support the growth of small and medium-sized businesses which in most economies drives the most job growth.

“Reference to scrapping outdated policies we found very encouraging as some of what worked for Bermuda in the past will not work effectively in our modern world.”

Mr Wight described the Budget as “thoughtfully prepared and well balanced”, noting that it focused on job growth and diversifying the economy while being mindful of Bermuda’s high debt.

He said: “Credit needs to be given to the Premier for the transparency and collaboration of the process, which started with a Pre-Budget Report prepared to enable Bermudians and businesses to review and offer feedback on.

“It was apparent in the Budget that the Premier listened to stakeholders as areas such as the adoption of taxing commercial rents and a new professional services tax, discussed in the Pre-Budget Report, did not materialise in the Budget.”

He said the move not to follow through with planned payroll tax increases would gain support from the community, as would increased funding for education, seniors, healthcare and workforce development.

But he questioned whether forecasted revenue would be realistic.

“Are there risks and uncertainties in the Budget — certainly there are. Bermuda benefited greatly in 2017 from the stimulus to the economy provided by the America’s Cup.

“Revenues in the coming year are forecasted to increase. Is that reasonable? On the expenditure side, interest on debt is forecasted to be $124 million. In an increasing interest rate environment, is this a realistic figure?

“Overall, with the financial constraints that the Premier had to work with to keep the debt ceiling level from increasing beyond $2.5 billion, the Chamber’s opinion is that the Premier’s first Budget since the PLP’s victory in July 2017 was a fair and sensible one.

“The Chamber looks forward to continued collaboration with the Government in the weeks and months ahead.”