Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Assembly,
The One Bermuda Alliance Government was elected to restore prosperity and hope to the people of Bermuda.
We took over at a time when the economy was in free-fall. For the first time, thousands were unemployed. Thousands of expatriate workers and their families, whose lives here supported the spectrum of local businesses, had left the Island. Government had locked itself into massive spending deficits, adding to a debt burden so deep that it became a threat not just to our ability to operate as an independent economy, but also to our children’s future.
As a Bermudian concerned for the wellbeing of my country, my appointment as Finance Minister became the most important mission of my life — to do whatever I could do to repair the situation and restore good fortune to the Bermudian people.
I share this mission with my colleagues — the commitment to moving this Island forward, restoring jobs and guiding us back onto a sound, sensible and secure path to the future.
Mr. Speaker, to bring coherence and direction to our work, we implemented a two- track strategy to grow the economy and return Government finances to a sustainable position.
Our main focus has been to invigorate the engines of economic growth because of their potential to improve more people’s lives more quickly than anything else.
We have been working to restore investor confidence to attract foreign dollars back to our shores, opening the Island to job and revenue creating activities, creating new possibilities for Bermudians to make a living.
In terms of Government finances, we are implementing budget control systems, monitoring performance and reducing spending.
The strategic aim has been to expand the possibilities for Bermudians to make a living while using the resources generated to ensure Government provides them with the services and support they need — good schools, safe neighbourhoods, affordable health care, sound infrastructure and care and protection for our seniors.
This Budget Statement for the 2015/16 Financial Year continues what, in effect, is a multi-year national recovery plan and, in that context, it represents a work in progress, preparing the way for future growth and prosperity.
Mr. Speaker, There are clear signs the two-track strategy is bearing fruit. We can see it in:
And we can see it in this Budget where the Current Account balance before debt service will achieve a surplus position — the first time in more than seven years, and where the target has been set to balance the budget within three years.
Mr. Speaker, These signs bode well for the future, but there is a long way to go before we get to solid ground.
Threats to our wellbeing remain, from countries challenging Bermuda’s business model, to the vulnerability of our debt to rising interest rates, to the challenge of ending significant year-to-year spending deficits.
There are no magic answers, and we will face many tough decisions on the road to full national recovery. We will need understanding and cooperation because Government cannot do it alone. We will need everyone to play their part, and that can mean working to the best of one’s ability every day, learning a new skill to get that new job, helping a fellow Bermudian who is struggling, or making a personal decision to put Bermuda first.
The 2015/16 Budget outlines a steady course of action to address all the challenges we face, with one goal in mind — to make this Island work better for its people now and into the future.