John Wight John Wight

John Wight, President of the Chamber of Commerce, stated today that Chamber members were very much looking forward to reviewing the upcoming budget.

“Government does not have an easy job of presenting a budget that meets the needs of narrowing the deficit, while at the same time not being too punitive to local and international businesses operating in Bermuda. In last year’s budget, Government committed to eliminating the current account deficit over a three year period. We will need to see a continuation of that commitment in this year’s budget to ensure that the timeline is maintained.

"There needs to be a recognition by all businesses in our community that shared sacrifice is required in 2017/2018 to achieve Bermuda’s economic goals. This will necessitate both increasing revenues and reducing expenditures. In respect of increasing revenues, we would like to see a broadening of the tax base to reduce the dependency on payroll tax to generate revenues. This has been raised previously by Government as one of its goals, and we support this approach. There are certainly very encouraging signs of an improving economy.

"However, much more is needed. Financial stability for Bermuda is so critical for businesses operating out of Bermuda, and those considering investing in Bermuda. Any plans by the Bermuda Government and the business community will also be made with consideration of the major policy and leadership changes we have seen in the UK and US Governments. To succeed in this new and uncertain environment will require Bermuda’s Government, businesses and members of the community to be open to the unexpected and to be willing to work together to adapt to coming changes from our trading partners. Bermuda’s debt currently stands at $2.5 million.

"To put this into context, this represents about $49,000 per resident as was announced by the Ministry of Finance. If guarantees and other unfunded healthcare schemes and pensions are included, this could amount to as much as $7 billion. Budget deficits and the high debt jeopardize economic growth in Bermuda. After the February 24 budget is presented by Minister Richards, the Chamber of Commerce will conclude and opine on Government’s financial plan for 2017 / 2018."

Kendaree Burgess, Executive Director, provided the following wish list of items that the Divisions of the Chamber of Commerce would like to see in the Minister’s budget, that was provided to the Ministry of Finance several months ago:

Bermuda Automobile Dealers Association

• Review duty threshold for small cars to encourage use of smaller cars.

• Consider leasing and rental of cars for tourists.

• Duty free electric vans similar to Electric cars.

Security Division

• No increase in security guard license fees.

• Review of the Security Act to ensure that all guards are vettd by the Bermuda Police Service.

Retail Division

• Continuation of duty free concession on all fixtures, fittings, and equip.

• Discussion around a simplified process to clear goods through customs for retailers.

• Ease the burden of Import Duties for brick and mortar stores by introducig a fairer service tax across industries.

• Discuss cause and effect of VAT/GST vs upfront import duty on all goods for resale.

• Discuss cause and effect of simplified tariff rates.

Real Estate Division

• Fees for non-Bermudian Property sales to remain unchanged.

• Stamp Duty on the sale of properties to remain unchange.

• Shorten the time that it takes Lawyers to record property sales with the Registrar.

• Shorten the time that it takes Immigration to handle an Alien licenses to less than 6 mont.

• The Land License Application fee to continue to be refunded on grant of an Alien Licen.

• Continue the First Time Buyer Relief of Stamp Duty

Restaurant Division

• Consideration of leaving the current payroll tax concession in place for another year without an increase.

• Government to be strict on those who don't pay Government taxes/Health Insurance etc in a timely manner. Tie them to health certification, licenses and work permits.

• Beer/Spirits/Wine taxes to remain as is with no increase.

East End Division

• Better security and police presence in the Town of St George

• Improved transportation to and from the town for Bus and Ferry service

• Dedicated cruise ship to the town West End Division

• Transportation plan for the west end prior to America’s Cup 2017 

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