Government praised for focus on the needs of the people’
Bermudians left waiting on “crumbs” from the island’s economic recovery will have “a seat at the table to share the full meal”, the Progressive Labour Party vowed as legislators returned to Parliament.
Pledging to “face the issues of division in our country head-on”, the Throne Speech offered a “ripple-effect economics” in contrast to the trickle-down model ascribed to the former government.
Helping agency Family Centre, as well as the Coalition for the Protection of Children, welcomed the proposals, which included support for a Parliamentary Committee to bring recommendations before MPs for the implementation of a living wage.
Martha Dismont, executive director at Family Centre, called herself “encouraged by the tone of the new government, and its focus on the needs of the people”. The speech, which closed with a call for collective effort to ensure that “we grow the economic pie for all”, offered a raft of initiatives to level the island’s playing field.
Measures included enhanced consumer protection for persons dealing with debt collection agencies; a Price Control Commission to seek “innovative ways to reduce the cost of living in Bermuda”, and a Tax Reform Commission, pledged earlier this year as one of the first actions to be taken by the PLP if returned to government.
The new administration also called for pension reforms to address disparities that made it more costly to employ Bermudians — and even proposed a financial safety net for Bermudians seeking to “break from their dependence on gangs” and return to school or learn a trade.
Ms Dismont said: “This government is very intentional in ensuring that the people of Bermuda are taken care of, one way or another — how they are going to do it is, as always, the million-dollar question. Different governments have talked about some of this, but found it difficult to implement.
“They are definitely saying all the right things — let’s see what can be done, and how they can use us to help.”
Long a proponent of introducing a living wage, Ms Dismont said price controls could offer an equal solace to people who “still can’t afford to live in Bermuda”.
Kelly Hunt, the executive director at the Coalition, applauded reforms to Financial Assistance, which will include supporting clients who found part-time work.
Agreeing that a renew of the programme was necessary, Ms Hunt added: “There is a harsh reality that the cost of living in Bermuda is much too high, which inhibits a person’s self-esteem and belief that they can be self-sufficient.
“The Coalition supports a comprehensive review and believes that by allowing individuals to access higher education, without fear of penalty, will support in increasing self-worth and the overall goal of sustainable self-sufficiency. We support a more individualised approach to the assessment of needs. However, we would like to see a collaborative approach with other government agencies and community organisations, in order to further assist with creating a more holistic and realistic approach to addressing individual needs.”
Yesterday’s Throne Speech noted that Bermuda had, last year, been ranked “the most expensive country in which to live”, and Ms Hunt said that exploring price controls, “particularly with necessity items, will be imperative in reducing disparities”.
Added Ms Hunt: “Overall, we are encouraged by the Government’s commitment to the aforementioned issues that need to be addressed in Bermuda.
“We look forward to seeing action items relating to these commitments that track areas where families struggle and require assistance.
“We believe that how we care for children and their families, protect their welfare, and prepare them for the future are the most important issues we face during our lifetime. The Coalition is pledging to work with this administration in the formulation of goals and strategies which address the root cause of issues that will impact future generations.”
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