Two years ago, the people of Bermuda decisively gave your Government a convincing mandate for change. Hardworking men and women saw in us the promise of a brighter future for their children and a clear vision for a more just society. Thus far, my colleagues and I have been humbled by the opportunity to serve the people of Bermuda. We promised to work hard every day to create opportunities for economic growth and to move Bermudians from an era of exclusion from the prosperity that Bermuda can provide, to one where success is determined through equal access to opportunity. That work has begun.
We have made progress in delivering on our promises to you. After a period when austerity was imposed on every aspect of public services, Bermudians have seen a change in how government can and should support its people. Your Government believes in investing in you, our people, and we are beginning to see results.
Thanks to your mandate of trust, this Government has:
- launched the College Promise Initiative to increase and expand access to scholarships. Thanks to the College Promise Initiative, 511 Bermudian students in financial need have had the opportunity to receive higher education;
- stimulated job creation, with 144 more jobs created and unemployment levels falling to 4.5%;
- implemented incentives for companies to create and locate additional staff in Bermuda, resulting in 193 new employees being hired;
- oversaw an economy that saw employment income rise for the first quarter of 2019 by 7.1%;
- cut payroll taxes for workers making less than $96,000 per year to help relieve the financial burden on Bermudian workers and eliminated employer payroll taxes for the physically challenged;
- increased seniors’ pensions every year;
- launched a new procurement policy to ensure that more black, female and physically challenged Bermudians have a fairer chance to win government contracts;
- doubled the guarantee capacity of the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation to enable more Bermudians to have access to capital for starting or expanding their businesses and given new entrepreneurs a one-year tax holiday;
- introduced a STEAM curriculum at the primary school level;
- installed Wi-Fi in all primary and middle schools;
- reduced import duty from 5% to 0% for eggs, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, turnips, oranges and apples;
- toughened the immigration policy to protect jobs and opportunities for Bermudian entertainers;
- implemented roadside sobriety tests to reduce drunk driving and make our roads safer;
- completed Phase I of King’s Wharf refurbishment by building a new pier and terminal building to accommodate larger ships and increase cruise visitor arrivals, which was completed on time and on budget by a largely Bermudian team;
- prepared Port Royal Golf Course to host the PGA Bermuda Championship this October;
- launched the Bermudiana Beach Resort, which is part of the Hilton Tapestry Collection – the first Hilton hotel in Bermuda’s history;
- introduced local radiation therapy coverage for HIP and FutureCare;
- upgraded the oversight of child day care to ensure the safety and healthy development of our children;
- launched a vaccination strategy to protect our community from diseases that can be very dangerous and are completely preventable;
- introduced legislation to increase the mandatory retirement age in the public service sector from 65 to 68;
- removed compulsory military service/conscription from the laws of Bermuda;
- decriminalised cannabis under seven grams;
- appointed a statutory Law Reform Commission to review and reform antiquated laws in Bermuda;
- introduced Child Safeguarding Legislation to create new offences and increase penalties for sex offences committed against children; and
- introduced tougher monitoring and supervision of sex offenders released from prison.
This is by no means an exhaustive list; it is just a few key initiatives that we are proud to have delivered for the people of Bermuda.
Recently, I witnessed the emotion of a mature student who stated categorically that if it were not for our College Promise Initiative, she would not have received the skills she needed to be employed today. Stories like this convince me that our strategy of deliberately laying a firm foundation for Bermudian success is the right one.
I have been personally inspired by the good wishes and words of encouragement that Bermudians from all walks of life have provided, and for that I give my thanks to you, the people. Nonetheless, there is so much more to do. There are so many more Bermudians in need of a helping hand. There are so many children and families who need relief from Bermuda’s high cost of living. Your Government is determined to do all we can to deliver on our promises and govern in a spirit that allows Bermudians to do more than just make it, but to also enjoy the success that their hard work and dedication should provide. It is an honour to serve the people of Bermuda and, again, we thank you for putting your trust into this administration.