The 2021-22 Bermuda Parliamentary Session officially commenced today after H.E. Rena Lalgie, Governor of Bermuda, delivered the Throne Speech to a small crowd of ministers, senators and MPs in Veritas Place this morning.
The 2021-22 Throne Speech began by talking about the Coronavirus and its effects in Bermuda and around the world.
“ When the story of this third decade of this 21st Century is written, it will no doubt be an account of how the nations of the world were humbled by an invisible enemy, an enemy against whom our only defence was to defy the very social interaction we require to thrive,” the speech began. “ The wounds inflicted by the global pandemic have been felt by every family and the entire island mourns the loss of life and prays that those seriously ill will improve.”
According to the speech, the systems that were put in place last century which have been only mildly altered to continue into this one now have to be greatly changed in order to survive.
There are 31 plans in seven broad categories in Bermuda’s Economic recovery plan. The seven categories are financial markets, economic diversification, expanding the residential population, labor market and social development, infrastructure investment, regulatory reform and healthcare reform.
According to the throne speech, Bermuda’s first two signature schools will be officially launched in September 2022, at the Berkeley Institute and Cedarbridge Academy respectively.
“ Starting in September of 2022, the Berkeley Institute will deliver signature programs in the fields of finance and insurance as well as health and social care, while Cedarbridge will deliver signature programs in the trades for building construction and maintenance as well as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math,” the speech read.
According to the speech, the biggest problem in Bermuda that has been exposed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic is in the healthcare sector.
“ Achieving affordable universal healthcare is a complex, multi-year commitment and is fundamental to Bermuda’s economic recovery plan, because it will reduce costs to businesses, which in turn increases economic growth,” the speech read. “ To further the goal of universal healthcare, the Ministry of Health will accelerate the ongoing stakeholder engagement in the transition to an integrated healthcare model to increase speed at which affordable healthcare is delivered.”
Since Bermuda is just as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as other countries, trying to save the planet for future generations is on the Government’s agenda for this session. They plan to introduce a Marine Act, which will help identify 20 percent of the protected area of the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“ [This] Act will also create a framework to balance development and sustainability, providing an application process for the investment in fishing, offshore renewable energy and blue tourism,” the speech read. “ The process will guide the management of ocean uses across the EEZ, drawing on local expertise and utilising an environmental impact procedure akin to the Bermuda Plan for land development.”
Also during this session, the Government plans to introduce a bill to help out renewable energy developers test their products on the island.
“ This legislation will lay the groundwork for additional investment in Bermuda, whose innovation can reduce the cost of electricity for local consumers,” the speech read.
To help unemployed Bermudians between 18 and 26 find work, the Government plans to implement a Youth Employment Strategy during this session.
“ The root of [social dysfunction among Bermudian youth] is a lack of opportunity, so Bermuda’s youth must be returned to full employment and will be provided with the support to train for jobs in the economy,” the speech read.
The Government also plans to enhance Bermuda’s position within a competitive global market through introducing a digitized immigration process during this session.
“ This process will improve the customer-facing delivery of services and ensure that the existing manual immigration process does not serve as a hindrance to the specialized talent required to further grow the island’s economy,” the Speech read.
With help from the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), the Government plans to work with several lending institutions to provide various types of monetary assistance to some of Bermuda’s faith-based communities and charities during this Session.
According to the Throne Speech, BEDC has provided almost 300 businesses with $5.1 million in financial assistance just within the past 20 months.
“ During this legislative session, the Government will advance legislation to modernise the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation Act. In line with Bermuda’s Economic Recovery Plan, the boundaries of the economic empowerment zone in Hamilton will be extended, and with the North East Hamilton Plan set to come before the Legislature during this Session, the BEDC will advance residential developments in Bermuda’s economic empowerment zones,” the speech read.
The Government also has plans to strengthen the Department of Child and Family Services’ child safeguarding policies to reduce the harm and abuse to the island’s children.
According to the speech, all available efforts must be used to tackle the island’s waste management. Therefore, they hope to replace the Tynes Bay facility while ensuring that service from that facility continues.
“ To that end, in line with Bermuda’s Economic Recovery Plan, a cross-ministry project management team has been formed to accelerate the replacement of Tynes Bay and the upgrading of Bermuda’s waste management and water infrastructure,” the speech read.
Government will also consider a strategic plan for the Town of St. George’s, which will be formed through consulting all relevant stakeholders involved and will “ represent the best means by which to raise the fortunes of the Old Town in the wake of the renewal opportunity presented by the new St. Regis Hotel, renovated St. George’s Club and the construction of the new marina.”
During this session, Government will also provide amendments to the Public Access to Information Act (PATI), the Electronic Transactions Act of 1999 and the Personal Information Protection Act.
Government also plans on making Bermuda safer during this session by further mixing crime prevention and detection with technology.
“ During this Session, the Ministry of National Security will advance a new island-wide CCTV system, which will include newer features to assist the police in tackling road traffic offences and violent crime,” the speech read.
This morning’s speech touched upon how vital tourism will be to the island’s economic recovery. Whilst the Bermuda Tourism Authority is responsible for executing any tourism campaign and marketing strategy, the speech read, leadership in tourism policy must come from the Government, who give tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year to the BTA.
“ The tourism recovery will be aided by the Ministry of Transport, which will pursue an air service development policy to secure increased airlift from traditional gateway cities and to increase connectivity for Bermuda,” the speech read.
As per the UK Government’s request, the Government plans to propose amendments to the Bermuda Constitution Order of 1968 during this session.
Thanks in large part to Flora Duffy’s gold in Tokyo in July, the Government intends to implement a national sports policy during this session, which will help harness young Bermudians’ athletic abilities so that they too might feel the satisfaction that Ms. Duffy did when winning an Olympic gold medal back in July.
During this session, the legislature will be encouraged to debate and consider the following bills: CHildren Amendment Act, Cannabis Licensing Act, Bermuda National Trust Amendment Act, Cruise Ships (Casinos) Licensing Act, Distilled Spirits Licensing Act, Economic Development (Investment Incentives) Act, the Banks and Companies Amendment Act, Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act, Motor Car (Digital Fare Media) Amendment Act, Fisheries (Aquaculture) Amendment Act, and Financial Assistance Amendment Act.
In her first throne speech since becoming Governor, Ms. Lalgie said that she looks forward to working with the elected Government in tackling violent crime and all serious crime in order for Bermuda to remain a safe place to do business.
“ I wish to close [this speech] by paying tribute to the various charitable groups that have been feeding and caring for the people of Bermuda during their hours of need; and paying tribute to the dedicated women and men across Bermuda’s public services for everything that they are doing to respond to the pandemic,” she said.
“ Madame President and Members of the Senate, Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly, I declare this session [of Parliament] open and may God guide you in your deliberations.”
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