Strategy to tackle the high cost of living highlighted in Throne Speech

Her Excellency The Governor Ms. Rena Lalgie presented on the behalf of the Government The Speech from the Throne, which is identified as the beginning of the new Legislative session.

A renewed strategy to tackle the high cost of living; a plan to tackle escalating health care costs; expediting immigration reform; housing for the young and those at the lower end of the wage spectrum and promise of various forms of legislation designed to make use of the global tax. These matters along with an eye on making government more efficient were some of the highlights in a catch all Throne speech during todays reconvening of Parliament.

One of the more essential but less tales about matters will see government amend legislation that would clear the way for cause of death notices for persons who passed during and after the COVID pandemic.

Madame President and Members of the Senate; Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly; in his 2023 Annual Report, the former Chief Medical Officer addressed health inequalities in Bermuda. With reference to the four major risk factors common to the leading chronic diseases, namely tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, poor nutrition and physical inactivity, Dr Ayoola Oyinloye says:

“In Bermuda, there is a lack of robust population-wide data that links the prevalence of these risk factors with socioeconomic data. There is evidently a requirement for further evidence-based policies to address these risk factors, particularly for the most deprived, who are likely to be at greatest risk.”
The Ministry of Health will undertake the STEPS 2024 population health survey to provide that evidence and establish public health priorities, tracking the trends and magnitude of these risk factors, and leading the fight to prevent chronic non- communicable diseases.

In this Session, the Legislature will consider the promised Bill to support data collection to control medical “co-pays”. This critical step on the journey towards universal healthcare will be accompanied by the establishment of the core healthcare services to be included in a universal healthcare benefits package for all residents and a full assessment of the demand and cost to deliver those core services. Access to essential, quality health services without suffering financial hardship is key to ensuring improved preventative care.
Dr Oyinloye again sets the stage for where we find ourselves as a society:
“Socio-economic disparities are driving unequal social determinants for health, particularly for the most vulnerable groups in society, whilst the current healthcare system is exacerbating these inequalities….those with the greatest health needs appear to have the least access to the healthcare system.”
Later in his report, Dr Oyinloye describes the imperative of the moment in healthcare:

“Bermuda now stands at a crossroads with enormous opportunities for tackling health inequalities. Covid-19 has identified Bermuda’s vulnerabilities. The Bermuda Health Strategy 2022-2027 and Universal Health Coverage (programme) present a chance for Bermuda to reform its health system to become fairer, more effective, and better value for money for all who live in Bermuda. The opportunity is ours to grasp to ensure Bermuda can achieve ‘healthy people in healthy communities.”

A sad remnant of the pandemic has been the delay in the certification of death of those who succumbed during that period. This has extended to other instances of death such that families cannot settle their loved one’s affairs in circumstances where a doctor or a GP is not prepared to certify the cause of death. To assist these families and others who may suffer such losses, the Government will amend the Registration (Births and Deaths) Act 1949 to revise and modernize the Form E death certificate and in appropriate circumstances make provision for a short form death certificate which will allow for urgent estate matters to be settled.

The Government recognizes the key “touch points” for our citizens and their interactions with their Government and accepts that more is required to deliver more efficient service in key areas:

• Planning: Though planning laws have been streamlined in recent years, complaints from residents continue and many are frustrated by their interactions with the department.

• Immigration: Customer service must be improved and a focus on this department is expected to increase customer satisfaction through further digitalization of immigration processes.

• Creation of a single payment portal for all Government services enabling residents to pay for all Government services, including customs payments at the airport, online or via their mobile phone.

• Establishment of ‘one stop shops’ for registration, permitting and licensing which will reduce multiple trips to different government departments.

• Implementing better use of technology powered by artificial intelligence to ensure that answers are provided to customers who contact the Government by phone or email.

• In recruitment and hiring: The pace of Government recruitment frustrates ministers, public service leaders, and applicants alike. Necessary streamlining will be advanced to ensure that funded vacancies are replaced more quickly.

• Public Highways: The government will urgently advance the replacement of its asphalt plant that will accelerate the pace of road paving in Bermuda to ensure that after enduring delays due to island-wide trenching, road users can start to see relief from less than ideal road conditions.

• Tourism: The Tourism Investment Act 2017 was amended in the last session to provide increased concessions for restaurants, entertainment venues, and tourism attractions – these benefits will only help to improve Bermuda’s tourism product if they are used. The government will streamline the process so that our entrepenueurs can invest in new or improved attractions to provide increased amenities for our visitors in line with the continued rebound in Bermuda’s tourism industry.

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