In a public message looking forward into 2012 and beyond, Mr Bell states:
‘The road ahead will be difficult and some of the decisions we have to take will not be popular or easy to accept. But it is vital that we all face up to these realities and accept change if the Isle of Man is to survive and, indeed, thrive into the future.’
The Chief Minister points out that a caring society is only possible if there is the economic stability and prosperity to fund it. The Government’s top priorities, therefore, are rebalancing public finances and delivering further economic growth, while protecting the vulnerable.
On achieving a balanced budget the Chief Minister writes:
‘Work to rebalance our finances has started across all Departments, with the aim of completion within just over 3 years. This consists mainly of spending reductions to create a leaner Government, coupled with the short term use of reserves and the generation of new income streams, on top of the tax increases that have already been implemented. Government will also work to reduce its annual salary bill, currently standing at well over £300 million, by 10% in real terms over the next three to four years. Achieving this essential reduction will, inevitably, entail job losses and continuing wage restraint.’
On economic growth and diversification Mr Bell’s statement includes the following:
‘My aspiration is to ensure the Island as a whole becomes an enterprise zone committed to promoting innovation and entrepreneurialism and I have tasked my Minister for Economic Development, John Shimmin, to deliver this. We must clear away impediments to economic growth, ensuring that our policies and processes facilitate rather than inhibit the future prosperity of our Island. It is Government’s responsibility to make the overall infrastructure, general environment and its operations more business friendly.’
The Chief Minister has also asked the Ministers for Economic Development and Infrastructure to review the Island’s planning process. He explains:
‘Achieving sustainable economic growth requires a planning system that includes a presumption in favour of development with greater emphasis on the quality of design whilst still protecting and enhancing the quality of the natural and built environment which supports that growth.’
On protecting the vulnerable Mr Bell confirms there will be reviews of the national insurance and benefit systems:
‘My ambition is to have in place within two years, revised systems which meet our values of a fully inclusive, compassionate and fair society, create incentives to work and are appropriate, sustainable and well-targeted for the long term. This will challenge the principle of universality.’
To view the Chief Minister's public message in full, please use the related link to the right.