Finance Minister Bob Richards presented his first budget today and finally some – albeit with a small “s” – good news for us Permanent Resident Certificate holders.
Readers may remember I had a rant last year about the continued treatment of PRC holders as second-class citizens, in particular when it comes to buying property. Even though I have been a resident of Bermuda for more than 30 years, own a business, and have three Bermuda-born children I still can’t vote and would be penalised with a 25% licence fee (10% for a condo) should I wish to buy a home. Oh – and that property has to have an Annual rental Value of more than $63,000 and I would not be permitted to let out any part of that property, even if it contained existing rented apartments.
Today Mr. Richards offered some relief as a means of stimulating the stagnant real estate market, cutting the 25% rate to 6% for 18 months before rising to 6%. For non-Bermudians who are not PRC holders, the rates will be cut to 8% (rising to 12.5% after 18 months for houses) and 6% for condos, rising to 8% after 18 months. The ARV level and the apartment restrictions will remain in place.
While the licence fee reduction is certainly welcome and a step in the right direction, it really doesn’t go far enough. Why should PRCs still be discriminated against when it comes to buying property? Why subject us to a rise in the fee after 18 months and other restrictions?
Surely the logical step – from a human rights standpoint if nothing else – is to grant PRCs full Bermudian status. I am delighted that the OBA Government plans to finally protect gays under the human rights laws. It would be nice if PRCs were given similar consideration.