Column: ‘Concession Bill Is A Historic Giveaway’

May 12, 2022 | 9 Comments

oba bermuda doug douglas-generic 2021 thumb[Opinion column written by OBA Senator Dr Douglas DeCouto]

On Friday, the PLP Government failed the people of Bermuda with yet another demonstration of the PLP’s lack of accountability, lack of forthrightness, and lack of ability. The Fairmont Southampton concession bill is a historic giveaway to the developers that shows that David Burt as Finance Minister allowed himself to be out-negotiated and pressured into caving. You might even say David Burt blinked.

Think of Bermuda as a family that is going through some tight times, financially. The car has broken down and needs to be fixed or replaced so everyone can get to school and work. The head of the household has been sent down to the car dealership to see what can be done – but with a tight budget. They come back with the latest set of wheels, 50% over budget, and with a verbal “promise” for free rustproofing in five years. And cousin, a financial adviser, is shaking her head.

So when the OBA says we support the need for concessions for the hotel, but not for 15 years, we are telling David Burt to take that deal back – and come back with one Bermudians can afford.

Minister Campbell said that “discussions are at a technical and advanced stage” – in that case, why not wait a short while so Bermudians can understand what they’ve been signed up for? Why keep us in the dark? Given that Curtis Dickinson, the PLP MP with the most financial experience and expertise, resigned his position because of this bad deal, why do the other PLP MPs think they know better? Pure arrogance and steamrolling by David Burt.

Much was said by the PLP about the “ownership society” and “profit sharing”. But you know where it doesn’t say that? In the bill that was passed on Friday. Instead, we have empty promises from the same Premier David Burt whose administration gave almost one million dollars to a con artist, and $3.6 million in a no-bid contract to a company co-owned by his fin-tech adviser.

We were shown an out of date “letter of intent” that expired in 2020, that gives only 10 years of concessions and a $50 million guarantee. Since then, it’s clear that the developers have managed to pressure David Burt to their advantage, with an unprecedented extra five years of concessions and $25 million more in guarantee.

Speaking about ownership, did you know that the Bermudians will have three times as much at stake in this hotel as the developers? About $300 million in guarantees and giveaways, versus $75 million in investment from the developers. We should have leveraged the fact that the developers have already sunk money into buying this hotel, and have a lot of stake in successfully completing this deal. They need a deal to work just as badly as us.

If David Burt and the PLP Government are serious about an ownership society, they should start with these four items:

  • 1. Reduce government expenses and complete tax reform. Then Bermuda can start digging out of the massive debt hole created by the successive PLP Governments, which is a burden on all of Bermuda’s future owners and taxpayers.
  • 2. Find creative ways to help small businesses and retailers, or those who have invested in homes to create AirBNBs. These Bermudians, who employ many people, and pay for services, are handicapped by taxes, import duties, and an unresponsive Government bureaucracy. For example, let importers defer duty payments until they sell their goods or find ways to open the existing condo market to overseas buyers, instead of giving overseas developers land tax and duty breaks to build condos with the hotel.
  • 3. Fix education to give our future generations the tools to they need to succeed which will enable them to can put their creativity and skills to good use, and take pride in their accomplishments as they build the ownership society.
  • 4. Importantly, shore up the social safety net so those of us who need help, can get it.

But instead, David Burt and the PLP Government have been sweet-talked by the developers, and once again, the PLP has left Bermudians holding the bag.

- Douglas DeCouto, PhD, is the Approved Candidate for the One Bermuda Alliance for Warwick North East [Constituency 25].

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Comments (9)

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  1. Just leaving this here. OBA are a bunch of forgetful manipulative people. They passed the Hotel Investment Act 2017 which gave the same concessions up to 10 years. The records are still there, so maybe someone should show Decouto what his party has done in the past.

    https://www.gov.bm/articles/proposed-draft-bill-entitled-tourism-investment-act-2017

  2. Vote for Me says:

    But alas… this is an empty column. The record in the House of Assembly will show that the Bill passed unanimously. To restate the obvious, no OBA Member of Parliament objected to the Bill being passed.

  3. Jus' Askin' says:

    Airport Deal will Never be topped ;-)

  4. Watching says:

    The bill passed without objection. Despite comments made in the debate, no one from the OBA or the PLP that spoke against it, had the courage of their supposed convictions to vote against. Their comments were more about scoring political points and sound bites. But none would go on record by voting against this deal, as they know it is necessary and critical for our economy.

    Secondly, there has been no deal ever as bad for Bermudians than the airport deal.

    • sandgrownan says:

      Well, apart from DREB’s hospital obviously. And Port Royal, and Heritage Wharf…

  5. watching says:

    NOPE, the airport is the worst, hands down.
    And Bob said he would do it all again.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Sounds like you’ve never heard of the hospital wing , a structure a fraction of the size of the new air terminal that is gonna cost us multiples more. And don’t forget , major swathes of the deal were redacted so we’ll never know how bad it really was.
      But , it was your guys who did it so it’s just cool ..

    • saud says:

      NOPE….you meant the Hospital was the worst deal for Bermuda.

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