The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably impacted every corner of the globe, leaving governments grappling with economic challenges, businesses struggling to stay afloat, and citizens bearing the brunt of these hardships. In the face of adversity, it is the duty of a
responsible government to safeguard the interests of its citizens and ensure that every decision taken is guided by the principles of fairness and public interest; ultimately delivering on our promise for a better and fairer Bermuda.
It is in this spirit that we address the recent development concerning the Canadian company Aecon, which has sold 49.9% of its shares in a 30-year airport privatization/concessionaire
agreement in Bermuda. This deal, which saw Aecon invest $65 million in 2017, has yielded a substantial return for the company, thanks in no small part to a provision in the contract that
obliged the government to provide minimum revenue guarantee payments during the pandemic.
In essence, the Bermudian government was compelled to pay Aecon $50 million over three years as air traffic ground to a halt.
While Aecon is set to receive a staggering $128.5 million from the sale of its 49.9% stake in the project, not a single dollar will be returned to the government or, by extension, to the taxpayers who funded the guarantee payments.
The sale price of the company has been undoubtedly bolstered by the $50 million poured into its coffers during the pandemic. And, if this wasn’t bad
enough, Skyport will send the Government another bill in 2 weeks – to ask taxpayers to pay even more for the minimum revenue guarantee, just after they quadrupled their investment.
There are precedents for governments adjusting concessionaire agreements when faced with extraordinary circumstances. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city of New
Orleans renegotiated the terms of its lease agreement with the operator of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
By working together, the city and the operator were able to reach a fair and equitable solution that accounted for the significant financial burden placed on
the local government and its citizens by the devastating storm.
In light of this example, it is crucial for the Bermudian government to seek remedies that address the disparity between Aecon’s profits and the sacrifices made by our taxpayers. We
must explore all available avenues for recovering taxpayer funds and establishing a more equitable agreement that truly serves the public interest.
It is our responsibility as a government to stand up for our citizens and ensure that the proceeds from the sale of Aecon’s shares are not pocketed solely by the company, while Bermudians
shoulder the financial burden of guarantee payments. To this end, we pledge to take extraordinary action if necessary, using the weight of public opinion and legal channels to
advocate for fairness, justice, and the best interests of our citizens.
In conclusion, we call upon the people of Bermuda to join us in this fight for a just resolution, as we seek to uphold the principles that bind us together in these challenging times. By standing together, we can demand a fairer distribution of the rewards of investment and ensure that the sacrifices made by our taxpayers are not in vain.
We the PLP Government stand by our pledge to the voters of this country to ensure we deliver a better and fairer Bermuda.
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