For months now, the OBA has repeatedly called upon the Burt Administration to provide the Bermudian public with vital information about the proposed construction project at Fairmont Southampton.
Yet Premier Burt and his team have failed to produce answers.
Instead, the current Government Friday asked Parliament to give developers 15 years of extremely generous tax concessions, totalling approximately $128 Million dollars.
Add in the $50 Million dollar guarantee Premier Burt previously said was agreed upon and this amounts to a government giveaway of some $178 Million of taxpayer money.
Has Premier Burt negotiated a good deal?
It is pretty clear why former Finance Minister Curtis Dickson jumped ship when he did.
What remains unclear are the details of Premier Burt’s deal.
As long ago as 8 February, in response to OBA demands, Premier Burt promised to “provide details when the Act is tabled”.
Yet when the PLP did table its proposed concessions on 22 April, there was no summary of works and no site plan, despite the tax concessions being linked to those documents. There was also no independent financial impact report. Nor any Master Development Plan.
Why is vital information being kept from Parliament?
How are Parliamentarians supposed to know whether concessions worth over $100 million, lasting 15 years, will apply only to the hotel? Will over generous tax breaks also extend to 350 proposed new villas? Where is this much needed information?
The new Tourism Minister, Vance Campbell, gave a presentation to Parliament Friday morning which raises more questions than answers. MPs have today been forced to vote upon millions and millions of dollars of tax concessions, lasting 15 years, without sufficient details to know whether or not this is a good deal for Bermuda.
This is no way to run a government.
Shockingly, Minister Campbell went so far as state that anyone who disagrees with the Government’s giveaway is “borderline criminal”.
The OBA very much supports redevelopment of Fairmont Southampton. All Bermudians welcome a revival of our much needed tourism economy. We want more Bermudian jobs.
Yet we believe Bermudians deserve a better deal than this one. If the OBA was negotiating, we would at the very least:
- Reduce the tax concessions from 15 years to 10 years. There must be a level playing field for all tourism operators in Bermuda.
- Southampton must not get a sweetheart deal to the prejudice of others
- Ensure the requirement for 70% Bermudian employment applies not only to hotel staff, but to all workers at property, including outsourcing to service providers
- Enhance training requirements, so all Bermudian workers benefit from training, not just management alone as the PLP deal provides
- Reduce the payroll tax concessions, with payroll tax relief granted only for Bermudian workers – there is no reason to grant developers a multi-year, multi-million payroll tax giveaway for their non-Bermudians workers as well
- Insist upon significant Bermudian entertainment at the hotel and impose marketing obligations as already happens with other major hotels
Friday, Parliament was poorly served by Premier Burt’s Government. And it is the people of Bermuda who lose out.
Even after today’s debate in the House, the key question remains: Why has Premier Burt negotiated such a bad deal for Bermuda?
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