Gibbons tables America’s Cup legislation
Highly anticipated legislation for Bermuda’s hosting of the 2017 America’s Cup went before MPs yesterday, laying down the required legal amendments for the Island to deliver on its commitment.
Economic Development Minister Grant Gibbons told Parliament that the proposed Act reflected the same principles as those used in hotel concessions, to stimulate further investment.
Those same concessions came under unrelenting scrutiny from the Opposition, with Dr Gibbons unable to provide an exact figure for what the Island traded to seal the deal.
Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva asked whether the estimated $50 to $60 million cost for the Island to host the event would have increased significantly without the concessions.
However, Dr Gibbons said it was impossible to determine their total value — adding that Bermuda would have stood no chance of securing the America’s Cup without the concessions offered.
“This is not money that we are paying out,” he told Opposition Leader Marc Bean when asked if concessions had been an integral part of Bermuda’s bid.
“This is money that might have come into Bermuda in the event that duties were not relaxed. Had we not relaxed those duties, I can assure the honourable Member that the America’s Cup would not be in Bermuda in the next three years.”
The Minister was challenged at length by Shadow Finance Minister David Burt, who protested that no estimates or models had been provided.
Replying that he kept responding to the same question, Dr Gibbons said: “We will never know answers to these questions. How many teams, and when — we simply don’t know at this point.”
The Bill will prove the teams and the Cup Authority exemption from taxes and fees in areas that Dr Gibbons listed as advertising, air navigation, broadcasting, customs duties, employment, vehicle permits and licensing, marine port dues, mooring fees and pilotage.
If approved, it will deliver brand protection to the 35th American’s Cup.
It will also provide for “various permissions to be granted during the events on an expedited basis, while ensuring appropriate accountability and oversight”, the Minister said.
The concessions offered had been discussed at Cabinet, including the Minister of Finance, but Dr Gibbons said any attempt at an exact figure would be “purely speculative”.
Mr Burt said the Minister’s replies told the Opposition that Government has not done an estimate “in any way, shape or form”.
Dr Gibbons maintained that too many variables were involved at this early stage, and promised “plenty of debate on this in the Budget session coming up”.
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