Enough with the spin on the airport
Bermudians should understand that the Progressive Labour Party government will never ever say the airport project is a good deal for Bermuda — no matter the facts, no matter the positive professional judgments on the deal. Even by its own consultant, LeighFisher.
It will never acknowledge the oppressive economic realities that surrounded the deal, including a PLP record in office that left Bermuda economically hobbled, with thousands out of work and government finances severely compromised.
It will never acknowledge that the One Bermuda Alliance government managed to negotiate an agreement with the Canadian Government that guaranteed the project be delivered on time and on budget, and be paid for over time by users of the airport; not Bermuda’s taxpayers.
It will never acknowledge, as its consultant did, that the agreement achieved important benefits such as:
• No increase in sovereign debt
• No impact to debt/GDP ratio
• No effect on Bermuda’s credit rating
• Room left available for other projects and priorities
The PLP’s obsessive commitment to provide negative spin on the airport makes it impossible for it to see the forest for the trees. As a result, David Burt’s statement on Friday locked on to the airport contract, like virtually all contracts, being binding and that to break it would cost Bermuda dearly.
The Premier’s spin ignored his consultant’s conclusions that:
• The terms and conditions of the project agreement are broadly consistent with other similar contracts
• The interest rate for the long-term debt is within market range
• The return on investment for the equity sponsor, Aecon, is within market range
• The balance of risk/reward is consistent with other similar projects
The Premier’s spin ignored the judgment of the Blue Ribbon Panel put together by the OBA government to assess the project agreement, a panel comprising highly reputable, independent-minded Bermudians who concluded that the transaction was “commercially sound and reasonable”.
His spin also ignored his consultant’s recommendation that the project agreement contained optimising opportunities to expand workforce development, training and jobs for Bermudians, as well as social investments to promote education, productivity, better health and social inclusion.
We say: “Get on with it. Stop spinning. Do your job.”
Bermuda negotiated a good deal for a new airport amid serious economic challenges and in the face of extreme political opposition — a deal that is generating jobs for Bermudians that will support their families while rebuilding infrastructure critical to the future of the island. That’s not spin.
On a final note, given the Premier’s words on the importance of government transparency, he should report the cost of the airport review by LeighFisher and disclose whether or not it was a sole-sourced contract.
• Michael Dunkley, the former Premier of Bermuda, is the Shadow Minister of Government Reform and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)
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