Gibbons says AC35 saved the economy
The America’s Cup was a “silver bullet” that hit the target in time to save Bermuda’s economy, the Shadow Minister of Economic Development told Parliament last night.
Grant Gibbons said the island’s economy would have continued to struggle if it had not been for the money-spinning international sailing event.
Dr Gibbons, who met fierce resistance from social development and sports minister Zane DeSilva, said: “I know the Government likes to talk about economic ripples but what the PwC report found was that this was really a tsunami effect on Bermuda.
“In essence, hosting the AC35 provided the economic boost, the so-called silver bullet that Bermuda needed to continue growing and restore confidence on Bermuda and in our island.”
Dr Gibbons added there had been speculation about the island’s economic wellbeing if it had not won the right to host the race.
He said: “From my perspective, it is not difficult to imagine that Bermuda’s economy would have continued to struggle, requiring further public and private sector downsizing and even less spending on social services, social insurance, seniors and healthcare.
“It was pretty clear in 2014 that if something had not happened, we would be looking forward to higher deficits, more debt and higher taxes, certainly not a healthy option but that is where we were seemed to be headed.”
Dr Gibbons was speaking as he moved a motion in the House of Assembly to “take note of the economic, environmental and social impact of the 35th America’s Cup on Bermuda and the foundation for further growth”.
He detailed findings of an independent economic and social impact assessment on the event conducted by professional services firm PwC as well as the America’s Cup Bermuda Legacy Impact report.
Dr Gibbons added: “In essence what the PwC report is saying, is that for every $100 invested by Government in producing the event, Bermuda received $500 or more than $500 in additional spending that wouldn’t have happened unless Bermuda had actually hosted the America’s Cup, so it was certainly a welcome, and rather large, stimulus to our local economy.”
Zane DeSilva, Minister of Social Development and Sport, said he hoped Dr Gibbons was correct about the bump the event would bring to the Bermuda economy.
However, Mr DeSilva took exception to the former economic development minister’s comment that the event had been the “silver bullet” for tourism.
Mr DeSilva said: “You give me $100 million, I’ll get tourists to this island, too.”
The minister, who was the only Progressive Labour Party member to debate the motion, also pointed to Mr Gibbons’s statement that taxes and the deficit would have risen had Bermuda not held the event.
Mr DeSilva said: “I don’t recall in the OBA’s 2012 platform seeing an America’s Cup.
“Might I add they doubled the debt. So maybe if the America’s Cup hadn’t come around the debt would have been tripled.”
The former government, Mr DeSilva said, “didn’t have a problem” finding money for the America’s Cup but couldn’t find funds to improve school infrastructure, complete bus repairs, or put towards raises for civil servants.
Mr DeSilva said he thought the America’s Cup had been good “for some people”.
He added: “I think that if we’re going to host world-class events, we have to ensure that they benefit a wider group of Bermudians.”
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin described the America’s Cup as the “tourniquet that helped to stop the financial bleeding”.
She said Mr DeSilva was correct in saying there was no mention of the event in the OBA’s platform in 2012.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin explained: “A good government will be nimble to be able to advance and seize opportunities.”
Michael Dunkley, the former premier, described the America’s Cup as the “deal of the century” for Bermuda.
He added: “We have to make sure that it continues as we move forward.”
The former government, Mr Dunkley said, was “rightly criticised on so many issues”.
He added: “However, with the America’s Cup, we dug out of a hole — the economic abyss, the spiralling debt — through solid policy and vision and Bermuda today is better off.”
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