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‘Misinformation’ on AC spending

America's Cup signage goes up in Dockyard (File photograph)

“Post-truth politics” and mis- information has been given out on the island’s spending for the America’s Cup, according to Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development.

Dr Gibbons was responding yesterday to a statement from Jamahl Simmons, the Shadow Minister of Tourism, charging that the Government had committed “in excess of $100 million of taxpayer funds to support the event”.

“This is an unfounded figure with no connection to reality,” the minister said this afternoon, noting that 2014 projections had estimated a potential expenditure of $77 million.

However, the 2016/17 Budget book at present projects a spending of $39.6 million on the America’s Cup from 2014 through March 31, 2017.

The figure includes both capital and operational spending.

“The bulk of this $39.6 million spending, $23.7 million, is on capital infrastructure, including preparation of the South Basin dock and Dockyard facilities which will benefit present and future generations of Bermudian,” Dr Gibbons said.

“This amount represents the bulk of the capital infrastructure spending by the ACBDA required under the agreement with the ACEA.

“The remaining portion, $15.9 million of this $39.6 million, is current account, or operational spending, beginning in 2014 and projected through March 31. This includes $10 million of the $15 million in sponsorship payments to ACEA — money which must be spent in Bermuda under our agreement and is not merely a payment that leaves Bermuda with no residual value to the island.”

After a week marked by industrial action that included the possibility of protests jeopardising the event, Dr Gibbons said he welcomed the Opposition’s support for the America’s Cup.

“The loss of tourism revenues and foreign investment spending coming from The America’s Cup would be devastating for all of us and the reputational damage would be irreparable,” he said — adding that “tireless” work was under way to ensure that its benefits were “inclusive, far reaching and diverse”.

March will see debates for the 2017/18 fiscal year, and Dr Gibbons said the Budget had yet to be finalised.

The minister said the “great majority” of investment in infrastructure for the Cup had already taken place, and that “further operational spending will be prudent and disciplined”.

“We are being very careful to spend wisely and on things that create legacy value.”

Mr Simmons said last night that he looked forward to hearing details in the Budget debate, including how the Government’s $39 million loan to Wedco would be financed.

“Most importantly, we are very interested in hearing the details and specifics of how the OBA is ensuring that the benefits from the America’s Cup will be inclusive and diverse, as far too many Bermudians perceive otherwise.”