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Barritt was off the mark

What Bermuda's new international airport could look like

Dear Sir,

Normally, I don’t disagree with John Barritt’s columns. This morning, however, I think he has been afflicted by a serious failure of imagination.

In his column about the proposed airport scheme, he acknowledges the faults of the traditional method of competitive tendering, and acknowledges Bermuda’s recent history of huge and much criticised cost overruns.

But he offers nothing in the way of an alternative, simply falling into a rather predictable criticism of the Government for not doing things in the way they have always done them, presumably in the hope that that will lead to a different outcome.

He dismisses public-private partnerships on the grounds that the PLP’s venture in that direction, the new hospital wing, may prove over the long term not to have been financially advantageous.

I recommend that Mr Barritt and the Progressive Labour Party reflect a little on the advantages of the Government’s plan for the airport.

It will cost Bermuda nothing up front — no new debt needs to be taken on to pay for it. It will reduce the time the airport takes to build. The project is guaranteed to be delivered on time and on budget. Fairness standards to ensure Bermuda gets value for money are integral to the deal. And it gets Bermudians working again.

The catch for Bermuda is that the airport terminal will be run by a Canadian company for the length of the deal, during which time Bermudians will use it every day as they do now.

In order to make a profit, the company will design, build and run the best and most efficient airport they can. In the end, we get back what they have built, in every sense of that word. A fair exchange in my view.

But Mr Barritt is blind to those advantages. He seems to have taken refuge in the safest possible posture for a political columnist.

I am disappointed because what is needed desperately to get Bermuda out of the economic mess it is in are political players who are prepared to leave their safe political harbours and think originally and creatively.

That is what Mr Richards has done and I think he has come up with a scheme that can succeed, not just for the hundreds of Bermudians who will find work there, but also for the overall economy.

What a pity he is being criticised by the slow and the ponderous in our community. They managed to get us into this mess and, much of the time, it seems they are hell-bent on keeping us there.