Bermudians want the truth about airport deal
Recently, there has been a rash of opinions put out by persons who are in support of the proposed airport redevelopment project.
First, on March 28, Steve Nackan, of Aecon, had a piece published. One of the standout statements that he made was that the airport design was progressing well and key decisions regarding “scope and functional parameters” had been made in consultation with a “very broad spectrum of stakeholders”.
Then on May 2, Sir John Swan had a piece published making this profound statement:
“Aecon has been selected by the Canadian Government, the lender, with its remit to design, finance, build and operate the new airport for the next 30 years — the like of which has been done in many other destinations.”
What Sir John does not mention is that Aecon approached the Canadian Government, not the other way around.
There was no bid put to tender locally or internationally for this job.
As a real estate developer, Sir John surely knows projects of this magnitude need to be put out to tender.
Finally, on May 3, one of Bermuda's top architects had a piece published speaking on the design values of the proposed airport.
One of his statements stood out to me for various reasons.
“As we write this, many countries around the Caribbean and the world are investing in updated airports.”
This is very true. Many, if not most, of our fellow Caribbean islands have or are investing in updated airports. However, what was omitted is that not one of those airports are exceeding costs of ...
Let's take a look at what those airports actually cost:
• Antigua: V.C. Bird International
Size: 247,570 sq ft
When completed: 2015
Total air arrivals 2014: 249,316
Total cost: $98 million
• Cayman Islands: Owen Roberts International
Size: 207,000 sq ft
Total air arrivals 2014: 382,816
Total cost: $70 million
• St Maarten: Princess Juliana International
Size: 290,000 sq ft
Total air arrivals 2014: 499,920
Total cost: $117 million
• Bermuda projections
Completion date: unknown
Total air arrivals 2014: 224,246
Total costs: $255 million, as per Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance
So perhaps Colin Campbell can explain why our proposed airport will be no larger than these airports but will cost at least double the price.
Some other distinct differences between the proposed deal are as follows:
• Not one of these islands has or intends to sign their national airport over to any foreign entity for at least 30 years
• Not one of these islands has given up its airport revenue streams to a foreign entity for at least 30 years
There are some pertinent questions that the Bermudian public need to ask of these three gentlemen, two of whom have heavily vested interest in this project going through.
• Why is Aecon not going to pay any import duty on construction material?
• Why is Aecon not going to pay any payroll tax for the next 30 years?
• Why is the taxpayer on the hook for an estimated $2.3 million in energy costs per year for 30 years, totalling nearly $69 million?
It is all well and fine to write op-eds in the media to persuade the public that this deal is in the best interest of Bermuda and Bermudians.
Yet when Bermudians are demanding the truth on the financial aspects of the deal, Aecon and the Government have gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the truth.
According to finance minister Bob Richards in The Royal Gazette on April 22:
“While businesses are in negotiation for any kind of major contract, it is the general rule that the parties sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep things confidential until a [deal] has been signed,” he said.
Essentially, what he is saying is that the people of Bermuda will not know the final financial agreement of this deal until it is too late to do anything about it.
My fellow Bermudians, are you going to accept this?