A bad deal we are still paying for
Five years after that fateful day of December 2, 2016, when protesters were attacked as they called for transparency, we are still living with the effects of the flawed airport deal. To date, Bermuda has paid out $41 million in minimum revenue guarantees to a bank account on Wall Street. That is money that could have been used to invest in Bermudians or invest in critical infrastructure such as Tynes Bay Incinerator. But, instead, five years later, we, the taxpayers, are still paying the price for the OBA’s poor decisions.
When you look at the actual impact of the airport deal, not only did we give away our airport for a generation – a revenue generating asset that was lost for some 30 years – but it is also now costing us tens of millions of dollars in guarantees. In light of just how bad that deal is, when we look back at that fateful day, we can certainly say that the fears and anger everyday Bermudians felt was very much justified.
On December 2, 2016 the OBA Government wanted Parliament to approve a deal, parts of which no one but the Cabinet of the day had seen. In 2017, after the deal was shared with the public, and despite a poll showing 75 per cent of Bermudians being against the privatisation of the airport, the OBA pushed ahead and sold out a key national asset with the promise that “it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime”. It has in fact cost us tens of millions … and counting.
As for those who were pepper-sprayed – or, as OBA candidate Dwayne Robinson said, “pepper-misted” – on that fateful day, there are still plenty of unanswered questions. We still don’t have the true story of the timeline of what happened that day. And it is unfortunate that no one was held accountable. The Government is very much hamstrung in the investigation of matters involving law enforcement because we do not have operational control over the police, which lies with the Governor. We also remember the stonewalling that happened with the parliamentary committee to investigate the events of that day with full and complete evidence not being shared and former ministers not providing answers.
To those Bermudians who stood for transparency and good government on that fateful day and were met with inappropriate force by the police, please know that your effort was not in vain.
You helped to expose a bad deal and ultimately to dismiss a government that not only sold out a national asset to a foreign company but did so with such a rotten deal that we are still paying the price today.
Neville Tyrrell is a Progressive Labour Party MP for Warwick South Central and a former Minister of Transport