Gencom tax breaks a bad deal for Bermuda
The One Bermuda Alliance supports the redevelopment of Fairmont Southampton to revive Bermuda’s tourism economy. We are hopeful that it will support our business sector with conference facilities and provide more job opportunities for Bermudians.
The question is: why has Premier Burt negotiated such a bad deal for Bermuda? Today Bermuda’s public finances are on their knees and the country needs every dollar of public revenue. So why during these desperate times is Premier Burt’s Government handing out mammoth concessions that Bermuda can ill afford?
Let’s be very clear: as previously stated by the Shadow Minister of Tourism, the One Bermuda Alliance recognises the need, and the support requirements, for a development of this scale. As a consequence, we would maximise the concession period to ten years, instead of 15 — especially because of these challenging economic times.
By conceding 15 years of tax concessions, Bermuda will forfeit revenues estimated at more than $128 million dollars just for the hotel. That money could have been used to pave roads, care for the elderly or pay down the island’s astronomical debt. Stuck with the new 15-year precedent, future governments now will find it harder to negotiate a fair deal for Bermuda, and existing tourism operators will no longer have a level playing field.
Alarmingly, the Burt Government has asked for virtually nothing in return and his details are sorely lacking. For example:
• Premier Burt says 70 per cent of the hotel’s staff will be Bermudian, but which jobs and how many? And what about outsourcing?
• The Government has asked for a management training programme for Bermudians, but what about training and development programmes for non-managers?
• Will the tax concessions extend to resort villas and resort suites? If developers of the villas get tax breaks, what about Bermudians? What about the smaller hotels, Airbnbs, developers and construction companies?
The Burt Government tells us this is a good deal for Bermuda, but how can we tell? There was no public consultation, there are no numbers, no objectives and no independent view.
The OBA has asked for details from the Government on multiple occasions this year, with no response:
• On February 8, the OBA asked for details, and Premier Burt promised that his Government would “provide details when the Act is tabled” — which he failed to do
• On March 2, the OBA demanded to know why the public was kept in the dark on the taxpayer’s guarantee
• And on March 20, the OBA asked again and the Premier promised a deal was “imminent”
We all recall the dramatic departure of the former finance minister, Curtis Dickinson, who thought this deal was so dangerous for Bermuda that he walked away from his position. And we are all well versed with this Government’s failed track record on making deals: almost $1 million went to a scam artist for the not-so-Savvy deal, and $3.6 million was spent in no-bid “friends and family” contracts to the Premier’s adviser for the Travel Authorisation Form, which is killing tourism.
The One Bermuda Alliance demands transparency, integrity and fiscal responsibility from this Government. Instead, Premier Burt has wasted the people’s money on a bonanza for the developers — his inspiration resulted in his desperation.
Bermudians demand a better deal for Bermuda.
Cole Simons is the Leader of the Opposition and the One Bermuda Alliance MP for Smith’s South