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Black economic empowerment

There is another question that remains unanswered with this Gencom/Westend Properties deal that deserves public discussion and action on the part of this government.

What of our Black contractors and developers in the construction industry? I contend that, as to the renovation of the hotel and the building of those units, fully 50 per cent of all contracts from project management down should be reserved for Black-owned development companies in that sector.

The developer, to get what it wanted from the beginning, would have agreed to the above. I’m convinced of that. But this is what happens when you entrust leadership to someone who has deep-seated issues and insecurities around race, racial equity and social justice. In my experience, David Burt is one who at best treats it as an afterthought.

I am sure despite the consistent marginalisation of Black Bermudian-owned companies in construction sector over the past four decades that the likes of Nelson Hunt, Patrick E. Bean, Khalid Wasi, Kent Holder, Rodney Smith, David Durham and any number of leading Black-owned contracting companies, firms and related specialists not listed here have the competence and experience to play key roles in the multi-decade development of the property.

Chris Maybury, if you and the billionaire Gencom principal Karim Alibhai want to really be a good corporate citizen, compromise is required here — and it’s more than just scaling back the size of the project. It’s about truly empowering those who historically have been the short end of the stick. Will you be part of the problem or part of the solution to create a new legacy? Choose wisely.

Frankly, this should have been legislated decades ago by a Progressive Labour Party government. One way to achieve the creation of a unified Black entity (or two) would be to create a single tender to be paid from a sole source into a single account (or two). This would incentivise a large number of Black-owned companies and firms in this sector to participate in the formation of limited liability companies in partnership with the aforementioned developer. The same should apply with the development down on Front Street financed by the Canadian insurance giant. This needs to be implemented immediately by way of agreement with Gencom’s Westend Properties and, latterly, a well-drafted framework should be legislated by the Government.

This Southampton project may represent the last mega deal of this type for a number of decades. They are also projecting that it will require a timeline of 20 years to complete, but Gencom will have to compromise. Bermuda has a limited landmass, we all know that. For example, Barbados and Cayman Islands, both island destinations, have more than four times our landmass. They each could do a project of this size and lose it within some semirural or remote region. There would still be environmental concerns, I am sure, but they would not be acute as in the case in Bermuda.

Have you flown into Bermuda lately? Arriving from the west, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to identify any significant open spaces. What was once a sea of green is now a sea of white as represented by our distinctive roofs.

In conclusion, this is what “One Bermuda” should look like as we demonstrate a concern for our environment while having just as much concern for our human resources and the need to create a more racially equitable Bermuda necessary to produce the type of equality we say we want.

Mr Burt, Jason Hayward and the present group of Black neoliberals — not a compliment — who now dominate the PLP gave Mr Maybury and Gencom the stars, the moon and years of tax revenue. They also ensured that, by doing all of the above, our young Black people will be on the street, going to food kitchens, working in the drug trade or on a flight to Britain never to return.

Yet they claim in the House of Assembly and on your doorstep that they are committed to having Bermudians working throughout the industry and that they are committed to the cause of Black businesses getting their fair share. Those words always ring hollow in the face of their actions, just as it did with the One Bermuda Alliance. The Gencom/Westend Properties deal simply provides another unsavory example.

We now know what was in it for Messrs Burt, Maybury, Hayward, Chris Furbert and Alibhai. I do hope that I have at least in part demonstrated that their interest is not necessarily synonymous with what should be our own unless our interest is narrowly defined and limited. I contend it is not.

Rolfe Commissiong was the Progressive Labour Party MP for Pembroke South East (Constituency 21) between December 2012 and August 2020, and the former chairman of the joint select committee considering the establishment of a living wage

Rolfe Commissiong was the Progressive Labour Party MP for Pembroke South East (Constituency 21) between December 2012 and August 2020, and the former chairman of the joint select committee considering the establishment of a living wage

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Published May 19, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated May 19, 2023 at 7:23 am)

Black economic empowerment

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