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Rabain criticises airport deal

Bob Richards, Minister of Finance (centre) and Martin Zablocki, president and CEO of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, sign the Airport Development Agreement. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An independent analysis of the Bermuda Government’s proposal to redevelop the terminal at the LF Wade International Airport lays bare how bad the deal is, according to Diallo Rabain of the Progressive Labour Party.

However, One Bermuda Alliance senators told the Upper House that the report had been commissioned by the Government to identify gaps in the tentative agreement, which yesterday reached phase two of a four-point process.

Senator Rabain said the report showed a government “being led by the Canadian Commercial Corporation telling them what they want to hear, and a minister content to believe it”. He pointed to an unflattering assessment of the project’s value for money, along with various commercial and financial cases, that countered Finance Minister Bob Richards’s depiction of it as the “deal of a lifetime”.

Sen Rabain also pointed out Mr Richards’s warning of the hidden costs associated with public-private partnerships in a 2009 United Bermuda Party Budget reply, when he was Shadow Minister of Finance.

Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, argued in reply that the terms of the report — which follow those of the British Government’s “Green Book” regulations — were far tougher than local financial instructions.

“At no time has Bermuda signed up to the Green Book way of doing business,” Sen Fahy said.

The penalties for Bermuda backing out of the deal would be mild, he added, covering only the costs undertaken thus far. The agreement is only starting at “the value-for-money stage”, the minister said.

The Senate heard that the airport now has 1,359 people working on its premises, with Junior Minister of National Security Jeff Baron hazarding a guess that 1,000 of them were Bermudian.

OBA senator Lynne Woolridge said the aim of the report was to “further the development project — to find out what’s missing”.

The Deloitte report, which was not debated in the House of Assembly, came to the Senate through a take-note motion brought by Sen Rabain.