Burt: airport details still being withheld
Opposition MPs are still yet to review the financial model behind the airport development agreement, according to David Burt, leader of the Progressive Labour Party.
“The fact that it continues to be withheld makes me believe they don't want the people to see it,” Mr Burt said, of the item known as schedule 29, which he said would mark “an integral part of Parliament's understanding of the ramifications to this deal”.
The Project Agreement for the new terminal at LF Wade International Airport was first released to MPs on January 29, with Mr Burt on that occasion criticising the non-disclosure of details, including the financial model.
A debate looms in Parliament this Friday on the creation of the Bermuda Airport authority, as well as the concessions required for the development. That debate was postponed from last week by Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, to give MPs more time to examine the agreement.
The two Acts were first scheduled for debate on December 2, when protests stopped Parliament from proceeding, and a heavy police presence accompanied last Friday's session, when the House of Assembly resumed with the airport legislation passed over.
Mr Burt said yesterday that he had been informed by the minister that “the information is confidential” — despite the financial model contained in schedule 29 being referenced at several points in the Project Agreement.
The Royal Gazette was unable to reach Mr Richards, who is overseas, for clarification.
However, the minister told ZBM that divulging the financial model would not put MPs in any better position to assess the project's value for Bermuda — and said that the information contained in the model was “not Government's to give”.
Mr Richards said the model covered the “basic internal calculations” of Bermuda Skyport Corporation, the entity that would operate the new airport terminal.
“It's not owned by Government,” the minister added.
A town hall meeting has been called 7pm today by the PLP, with the project to be discussed with the public at Dellwood Middle School — at which Mr Burt will join a panel including Shadow Minister for Transport Lawrence Scott.
The Opposition leader declined to discuss any direction to his MPs in anticipation of Friday's debate, saying 24 hours added up to a long time in politics. “We're going to remain in the same place we were in the run-up to December 2,” he said, referring to the last time the Acts were set for debate.
“If we have a public-private partnership, that means MPs should be aware of how much the private partner stands to profit by way of transferring revenues.”
The minister has stated in the past that the partner company would be able to divide revenues for the new terminal “50-50” with the Government after recouping an initial dividend of $63 million on the project.
Mr Burt said MPs would be unable to ascertain the Government's responsibility in the matter without seeing in detail “what profits this company is going to make of public assets”.