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Tension over Fairmont Southampton statement led to rift between Burt and Dickinson

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Curtis Dickinson, the former Minister of Finance (File photograph)

A key element of a bust-up between the Premier and his former finance minister was a Government sweetener for a $376 million revamp of the island’s biggest resort, The Royal Gazette understands.

A major source of tension between David Burt and Curtis Dickinson, who quit the finance job days before last week’s Budget was unveiled, is believed to have centred around a “statement of financial position” – a balance sheet for a business project – for the Fairmont Southampton.

An SFP lists the assets, liabilities, and equity of an organisation and provides a financial snapshot.

The statement was among several flashpoints which triggered Mr Dickinson’s shock exit from the Cabinet.

Mr Burt said this week Mr Dickinson had agreed a $50 million guarantee to owners Gencom for the Fairmont Southampton in 2019.

Mr Burt wrongly added he had said that in last Friday’s Budget statement.

He did make a reference to a 2019 deal, but did not give a figure for the guarantee.

But the Government said in March last year that it had not committed to provide “any form of financial guarantee” for the Fairmont Southampton redevelopment.

The Premier has now insisted that Government support for the hotel revamp was a “national priority” and that “tourism concessions” were needed.

He told the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce Budget Breakfast event yesterday: “There will, undoubtedly, have to be support for the Fairmont Southampton project.

“We know what was agreed in 2019 – an agreement for a $50 million guarantee – that was prior to the pandemic. We know there has been a lot of changes since.

“I view it as a national priority, and I do not believe that there is any single person, whether in international business or tourism, that does not view that as a national priority.

“And what needs to be done is to make sure that the Government is protected. That we are in a good place and we don’t see another Morgan’s Point.

“And I have no doubt that we are able to get there.

Mr Burt added that he did not believe the Government “should be issuing guarantees for private sector projects left, right and centre”.

But he said: “Just as the former government realised, and this government realises, it is difficult to do hotel development in Bermuda.

“And that is the reason why we are going to extend our tourism concessions.

“But, there is going to be development at Fairmont Southampton. And there will be Government support.

“I will not apologise for that because there are 700 jobs and the long term investment we will have inside this country will pay itself off as long as we can get it right.”

David Burt, the Premier (File photograph)

The news came as Kim Wilson, the health minister, said yesterday that the government would manage without Mr Dickinson.

She added: “Curtis Dickinson provided stellar resources to the government and his intellect and his commitment to the government, particularly in the role of Minister of Finance, was very valuable.

“However, the Government continues to operate.”

Zane De Silva, a Progressive Labour Party MP and former tourism minister, took a swing at the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance after it asked why the public had not been told about the $50 million guarantee offer earlier.

Mr De Silva said: “Instead of seeking to undermine and disrupt the delicate and ongoing negotiations between the government and Gencom, I would encourage the OBA to drop the hypocrisy, drop the attacks and get behind making Bermuda's tourism recovery a reality.“

He added: “No guarantee has been finalised to Gencom to facilitate the Fairmont Southampton construction and reopening at this time.

“Negotiations are ongoing but, as a country, we will have to face reality and will have to make some tough choices.”

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Published March 04, 2022 at 9:43 am (Updated March 04, 2022 at 9:43 am)

Tension over Fairmont Southampton statement led to rift between Burt and Dickinson

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