Jason Hayward stands by claims that former finance minister ‘failed’ to close Gencom deal
A government minister has said he stands by comments that former finance minster Curtis Dickinson failed to get the Fairmont Southampton deal past the finishing line.
During the debate on the deal with Gencom in the House last month, Mr Dickinson said: "We are committed to giving someone more than $100 million without understanding what more is to come. What is the rush? Why are we doing this now?"
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, responded: "Why are we doing this now? Because we have waited for far too long for the former Minister of Finance to close this deal, and he was unable to do so."
At the time his comments were widely interpreted as being a criticism of Mr Dickinson, who had earlier resigned over the issue.
Pressed for the first time since the remarks on whether this was an insulting comment to make about the former finance minister from his own party, Mr Hayward said that his assessment had been “a factual statement”.
Asked if Mr Dickinson might have rejected a deal because of his concerns about the wider financial implications of the proposals, Mr Hayward said: “You could speculate as to why, but the statement stands.”
At an event last week highlighting government plans aimed at reducing youth unemployment, the minister was asked whether he would agree that Mr Dickinson had been widely considered as the most effective Progressive Labour Party finance minister in the past decade.
Mr Hayward said: “You are asking me questions that are way outside the parameters of this particular interview, which is the youth employment strategy and as a result of that I will not provide an answer.”
Mr Dickinson quit the Cabinet in a shock resignation just before he was due to deliver the February 25 Budget after a bust-up with David Burt, the Premier, regarding plans to give Gencom generous guarantees.
The Premier took over the finance brief and pushed through Parliament tax concessions to the hotel complex developers of between $121 million and $133 million over 15 years.
The move, strongly attacked by Mr Dickinson, also included the Government giving a guarantee of $75 million, representing 21 per cent of the revised costs of the project of $376 million.
Mr Dickinson said the legislation had failed to provide sufficient detail when, with the $75 million guarantee thrown in, it could run up to $180 million.
He added that the cost could run still higher, with a potential for further incremental costs on the project.
He said there was a risk that other developers such as St Regis could approach the Government for retroactive relief because of the Fairmont deal, and said the Government was "flying blind" on the real costs.
He said: "Given the Government's fiscal position, the proposed legislation is too generous.“