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Have Bermudians been left holding the bag? An OpEd from Senator Dr Doug DeCouto, Approved Candidate for Constituency 25, Warwick NE

On Friday, the PLP Government failed the people of Bermuda with yet another demonstration of the PLP’s lack of accountability, lack of forthrightness, and lack of ability. The Fairmont Southampton concession bill is a historic giveaway to the developers that shows that David Burt as Finance Minister allowed himself to be out-negotiated and pressured into caving. You might even say David Burt blinked.

Think of Bermuda as a family that is going through some tight times, financially. The car has broken down and needs to be fixed or replaced so everyone can get to school and work. The head of the household has been sent down to the car dealership to see what can be done – but with a tight budget. They come back with the latest set of wheels, 50% over budget, and with a verbal “promise” for free rustproofing in five years. And cousin, a financial adviser, is shaking her head.

So when the OBA says we support the need for concessions for the hotel, but not for 15 years, we are telling David Burt to take that deal back – and come back with one Bermudians can afford.

Minister Campbell said that “discussions are at a technical and advanced stage” – in that case, why not wait a short while so Bermudians can understand what they’ve been signed up for? Why keep us in the dark? Given that Curtis Dickinson, the PLP MP with the most financial experience and expertise, resigned his position because of this bad deal, why do the other PLP MPs think they know better? Pure arrogance and steamrolling by David Burt.

Much was said by the PLP about the “ownership society” and “profit sharing”. But you know where it doesn’t say that? In the bill that was passed on Friday. Instead, we have empty promises from the same Premier David Burt that gave almost one million dollars to a con artist, and $3.6 million in a no-bid contract to his fin-tech adviser.

We were shown an out of date “letter of intent” that expired in 2020, that gives only 10 years of concessions and a $50 million guarantee. Since then, it’s clear that the developers have managed to pressure David Burt to their advantage, with an unprecedented extra five years of concessions and $25 million more in guarantee.

Speaking about ownership, did you know that the Bermudians will have three times as much at stake in this hotel as the developers? About $300 million in guarantees and giveaways, versus $75 million in investment from the developers. We should have leveraged the fact that the developers have already sunk money into buying this hotel, and have a lot of stake in successfully completing this deal. They need a deal to work just as badly as us.

If David Burt and the PLP Government are serious about an ownership society, they should start with these four items:

1. Reduce government expenses and complete tax reform. Then Bermuda can start digging out of the massive debt hole created by the successive PLP Governments, which is a burden on all of Bermuda’s future owners and taxpayers.

2. Find creative ways to help small businesses and retailers, or those who have invested in homes to create AirBNBs. These Bermudians, who employ many people, and pay for services, are handicapped by taxes, import duties, and an unresponsive Government bureaucracy. For example, let importers defer duty payments until they sell their goods or find ways to open the existing condo market to overseas buyers, instead of giving overseas developers land tax and duty breaks to build condos with the hotel.

3. Fix education to give our future generations the tools to they need to succeed which will enable them to can put their creativity and skills to good use, and take pride in their accomplishments as they build the ownership society.

4. Importantly, shore up the social safety net so those of us who need help, can get it.
But instead, David Burt and the PLP Government have been sweet-talked by the developers, and once again, the PLP has left Bermudians holding the bag.