Opinion

A tired exercise in doublespeak

  • Thumbs down: Chris Furbert gets a failing grade from Sylvan Richards for the ambiguity of his protestations about the airport project (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Sylvan Richards

In his submission to the Blue Ribbon Panel, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert admitted that Bermuda needed a new airport, but then declared that “if it should result in any cost to the taxpayer, the answer is no”.

The question, therefore, becomes: how can a new airport terminal be built without cost? It is impossible and Mr Furbert knows that. Therefore, he was against the project on principle; the principle being a political one.

In addition, you cannot reasonably expect lenders to lend more than $250 million over 25 years without certainty that the terms of the contract will be faithfully followed. Therefore, there can be no variations to the contract or else it could result in “an event of default”.

Mr Furbert then compared the One Bermuda Alliance’s airport deal to the Progressive Labour Party’s hospital wing. It must be noted that the big difference between the two is that the PLP government guaranteed the hospital wing, while the OBA government did not guarantee the airport deal. The airport deal had to stand on its own.

Mr Furbert said “the hospital is not government” and that the public-private partnership was done by the Bermuda Hospitals Board and not the PLP government. The hospital is owned 100 per cent by the Government, is paid more than $140 million a year by the Government and is, therefore, part of the government sector.

The airport and the hospital are therefore both owned by the Government, so in that respect they are the same. However, the significant difference between both deals is that the hospital wing’s P3 was guaranteed by the PLP government and forms part of ongoing official government obligations.

In contrast, the new airport will receive no money from the Government for the next 30 years, and the debt is not guaranteed by the Government. Therefore, it does not form part of the Government’s official obligations. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges.

Mr Furbert also said that the airport was privatised while the hospital was not. Yet a minute before, he also stated that, “a P3 is a P3,” again implying that they are the same, ie, comparing apples to apples.

The airport deal and the hospital wing cannot, at the same time, be the same and different. Mr Furbert contradicted himself.

The OBA released information on this contract that, under normal circumstances, would have never been put into the public domain. The same cannot be said of the hospital P3.

The Premier has twice promised to release an unredacted P3 hospital contract. To date, those promises remain unfulfilled.

Sylvan Richards is the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs and the Environment, and the MP for Hamilton South (Constituency 7)