The following Op-Ed was released by Progressive Labour Party MP Anthony Richardson, C7 and embargoed until embargoed to 8am Monday, March 28, 2022…

The Progressive Labour Party is delivering on our promise to get Bermudians back to work with the Agreement in Principle (‘The Agreement’) announced by the Premier and Minister of Finance on Friday. The Agreement between the Bermuda Government and Westend Properties Ltd to redevelop the Fairmont Southampton property represents an inward investment in excess of $200 million! It is expected to create 650 direct jobs during the redevelopment phase of this iconic property. Following the hotel’s re-opening for guests, which is planned for the late summer of 2023, 800 are anticipated to be created.

The Agreement is a major step forward on the road to Bermuda’s Economic Recovery and is a reason for hope and celebration. The refurbishment of Bermuda’s largest hotel means additional beds, which will boost airlift to Bermuda and will benefit not just the Fairmont Southampton, but other hotels as well. Additionally, the hotel’s reopening will enable the return of large group business that we have not been able to attract due to this property’s closure. Group travel will be a major boost to the island’s broader tourism industry.

As significant and exciting as the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton is, jobs alone are not enough to create the wealth-building opportunities needed to close racial wealth divides. There must also be investment opportunities.

The wealth gap between the two Bermudas did not result from a lack of labour or failure to work hard. Instead, it came from a lack of financial capital and denial of access to wealth-building opportunities. Historically Black Bermudians were unable to accrue wealth due to enslavement and, following emancipation, discriminatory laws and practices that routinely undercut wages or denied employment and investment opportunities.

The legacy of legislation and practices designed to advantage a minority of the population has resulted in the present circumstances of financial inequity for the majority of our population. Those practices, sometimes encoded in law, resulted in wealth gaps between the two communities that remain today and have been unfortunately exacerbated by the global pandemic. Legislation helped create the wealth gap, and legislation will help close it!!

The PLP has listened to the concerns expressed by Bermudians who wonder why they do not have the opportunity to invest their own hard-earned money in government-supported projects in their country. In the Agreement, we turned that desire into a reality by enabling Bermudians to invest in this project. The PLP is committed to providing more avenues for local investment to ensure that Bermuda becomes a nation of owners. This Agreement is the first instance of the PLP keeping that election promise.

As an added benefit to those who may not be able to invest in the redevelopment, the Agreement negotiated by the PLP Government provides for profit sharing from the hotel’s operations. The PLP Government will pledge the proceeds of this profit sharing to the Bermuda Trust Fund on behalf of the people of Bermuda. In our 2020 Election Platform we pledged to: “Create a national fund called the Bermuda Trust Fund that will provide financial reparations to economically disadvantaged Bermudians to reduce generational income inequality. This fund will be seeded by economic investors in Bermuda who can invest directly into the Bermuda Trust Fund.”

With this significant project, the opportunity for Bermudians to invest in the redevelopment, and profit sharing to go to the Bermuda Trust Fund, we are fulfilling our promises by advancing our economic recovery while creating a nation of owners. The PLP will continue to invest in our people who will, in turn, invest in their country, secure in the knowledge that the sacrifices of today will result in more financial opportunities and the closing of the wealth gap in the future. This Agreement delivers hundreds of jobs and additional benefits for future generations; and I’m proud to be a part of a Government that has a transformational vision for the future and is delivering on that vision.

PLP MP Anthony Richardson, C7 Hamilton South