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The airport project and accountability to Parliament


The international airport project at Argyle is so strategically important to our country, restricted as we are in our developmental thrust by the lack of an international airport, that it is popularly felt that the successful construction of such an airport will bring tremendous political returns to whichever party manages to complete it.{{more}}

This perception has many times led the Opposition down a path in which its words and actions could be reasonably construed as being not supportive of the international airport project. On the other hand, the Opposition may feel that it has unfairly been portrayed as being anti-national for taking particular stances in relation to the airport, but given its gyrations where this project is concerned, it must take a lot of the blame. From Day One, given the enormous significance of the project, its economic and developmental importance seemed to play second fiddle to the politics of it all.

After seven long years of work, the airport is now in its final stages of construction and last week, Parliament approved a US$16 million loan to assist with the purchase of equipment, furniture and fixtures for the project.

Regrettably, the Loan Authorization Bill did not obtain the support of the Parliamentary Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition explained that his side of the House would not approve any further loans brought to Parliament, unless the Government provides financial statements relating to the international airport project. We say the outcome is regrettable in that such development projects are best undertaken in an atmosphere of unanimity in the House.

However, the Opposition Leader is correct in insisting on approaches which resonate with transparency and accountability. The international airport project at Argyle is the largest capital project in the history of our country and certainly, it should conform to such principles. Not only is this project consuming a huge amount of scarce resources, it is leaving us with a debt burden which will have to be borne by future generations.

It is therefore not unreasonable to ask that it be subjected to the same level of Parliamentary scrutiny as far lesser projects. The request for full accountability to Parliament, the supreme authority of our land under our Constitution, must be honoured.