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Government seeking US$ 5m more for international airport

Government seeking US$ 5m more for international airport

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The Government has been accused of being “reckless” in the management of funds following the presentation to Parliament this week of a Bill to authorize an additional EC$13 million (US$5 million) to assist in financing the construction of the {{more}}Argyle international airport.

Last Tuesday, August 4, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves presented the Economic Diversification Loan Authorization Bill before Parliament to authorize Government to take a soft loan from Republic of China on Taiwan.

During his contribution to the debate, Opposition member for Central Kingstown St Clair Leacock said that after the previous allocation of $208 million from the Consolidated Fund in 2013 towards completing the Argyle airport, he had predicted that the Prime Minister would come back to Parliament for more money.

“Well, true to my word, he has come again, and will come again! This is no way to run a business.”

MP for the Northern Grenadines Dr Godwin Friday pointed out that the proposed loan is in addition to amounts that Parliament has already allocated to this project, which was initially projected to have been completed by now.

“We get the impression when the PM speaks… that we ought to forget all that has gone before and all that was promised before,” lamented Friday. “The people of this country are, quite frankly, tired of hearing promises about the airport being opened and nothing is happening!”

In his presentation, the Prime Minister explained that the soft loan – which the Taiwanese government has already agreed to – is necessary because “…some resources that were to come from monies which we had approved in respect of the sale of lands, we have not received all of those resources as yet.”

The PM said that in particular, the issue regarding difficulties between developers in Canouan had held up some monies to be received from the sale of lands on the Grenadine island.

“We are nearing completion and we need to have all the resources in hand to make sure the work is being done as the management of the IADC (International Airport Development Company) had planned for it to be concluded.”

Friday, who referred to the completion of the airport as a “scam,” said this new request for funding worries him “deeply” because it is taxpayers who will ultimately have to pay for it.

“The cost of the airport is not just in the borrowing cost, it’s like a sucking sound, like everything else in the economy is being funnelled into this one project.”

Friday also asserted that the Prime Minister’s presentation of the Bill was so vague that it left him with no confidence whatsoever that the project would be completed this year or the next.

“We hearing all these promises… all these requests… and we are simply just to accept it when we have a track record of broken promises… I don’t accept anything they say about this airport anymore.”

Leacock noted that when Parliament passed the Supplementary Appropriation (No. 4) Act of 2013 (authorizing Government to spend $208 million towards completion of the airport), the Prime Minister’s language had been “more affirmative” and “positive”.

Leacock said that now, however, the Prime Minister’s language was “vague”, and he was using misleading language in the titling of the Bill.

“What a web we are weaving… You are the ones who are shifting the goal posts!”

Leacock said that in speaking to engineer Glen Stewart, he has surmised that the airport will end up costing over a billion dollars.

He further said that he will support the soft loan, but it will be against his better judgment.

“It doesn’t mean I can’t… look across there [at the Prime Minister] and say you have been reckless and irresponsible!”

Accusing the Government of using “clever politics” on the issue, Friday chided them for neglecting other sectors that he opined were in dire need of attention.

“It’s as though you have a Government that could only do one project at a time – they could only build an airport… the roads are in the worst shape since you had donkey cart riding about the country.”

In June 2013, Parliament passed a supplementary Appropriation Bill to sanction payments of EC$208 million from the Consolidated Fund, to be used towards completing the airport.

The bill, Supplementary Appropriation (no. 4) Act of 2013, allocated over $204 million towards airport construction and $3.5 million for additional funds to meet debt services costs associated with new borrowings. (JSV)

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