Fate of CJIA expansion in limbo

The fate of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion is in limbo as it is unclear where government will find the resources to continue the project in the wake of the 2013 budgetary cuts by the opposition. However, a sum of US$20 million had earlier been advanced to the contractor China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) for mobilisation and this continues.

Minister of Works  Robeson Benn had told this newspaper that the government would hold meetings to try and persuade the opposition to support the projects and approve the allocations in the amount of $5 billion in the National Assembly.

Benn said that the contractor is already on the ground and mobilising on the basis of the US$20 million voted in the national budget of 2012.

A plane on the ground at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri (Stabroek News file photo)
A plane on the ground at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri (Stabroek News file photo)

“Those meetings are underway,” said Benn yesterday evening when asked for an update on the progress of the project. He said that some members of the opposition had an opportunity to listen to a presentation yesterday at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport on the merits of the airport project and this is going to continue. He said that the presentation was not an exhaustive or conclusive one.

“We are going to have further discussion and we are going to pursue the meetings with the opposition,” said Benn. The opposition cut the entire sum allocated in 2013 for the CJIA expansion during the consideration of the 2013 budget estimates. The rest of the Air Transport Programme budget, which included a $26.33 million final payment to the European Union for the Ogle Airport Aerodrome was also cut.

Following these cuts, the opposition had made overtures indicating it was willing to consider the allocations provided the government made the plans for addressing a number of outstanding concerns available, such as the residents in the area, the Guyana Defence Board base and the Guyana Prison Service facility.

In April a number of business stakeholders at the airport made an appeal to the opposition for the restoration of the cuts to finance the project, citing not only the fact that their businesses could suffer but also that the fate of the country was involved if the airport was not expanded. The affected stakeholders who appealed for the restoration of the money included Caribbean Airlines, Amerijet, Roraima Airways, various ground handling businesses and operators of restaurants and eateries.

Speaking to Stabroek News, member of the Alliance For Change (AFC) David Patterson said that the presentation on the details of the expansion was not a full presentation per se but a few PowerPoint slides over breakfast. “We were eating breakfast and they showed some slides. We then recommended that they make a full presentation at a later date. As of now our position on the project remains the same,” he said.

Member of Parliament for APNU Joseph Harmon said that their concern relates to the relocation of the residents of Timehri North. He said that the government is yet to approach this aspect of the project with any seriousness and he wants it to pay attention to the standards that the Inter-American Development Bank applies to the projects they fund with regard to the relocation of persons.

Harmon also expressed concern over aspects of design changes which he said will have some financial impact on the project.

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