Public Service Minister, Doctor Ubaldus Raymond, has defended the decision to borrow $100 million to redevelop Hewanorra International Airport (HIA).
He told reporters this week that he was aware of concerns over the borrowing of the money.
“Let me make it clear that this amount will not put any pressure on the existing debt servicing of the government,” the minister stated.
“It is a guarantee that the government is taking on behalf of the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports Authority,” the former minister in the ministry of finance explained.
He asserted that while the loan will add to the debt stock, it will not add to the debt servicing.
“What I man by that is that the government has already allocated $US 35 per passenger to undertake the financing of this borrowing,” he told reporters.
According to Raymond, the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports Authority would be operating the HIA as opposed to the previous arrangement of the previous administration.
He disclosed that under that arrangement, the former government was actually giving up the operations of the facility for 30 years.
“We believe that the Saint Lucia Air and Seaports Authority management is capable of operating our airport and we are capable of financing the upgrade,” Raymond stated.
As such, he expressed the view that there was no need to go outside of Saint Lucia and give up the airport, its management, profitability and everything that belongs to HIA to an international agency to operate.
Raymond recalled that the HIA was last upgraded upgraded 25 years ago.
He pointed out that the airport currently cannot handle the number of visitors it gets.
According to Raymond, in 1993 the number of visitors passing through the Vieux Fort-based HIA was some 200,000.
He observed that to date, the number has doubled.
Raymond told reporters that the upgrade is also necessary to bring the airport in line with international standards.
Upgrade of the airport is slated to begin early in 2019 , with the goal of having the facility fully operational by the end of 2020.
The airport redevelopment will include the construction of a new terminal building equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, restaurants, shops and executive lounges, and the conversion of the old terminal to accommodate fixed-based operators.