Wednesday, August 10, 2022

HIA Redevelopment: Opposition Leader Urges SLP Government To Follow Economic Science

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Press Release:-  The Office of the Leader of the Opposition notes with interest the announcement from the Office of the Prime Minister, the appointment of a committee to review the financing of the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) redevelopment project.

It is disappointing that the SLP continues to perpetuate a false narrative about the financing arrangements for the HIA even whilst in government.

Firstly the US authorities have never investigated any St. Lucian government minister as it relates to the HIA redevelopment project. What we do know however, is that a current St. Lucia government minister has been investigated by the U.S., and continues to be categorized as a “person of interest”.

This is an issue which the SLP had warned about, yet have chosen to include this very same person in their current Cabinet of Ministers.

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It is also interesting to note that Allison Jean, who was the Deputy Chairperson of the Board of Directors of SLASPA between 2006 and 2011, has now been appointed as the chairperson of this review committee. T

his is the same Board of Directors which selected and recommended the consortium headed by A&M to then Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Stephenson King during his 2007-2011 tenure. 

The Board of SLASPA maintained their position regarding the financing arrangement during Stephenson King’s 2016-2021 tenure as the Minister of Ports. It is very interesting that Stephenson King, who continues to hold the position as Minister of Ports under the current administration, would support the establishment of a committee to review a decision that both he and Allison Jean were publicly in full support of.

The SLP in their continued attempts to attribute corruption to former the UWP government must themselves be more transparent and accountable with the citizens of St Lucia. They must explain why an investigation into five former Ministers of Government during the Stephenson King administration, (two of whom now sit in their Cabinet), was never revealed to the public.

The people of St Lucia must also be told why US$1 million was spent on the resultant report, and why the findings were withheld. Who does this report implicate? The findings of this report should be disclosed in full to the people of St Lucia.

More importantly, the SLP must stop the charade with regard to the financing of HIA. If they understood and genuinely cared about the viability of this airport project, the collection of the head tax in 2012 would never have been stopped, forgoing over $150 million in revenue.

The financing for the airport redevelopment comes from the same source (the airport redevelopment tax) whether via loan or PPP. The only difference between the two options is the amount of the redevelopment tax and the length of time for repayment.

Under the current agreement (by the UWP government) the redevelopment tax is US$35 per person and would take 15 years to repay the loan provided by the Government of Taiwan. The mechanism that the SLP proposed was a head tax of $55-60 for 30 years paid to the private developer.

Under the current mechanism, SLASPA is the executing agency. The loan from Taiwan is for 20 years with a five-year moratorium at an interest rate capped at 4%. There is a second loan from a regional consortium of banks under the same terms, and a third loan from the World Bank for 40 years at 0.5% interest with a ten-year moratorium. This is in comparison to a 30-year PPP agreement at 6% interest proposed by the current government.

While we will not question the individual capabilities of the persons appointed to the review committee, we must question its true intent as the facts are very transparent and simple to analyze. The SLP government must follow its own advice: follow the science.

Again, we remind the SLP that in this case they must follow the economic science and not continue to practice solely the political science.

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.

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