By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
GOVERNMENT is mulling over purchasing the Grand Bahama International Airport from owners Hutchinson Port Holdings, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday.
According to Mr D’Aguilar, who has responsibility for airports in the country, Hutchinson seemed “reluctant” to rebuild the airport to its former glory.
As a result, he said buying GBIA would be the “easiest” thing for government to do. However, with 28 airports in the country already straining the public treasury, government may be hard pressed to acquire another facility.
Asked about this, he said a determination would have to be made on how the facility would fund itself.
“Certainly it’s under consideration and that is all I would be prepared to say right now,” Mr D’Aguilar said when asked if government planned to buy the Grand Bahama Airport.
“Hutchinson Ports are the operator of that airport. They have not demonstrated an effort to rebuild that airport to where it was before and they seem somewhat reluctant so the government is considering its options.
“Now buying the airport is the easiest thing. It’s what you do once you get the airport. So right now the focus of the Bahamian people is on Hutchinson Ports to do something with that airport. Once you buy it the focus now shifts to the government of the Bahamas.
He continued: “To rebuild that airport could cost $20m, $30m, (or) $40m. You have to figure out where that money is going to come from. You have to consider who the operator is going to be. You have to consider how that airport makes money.
“So before we spend the money of the people of the Bahamas we have to consider all these things and I don’t think the government wants to be rushed into making that decision. We understand that it is critical to the economy of Grand Bahama. We are sensitive to that but we have to think through the purchase.”
“Everybody is just focus on ‘are you going to buy it?” OK what do you do when you buy it? You can’t just buy it and it just sits there.
“You have got to have a plan and so if we were to agree to buy it we have to work through the plan. As to what is the plan when we acquire it? That’s what we’re looking at right now.”
Asked how government would afford another airport, he said: “The objective is to determine what is going to be the revenue source; how is it going to fund itself and that is what we’re looking at.
“Looking at the business model obviously we look to NAD, the model at the Lynden Pindling International Airport. Clearly they have a lot more traffic than Grand Bahama so we’re trying to figure what is the business model, how does that work.
“You can’t sort of make that decision right on the fly you’ve got to do a lot of research, you’ve got to get all the financials, you’ve got to consider all those things, so are we considering it, yes, but we’re working though all of the proposals and how we would make it work once we acquired it.”