By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government has secured the funding needed to complete work on four Family Island airports, Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar announced yesterday, adding that the total cost of the projects is expected to be about $175 million.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the Freetown MP said the airport developments will take place on the islands of Exuma, Long Island, Eleuthera and Abaco.
While he did not give a timeline as to when the projects will be completed, Mr D’Aguilar said officials have secured funding from a local financial institution while also using funds from the Inter-American Development Bank.
He said: “We expect that these four projects will cost approximately $175 million with $32 million coming from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and remaining $143 million coming from a wide array of local investors via Royal Fidelity.
“Mr Speaker, the $140 million that has been secured from Royal Fidelity is a non-recourse transaction to the government of The Bahamas, ie, this debt will be financed by the projects’ cash flow and will not be an obligation of the government of The Bahamas and not reflected on the balance sheet of the government of The Bahamas.
“Mr Speaker, the local financial institution will source its funding from as many investors as it can and I have been advised that there is a high degree of interest in these Family Island airport projects. So, I remain hopeful that the necessary funding will be secured to make these airports to a reality and bring to the Family Islands the investment that they need and want to make these critically needed airports a reality.”
Outlining the government’s re-development plans for each of the aforementioned islands, the minister noted that plans are underway to construct a new airport on Exuma, Deadman’s Cay, Long Island and North Eleuthera.
As it relates to Abaco, he said critical post Hurricane Dorian repairs will be made to Leonard M Thompson Airport in Marsh Harbour to improve the terminal building and rebuild the Air Traffic Control tower and the General Services Building.
He also noted that other construction projects are in the pipeline for several other airports including the Great Harbour Cay Airport in the Berry Islands and the Treasure Cay airport in Abaco.
Yesterday, he also gave an update on the government’s negotiations with Hutchison Port Holdings concerning Grand Bahama International Airport, which sustained damage during Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
He said the government is “on the cusp” of acquiring the Grand Bahama airport and added that upon acquisition, officials will seek to invest over $1 million in the first instance and will then look to public private partnerships (PPPs) to fund further developments.
He said: “The Grand Bahama International Airport has been the victim of a number of weather events which has motivated the current owner, Hutchison Ports, to express a desire to offload this asset. The government will purchase the property for a nominal price and establish a legal construct where they are not obligated to pay any amount to the Port Authority in fees.
“The government will then hire a consultant to advise it on how best to redevelop that airport given the high probability of another weather event impacting that airport.”
He also said: “Mr. Speaker, it makes no sense to me to build back the same type of airport - close to the ground - and not at least, consider quite seriously the impact of hurricanes and flooding on that facility. It has happened twice in recent memory so we must consider how to make that airport more resilient when we contemplate its redevelopment.
“Upon acquisition, the government of The Bahamas plans to invest approximately $1.5 million in capital improvements to the airport facility in the short-term, and then, after receiving a report from the consultants on the way forward, enter into a PPP to redevelop this airport.”