There are absolutely no plans to sell the Grantley Adam International Airport. This assurance comes from Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds, who charges that some members of the public as well as sections of the media, have misconstrued his recent announcement that Government was seeking a private public partnership to run the facility.
The minister, who was speaking at the launch of two new gates and waiting areas at the airport this afternoon, expressed hope that the misinformation was as a result of “ignorance” and not “malice.”
“I tend to attribute to ignorance those things that other people would attribute to malice . . . . So, when I read in sections of the press that the airport is for sale, I say to myself ‘that can’t be malice that must be a case of people don’t understand’. So, I want to make it abundantly clear now,” said Symmonds.
The minister was referring to comments made at the Caribbean Development Bank’s Wildey headquarters, two weeks ago during the launch of a project to rehabilitate the airport’s pavement and expand its near 40-year-old terminal.
He said at the time that it was necessary to seek a worldwide tender as Barbados did not possess the technical knowledge for such an initiative. Government, he added, was also not in a financial position to develop the airport on its own and would therefore need assistance.
“It is known that we intend to work with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is essentially the private sector arm of the World Bank and the world’s leading developmental institution, to give us the kind of technical expertise because Barbados does not possess it in a matter of this nature,” he said then.
This evening, in order to clarify Government’s position, Symmonds went into greater detail about the nature of the private partnership being sought. “This partnership will see us find, by way of an international bidding process, a partner who will invest some money into this airport, who will design, who will construct, who will build and will operate for a period of 20 to 30 years. This will be done so that the entity can get a return on his or her investment, and then at the end of that period, they will hand the operational control of the airport back to the Government and the people of Barbados,” Symmonds explained.
He contended that such a partnership, for which the bidding process could begin in a matter of months, is expected to put Government in a better position to build out the airport to its maximum earning potential, and to realize key upgrades to the facility. He also revealed that the plans to work with IFC were at an advanced stage.
Symmonds added, “I do not think I can make myself any clearer. There is no parting with the land. What we are doing is recognizing that for too long this place has needed substantial capital injection, for too long we have failed to recognize our maximum potential… This entire process may take us 10 to 14 months depending on how nimble we are. Time is of the essence because we want to make sure that the airport is at maximum capacity and has maximum operational efficiency as soon as possible.”