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Opposition relieved there’s no sale tag on airport

by Randy Bennett
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Opposition Leader Reverend Joseph Atherley says he hopes the day never comes when Government has to sell the Grantley Adams International Aiport (GAIA).

Speaking during debate on the Grantley Adams International Airport (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Parliament Tuesday, Atherley said he was relieved to hear Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds reiterate that while the airport would be leased to an international entity it would remain the property of the people of Barbados.

Atherley said he was in full agreement with some of the GAIA’s operations being privatized as it was the right way to go.

However, he said it was left to be seen whether Government would continue to maintain ownership of the country’s lone airport.

“The minister was very clear to state that there is no intention to privatize the airport. He repeated it and repeated it and repeated it…he has made it clear that that is not the intention of this Government and I accept that. But I know that the exigencies of time and the circumstances in which small developing economies now find themselves can bring complete about-turns in policy. But we take it at his word that there is no attempt to privatize fully the airport,” Atherley said.

“When one thinks of our debt trajectory, when one thinks of our developmental infrastructure, projections going forward with reference to the airport and outside of the airport, the question really has to be asked whether Government will be able to escape the need to privatize the airport. We have seen the day dawn in Barbados more than once when Governments found themselves faced with such straitened circumstances that they sold the family treasure…I pray the day perhaps will not dawn that that has to be.”

The Opposition Leader also queried whether Government would be required to invest money in the GAIA.

He said if so, Barbadians should be told how much.

“What is the level of Government investment which might be occasioned even when we move to adopt the privatization approach of some elements of the operation? Is there any element of complementary investment that the State will have to find and input to get us where we want to be?

“Those questions are relevant when Barbados struggles to find the pockets and the capacity of its pockets to do what needs to be done. Therefore, I raise that not simply because I want to use words. If we are going to privatize operations in any of our port facilities and award contracts to companies, what level of complementary investment input is expected from Government and can we afford that?” Atherley questioned. (RB)

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