Misinformation and partisan politics are, unfortunately, clouding the beneficial Public-Private Partnership (PPP) proposal being undertaken for the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
This was the view expressed by Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins, as she delivered a forceful rebuttal to Senator Caswell Franklin on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, during debate on the Grantley Adams International Airport (Transfer of Management and Vesting of Assets) Amendment Bill 2021.
Responding to Franklin’s queries around the transparency of the process that will see a college of negotiators leading the GAIA through negotiations with the International Financial Corporation (IFC), and whether no local group could be found or trained to manage the airport, Senator Cummins outlined the terms of the publicly available criteria being used to find prospective bidders.
She said it was not a matter of overlooking local talent but finding companies with the experience in managing such investments.
“This is transfer of management and assets, yes, but this has nothing to do with management skills or hiring young people who just came back from the university and sending them on a six-month course. If I were to read from the criteria, they were technical criteria, financial criteria, and it allowed us to figure out and attract the bidders,” Senator Cummins explained.
“It set legal, technical and financial criteria. Under the technical criteria, the prospective bidder, or if the prospective bidder is a consortium, the airport operator member shall demonstrate that it operates on a stand-alone basis or as part of a joint venture or consortium, or that one of its affiliates operates on an active basis landside and airside, at least one international airport of no less than 4 million passengers per year for the last five years continually.”
She added that “the prospective bidder, same as the above, shall demonstrate experience in the development, design, engineering, procurement, and construction of airport infrastructure construction projects during the past 10 years, with the aggregate construction value of not less than US$150 million allocated across a maximum of three airports.”
The Tourism Minister emphasized that the entire process had not only been transparent from the outset, but Barbadians were never going to lose their full ownership of the island’s lone international airport, despite comments made to the contrary.
“The Government of Barbados remains the sole shareholder of 100 per cent of the shares of the asset that we called Grantley Adams International Airport. What we are doing, however, even if it’s called for the purposes of this Bill the transfer and management of assets, we are attracting an investor in the Grantley Adams International Airport for the purpose of facilitating its expansion, its transformation, its upgrading, and as the first line in the bidder’s invitation speaks to, creating new routes in partnership with the Government of Barbados to expand the airlift capacity for Barbados the country,” Cummins stressed.
She added, in response to queries about why GAIA was still not considered a Category 1 airport, that the facility still lacked the international requirements needed for such a rating.
Cummins said the proposed Civil Aviation Authority will play an important role in the airport achieving Category 1 status.
“There is something under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) called critical elements. Those critical elements were reviewed last in 2019 when we determined Barbados was not yet in the position to go into the next ICAO audit because we would not have met the requirements.
“We had issues with our compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization audits at the air safety level. In order for Barbados to attain Category 1 status, Barbados must have and promulgate a comprehensive aviation law, consistent with the size and complexity of the state’s aviation activity. That is the basis on which the Civil Aviation Authority and the legislation which I referred to earlier is being drafted, to facilitate the creation of a civil aviation authority,” Cummins explained. (SB)