St. John’s Antigua- The VC Bird International Airport expansion project to construct a new terminal got off the ground yesterday with a sod turning ceremony.
The new facility will be fully air conditioned with modern structures such as elevators, escalators and three jet bridges. It will also include room for 15 duty free shops, two VIP lounges and increased space for immigration and security personnel.
CEO of the Airport Authority Gatesworth James said the terminal will be of international standard.
“I am assured that Antigua will be the beneficiary of a first class airport terminal,” James said.
Meanwhile, Non-Resident Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China David Shoul said loan conditions require full Chinese participation in the construction of the terminal.
However, he said, they have managed to negotiate for a significant use of local workers in the project.
“It is a standard stipulation of 100 per cent Chinese participation in all loan and grant projects done by China. However, we ensured that 30 per cent of the project spending stays in Antigua in the following ways; subcontracting and labour, aggregates and building material, trucking, earth moving equipment, increased container arrivals leading to more container haulage receipts, agreements with the farmers to supply produce daily, consumption expenditure by the workers daily, other living expenses,” Shoul said.
“Question is this harming the interests of the people or safeguarding the interests of the people?” Should queried.
The ambassador also outlined the favourable conditions of the loan secured to construct the terminal.
“Concessional loans always bear interest, we have secured 30 per cent of the total loan amount of US$47 million as interest free. This part has to be repaid only after 15 years with another 15- year extensions. This means we have about US$15million at 30 year maturity at no interest” Should said.
“The remaining US$33million carries a nominal interest rate of 2 per cent and has to be repaid in 20 years with a moratorium of 5 years,” Shoul said.
Labelling the groundbreaking a momentous occasion Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said the opposition succeeded in derailing the project two years ago.
“To those who foolishly criticize our decision to enter into concessionary loan arrangement with the Peoples Republic of China in contrast to borrowing monies at very high market rates for projects like these, I wish to say to them that their arguments lack sound foresight,” Spencer said.
“Were it not for the protestations and constant disapproval coming from the leader of the ALP that the Chinese were working too closely with the government, especially because elections were pending, this airport terminal construction would have started nearly two years ago,” Spencer added.
The prime minister said it was fitting for the groundbreaking to take place during the independence celebrations.
“On the occasion of our 30th anniversary of independence the people of Antigua and Barbuda can be proud that the UPP is delivering on our promise to improve the Antigua & Barbuda airport facilities and services,” Spencer said.
The construction of the terminal is expected to begin next month and be completed by December 2013.