Even though it inherited and took control of the project almost four years ago, the coalition Government has thrown the blame for the delays to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project at the feet of the former Administration.
According to Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson in a statement via his social media account on Monday, the coalition Government is not at fault as it has done its best to make do.
Patterson related that in 2015, the Government had the options of scrapping the project altogether, continuing with the original scope of works but exceeding its budget or downsizing the project to keep within the project cost.
“Cabinet, after deliberations opted for option C – with the guidelines that the contract sum remains at the same level, that the runway be completed to international specifications, the terminal buildings must be able to adequately accommodate the projected passenger increases and that no unnecessary residents of Timehri North be removed,” Patterson said.
Claiming that the absence of preliminary reports hampered the project, Patterson went on to accuse the former Administration of allowing extra sand filling and determining the cost of the sand.
“Thus, the volume of sand filling required moved from 4.4 million cubic metres to 10.1 million cubic metres – this is due to the fact that the South West section is at a lower elevation than the North East. The cost per cubic metre was also determined by my predecessor.”
“The decision to also extend the runway in the South West direction was taken by the then [People’s Progressive Party] PPP Government since 2013. This decision resulted in additional excavation and sand filling,” Patterson claimed.
Even though Patterson said the airport specifications were downgraded to limit cost overruns, Government went to the National Assembly last year to request $346.5 million in supplementary funds towards the purchase and installation of two additional air bridges.
In 2019, taxpayers are expected to hand out even more funds as the project remains in an incomplete state. Minister within the Public Infrastructure Ministry, Annette Ferguson had told the media in January that additional works are still to be carried out on the multi-billion Guyana dollar facility.
In mid-December 2018, Minister Ferguson had revealed that $65 million was approved to be spent on the Airport’s upgrade of its technology which was geared to be able to track the weather, among other aspects.
She had also explained that the new technology will assist pilots in tracking the weather patterns to make better landing decisions as the airport was making the transition from manual to digital. This $65 million was in addition to the $346 million which had been sought earlier in 2018.
According to documents seen by Guyana Times, as of January this year, outstanding works to be completed include the South West runway extension pavement works and sections of the Departure Terminal; namely Immigration, Security Screening, and Duty-Free concessions areas.
Meanwhile, as of January CHEC has been paid US$132 million. When payments to the consultant and local contractors are also factored in, that sum rises to US$142 million. Government’s contract with CHEC expired in December of last year.
In 2012, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Guyana secured a US$138 million loan from the China Exim (Export-Import) Bank to fund the expansion and modernisation project, for which the Guyana Government was slated to inject some US$12 million.
Upon completion, the Airport is expected to have four air passenger boarding bridges for arrivals and departures; a 450-seat departure area, escalators and elevators in addition to an extended runway catering for larger categories of aircraft.
However, the extension of works into 2019 comes in disparity to an earlier commitment by Government where it committed that the works associated with the expansion would have been completed by the last quarter of 2018. Initially, the project was scheduled to be completed within 32 months of its commencement in 2013. Later on, officials were optimistic of the project being completed by 2017.
The A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change, when in opposition, had cut the funds the then PPP Government had allocated for the CJIA expansion.
Attempts to contact former Public Works Minister, Robeson Benn to comment on the issue proved futile.