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GAIA private sector move ‘a go’

Gercine Carter

GAIA private sector move ‘a go’
Grantley Adams International Airport. (FILE)

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Government is moving ahead with plans to put the management of Grantley Adams International Airport into private sector hands.

However, Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerry Symmonds has again stressed the airport is not being sold.

The Grantley Adams International Airport Transfer of Management and Vesting of Assets (Amendment) Bill, 2021, tabled by Symmonds in the House of Assembly last Tuesday, is designed to provide for the airport to be contracted to licensed operators for its management and maintenance.

The former Minister of Tourism and International Transport said the intention was to maximise the potential of the airport as Government sought to “embrace the idea of the visitor economy” and create opportunities to increase the non-aeronautical revenue.

Noting the tourism sector was the main driver of the economy, he said: “Government generally feels that if we are to realise the maximum potential of that sector . . . we must be positioning ourselves as early as now to be able to maximise the potential returns that can be offered by that sector.”

Symmonds also told the House the decision to find a private operator for the airport to expand and upgrade it as well as increase its viability, was made by the Barbados Labour Party administration early in this term of office.

He said the services of the International Finance Corporation, a division of the World Bank, would be utilised “with a view to securing their technical advice, their professional expertise and their wealth of experience in matters related to private/public partnerships which could be forged so as to ensure we were able to expand the [airport] and make it a more modern aerodrome more fit for purpose”.

The intention, he added, was to carry out the reform and improvements “within a concessionary structure”, with bidding being opened worldwide and a 30-year lease being offered to the successful bidder.

The proposed operational strategy would also include entrepreneurial business opportunities at the airport for Barbadians, Symmonds pointed out.

However, he said the COVID-19 pandemic had forced Government to revisit the structure of the original transaction.

The minister said the amended legislation would provide for the transfer of the aerodrome certificate (the legal document required by the Federal Aviation Authority for the operation of the airport), since there was currently no legal provision in Barbados for that transfer to be done. (GC)