The government of Barbados has rubbished media reports that it intends selling the country’s sole airport, saying that its words about the facility have been misunderstood.
The Minister of Tourism, Kerrie Symmonds, said the government was only seeking a private-public partnership to run the Grantley Adams International Airport.
“I tend to attribute to ignorance those things that other people would attribute to malice…So, when I read in sections of the press that the airport is for sale, I say to myself, ‘That can’t be malice, that must be a case of people don’t understand’. So, I want to make it abundantly clear now,” Symmonds said at the launch of two new gates and waiting areas at the airport Monday.
The minister had said two weeks earlier that it was necessary to seek a worldwide tender as Barbados lacked the technical knowledge for such an initiative, reports Caribbean360.
He disclosed this during the launch of a project to rehabilitate the airport’s pavement and expand its near 40-year-old terminal. Symmonds, at the time, added that the government would need help to develop the airport as it lacked the necessary funds.
“It is known that we intend to work with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is essentially the private sector arm of the World Bank and the world’s leading developmental institution, to give us the kind of technical expertise because Barbados does not possess it in a matter of this nature,” he said then.
These comments sparked the sale controversy, thus, the minister, during Monday’s ceremony gave further explanations about the development of the facility.
“This partnership will see us find, by way of an international bidding process, a partner who will invest some money into this airport, who will design, who will construct, who will build and will operate for a period of 20 to 30 years. This will be done so that the entity can get a return on his or her investment, and then at the end of that period, they will hand the operational control of the airport back to the Government and the people of Barbados,” he explained.
The bidding process for the partnership will begin in a few months, said the minister, adding that plans to work with the IFC have advanced.
“I do not think I can make myself any clearer. There is no parting with the land. What we are doing is recognizing that for too long this place has needed substantial capital injection, for too long we have failed to recognize our maximum potential… This entire process may take us 10 to 14 months depending on how nimble we are” he said.
Located in Seawell, Christ Church, the Grantley Adams International Airport was formally called Seawell Airport before it was dedicated posthumously in honour of the first Premier of Barbados, Sir Grantley Herbert Adams in 1976.
The airport is the only designated port of entry for persons arriving and departing by air in Barbados and it also serves as a hub for the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. It has direct service to destinations in the United States, Central America, Canada, and Europe