As the Territory strives to increase revenues and get things back on track government remains focused on seeing the Terrance B Lettsome International airport extended. In fact the project is continuously being mentioned by Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith as the Territory pushes to return to economic normalcy.
The most recent mention was during the 26 April House of Assembly sitting as the BVI Leader noted that the expanded airport would be essential to the resurgence of the Territory’s tourism product which took a massive hit last year. “Having a functioning airport is key to the recovery and is one of the significant factors that is important in the recovery of our tourism product,” he said.
Hon. Smith disclosed that government is not losing sight of the need to move ahead with the expansion and he stressed that taking a loan to pay for the project is not the funding option being considered: “We also are looking at what we can do to continue to expand our airport. This does not mean that we have to, as we have discussed before, borrow all the money for the airport at one time it means we can do other things like having public private partnerships and other kinds of activities that can get us the money and get us the airport,” he said.
The Premier said that the ultimate goal of his government is to have a functioning airport and better air services to the Territory without having to resort to loan funding.
Earlier in April the Premier provided a glimpse into the behind the scenes move to get the project off the ground by disclosing that talks have commenced. However, Hon. Smith did not divulge who the government was having the conversation with. In fact during the 12 April press conference Hon. Smith told reporters “There are ongoing discussions with persons or groups who are interested [in the airport project].”
Prior to that press conference the BVI Leader told the House of Assembly on 26 March during the debate of the Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act, 2018 that the expansion is linked heavily to the future success of the BVI’s tourism product.
“I think we all know that we need to have the airport expanded. I think we all by now know that if we really want our tourism to take off and be successful; if we want to expand also our financial services we do need an international airport. I know we have been down this road before, but I think it is something we cannot give up on. I think now we understand how we want to do it, we understand the requirement; we need to go forward and have this airport expansion done,” Hon. Smith told the House.
During that discussion the Premier also allayed concerns about the cost of the expansion. “I am not saying that it would be done by loan from government. The preferred way is a public private partnership and I know that this is being explored and I personally am looking forward to this being done,” he added.