Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Andrew Fahie announced that so far the Government has spent over $13M to remedy the Territory’s airlift issues, but to date there is no improvement.
In a statement issued to the media on 5 June the Leader of the Opposition stressed that he is in favor of development that would improve the airlift capabilities of the BVI. However, Hon. Fahie noted that he is not pleased with the manner in which the Government is going about the BVI Airways plan, and the airport expansion plan.
In noting his displeasure with the current airlift remedial arrangements Hon. Fahie said: “Let me make it abundantly clear to the people of the Virgin Islands that thus far this government has spent $13.2 million cash dollars (not loans) but $13.2 million dollars of tax payers hard-earned money stating that they are trying to address the issues in question where to date a shovel of dirt has not been thrown to extend the airport but over $6million dollars has gone through the door in consultancy…”
“Thus far $7.2 million dollars have been paid outside the schedule of payments in the contract for a plane to fly, but it seems as if a cow may quicker fly over the moon before this service starts; but the $7.2 million dollars has already been paid with reports that alleged that significantly more monies from government will be needed,” he added.
As it relates to the airport expansion project Hon. Fahie pointed out that he still has concerns because the proposals were and still are $153 million dollars and the funding source was not made known to the public or House of Assembly. Additionally, some members of the public are not enthused by the project and are less than jubilant about the suggested Chinese contractors, as well as the high probability of unbudgeted extra costs.
Mr. Fahie noted that his concerns stem from the fact that Government’s ability to repay is not clear. Additionally, he noted that there was no meaningful involvement of the people in any respect directly or indirectly; even though the project has the potential to compromise the social fabric of the Virgin Islands for future generations.
Most concerning, Hon. Fahie said, is the fact that when questions are asked by the Opposition in the House of Assembly about both the plane and the extension of the airport runway, Government gives answers that are similar to those that were provided about the Cruise Pier project. He said the Opposition is being told: “Cannot answer because it will prejudice the position of the negotiations.”
“However we saw how that irresponsible financial conduct stated to the House of Assembly that the needed Cruise Pier Project would cost $51 million dollars, but now we are hearing that it cost an extra $30 million dollars and counting. Between that project and the proposed airlift and runway expansion project we now have spent more than $43.2 million cash dollars of tax payers hard earned dollars without any credible and reliable explanation,” the Leader of the Opposition said.
In further noting his discomfort about the BVI Airways arrangement the Leader of the Opposition stated that the contract Government signed to have direct flights to and from Miami and the BVI, was done without involvement of the public directly or indirectly although prior to the Government’s proposal, one of the local aviation companies attempted to get the government’s support for the same service, but with no success.
“My position, to date, remains the same solely because the government’s approach in addressing the aforementioned issues remains the same. Am I for a credible solution to our airlift problems? The answer is YES! Am I for a credible and cost effective extension of our runway? The answer is YES! But the manner in which is being proposed by the government thus far to address both, is one I cannot support then nor now,” Hon. Fahie said.
The Leader of the Opposition further added: “This is irresponsible financial conduct especially while now seeking millions of dollars in loans to do many infrastructural projects…yes some are needed but how are we going to pay for these with a shrinking revenue base, a struggling economy, coupled with ongoing irresponsible financial conduct? So my stated position a few months ago was based on all these ongoing factors, it was not said in isolation like some want the public to now believe.”