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Ports and Infrastructure Minister Stephenson King has said that although some sections of society have recommended that government close the George F. L. Charles Airport (GFLCA), he is not in support of such a move.
“Based on most studies done on Saint Lucia’s airports, there were no compelling reasons to close the George F. L. Charles Airport ,” King said on a television programme on Wednesday.
As a matter of fact, the minister said most of these reports, recommend improving the Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) and privatising GFLCA.
Persons have been questioning whether government should continue to operate two airports, given the fact that plans are in place to possibly redevelop HIA, making it both a regional and international airport.
However, King said, “George F.L.Charles Airport has served this country in many ways.”
Should the government move to make HIA the main airport, the minister said a road linking Vieux Fort to the North of the island should be constructed.
This will reduce the time that persons spend travelling from the airport to elsewhere in the country.
Meanwhile, King noted that the previous administration had sought the assistance of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Canadian government, to look at redeveloping the HIA.
However, he said that the new government will have to study the IFC’s evaluation and recommendations, as well as other development options to determine a way forward.
The Kenny Anthony government was in the process of entering into a Build, Own, Lease, Transfer (BOLT) arrangement or Public Private Partnership (PPP), with a company, to assist with the redevelopment of HIA.
Under this model, an experienced private company would finance the initiative and operate the airport for a finite period of time under the supervision of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority, which would retain regulatory and monitor oversight, share in the revenues and retain ownership of the facility after 30 years.
But while in opposition, the United Workers Party had said it will not support the HIA Redevelopment Project.
Former Works Minister Guy Joseph had described the project as the “worst conceived” by any government of the region, while emphasizing that there are no direct benefits to be derived from this arrangement.