In their online publication, BVI Platinum News published an article titled: “Red Alert – UK Had Deep Concerns about Airport Project”.
While admittedly this article draws attention to a critically important infrastructural project for the future economic growth of the Territory, the context of how the story is written,has undoubtedly casted unfounded doubts and aspersions on the proposed expansion of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport.
THE FACTS ARE THESE!
In a bid to determine exactly what impediments must be overcome and what action must be taken to solve the economically significant problem of airlift and the consequential requirement to expand the airport, the Financial Secretary solicited the assistance of the United Kingdom Treasury (via Infrastructure UK) to provide insight on the way forward. The Financial Secretary also solicited the team’s assistance in evaluating several proposed options for construction and financing that were being investigated by the Government of the Virgin Islands and the consultants supporting it on the project procurement process.
The report was submitted to the Financial Secretary, who as the lead on the procurement process took on the responsibility to ensure that the work subsequent to the receipt of the report addressed the concerns outlined in the report and any others held by the team. This step was important in order toensure that the best chance possible would be had in having a successful project. This would then be presented to Cabinet for approval.
From that point forward the Financial Secretary and his support team have worked tirelessly to ensure that the work done previously and concerns expressed by the Infrastructure UK and themselves were addressed in order to produce a workable project.
This culminated in the project being included in the 2016 – 2018 medium term fiscal plan, reviewed and approved by the UK. This medium term fiscal plan forms the basis of the approved 2016 – 2018 Budget.
The TB Lettsome Airport Expansion project is by far the most complex and resource intensive project ever undertaken by the Government of the Virgin Islands to date, entailing over four years of intensive analysis and investigations spanning two administrations.
No stone has been left unturned in ensuring that all concerns have been addressed in respect to the Government of the Virgin Islands ability to successfully implement it.
Several key documents have been produced, culminating in an Economic Study and Business Plan, which have not only addressed the concerns of the Infrastructure UK report, but also addressed several deep concerns held by the procurement team and the minister with responsibility for the project. These two documents are available for public viewing in the 2016 Budget Estimates available on the BVI Governments website. Click here.
A package for approval to proceed towards a finalised contract for executionwas submitted to the Cabinet for consideration in the second quarter of this year.
Finally, let there be no mistakepeople of the Virgin Islands, airlift is criticallyimportant to the current sustainability of, and prospects for future growth, of the BVI economy.
The TB Lettsome International Airport is the key long term solution to the challenges we face in this respect. Already we have supported the BVI Airways startup, which is on track to supporting this critical need in the immediate to medium term beginning in the last quarter of this year.
However, in the medium to long term we must have a runway that allows the airlines servicing the Caribbean to operate directly between the British Virgin Islands and the continental United States.
Without these two initiatives being successful, our prospects for sustainability and growth in the Tourism and Financial Services sectors and other areas are slim or severely limited at best.
Within the coming weeks, the Government of the Virgin Islands expects to be at a stage in the procurement process, where discussions will happen with the people of this Territory on this very important project. We very much look forward to that time.
The Government of the Virgin Islands has worked hard and long to bring this project to fruition and will continue to do so serving in the best interest of you the people of this Territory.