A view of the terminal building under construction at the Argyle international airport (Photo: Facebook).
A view of the terminal building under construction at the Argyle international airport (Photo: Facebook).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 13, IWN — The US$80 million that the Government has to raise for the Argyle international airport this year will come from loans, land sales and departure tax monies.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament on Monday that the Government has identified buyers for US$20 million of state lands.

The money will be paid in four tranches, the first of which will come when the agreement is signed, and then every three months thereafter.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said that the full US$80 million is not needed at once and the tranche payments will be the same as having the money in the bank

He further said an international commercial bank — which he did not identify — with approval from its country’s export development corporation, has approved US$5.498 million to finance the control tower.

“We’ve reached the stage where we are identifying what we are doing to complete what.”

That same bank has approved in principle another US$3.5 million for equipment.

Of the US$80 million needed for the US$280 million airport, which is slated to be completed this year, close to US$30 will be for equipment, Gonsalves said.

“So, if the numbers seem a little elevated from what they were before, [it is] because it involves more equipment,” he told lawmakers.

Gonsalves said that when he attended the funeral of former Venezuela president Hugo Chavez in Caracas last week, the ALBA Bank said the last US$10 million of a US$50 million loan will be available in about three weeks.

A further US$10 million is expected to come from PetroCaribe.

“And this is where this bill now comes in,” he said of changes to the Airport Service Charge Bill that will give departure tax monies — some EC$4.5 million this year — to the International Airport Development Company.

“But, Mr. Speaker, I have a backup. I am not talking what the backup as yet. As I have functioned in the past, when the fellas think they have De Comrade cornered here, when I am there, I have a backup plan,” Gonsalves said.

He further said there was a possible equity partnership with an country that he did not disclose.

“But, I don’t want to talk about that in any detail. It’s a work in progress.”

Gonsalves said that when he announced in the Budget in January that the government needs to raise US$80 million for the airport this year, some people scoffed.

“And I have seen it plastered all about that they don’t know it is going to be raised. Well, it is not just a question of where there is a will there is a way; but you use your creative juices, your creative faculties, as we have done at every occasion, and we get there. And we are in the final leg.”

He, however, restated the possibility that construction will go into early next year.