The Ralph Gonsalves government will on Monday ask Parliament to authorise the borrowing of a further US$16 million to go toward the long-delayed Argyle International Airport, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace says.
The loan comes just two months after lawmakers gave the government permission to borrow EC$13 million to go toward the completion of the EC$700 million project, which has missed annual completion deadlines since 2011.
It is also coming two years after Parliament gave the government permission to borrow EC$208 million which then Minister of Works, Sen. Julian Francis said was necessary to finish the airport.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said that the airport will be completed and operational by the end of this year.
However, the parliamentary opposition has dismissed that timeline as intended to fool voters ahead of general elections, expected by year-end.
Eustace told a town hall meeting of his New Democratic Party (NDP) in Mayreau Saturday night about the latest loan that will be brought to Parliament.
“You might not know that Monday morning when the Parliament opens, the Prime Minister is bringing another bill … for 16 million more US dollars for the airport,” he said.
Eustace expressed hope that the NDP team that is in the Southern Grenadines for a series of campaign events could get back to Kingstown in time for the debate.
The high-speed ferry that travels between Kingstown and the Southern Grenadines is said to have developed problems on Friday.
“I hope we can get the ferry up in time to get in the Parliament,” Eustace said.
He expressed concerns about the government’s handling of the international airport project, which has been a central plank of the 2005 and 2010 general elections.
“We don’t have an account, we are not being told about the amount of money that is being spent so far and those who have not yet been paid who the government owe,” he said.
Eustace also suggested that he did not have all the details about the latest loan.
“We haven’t even seen the document because we left St. Vincent Friday to come down to go to the Grenadines. The document came after we left … but I know some of what is in it, because my secretary called me and I told her to read out for me certain things so I can have an idea,” he said.
“That’s a lot of money. There are 61 families whose lands were taken away since 2008 who have not yet get paid for their lands. Sixty-one families. That’s millions of dollars,” he said.
“So what I want is an account of all that is taking place because you can’t just approve loan after loan after loan without getting a proper record of what has been spent.”
Eustace, however, did not say if opposition lawmakers will support the loan, as it did the one on Aug. 5.
Political observers say that the Gonsalves administration has cornered the opposition, which came out in support of the airport in 2010.
They say it would be interesting to see how the opposition will vote on Monday in light of their support of the EC$13 million loan in August.