The US$16 million loan that the government will on Monday ask Parliament to approve for the Argyle International Airport was in the Budget that lawmakers passed in January, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told I-Witness News on Sunday.
“All I am doing now is getting the approval,” Gonsalves told I-Witness News.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said the monies are being borrowed from the United Kingdom government.
He said that under the arrangement, the International Airport Development Company, the state-owned firm responsible for the construction of the airport, is eligible for a refund of US$5.7 million from the US$16 million loan.
He said that half of the loan is for equipment purchased or sourced for the terminal building at the
EC$729 million airport is expected to be completed this year, after missing completion deadlines annually since 2011.
The other half of the loan will pay for equipment such as the concrete batching plant purchased for the airport.
Gonsalves said the equipment for the terminal building was never included in the EC$200 million loan that lawmakers authorized in 2013.
On Aug. 4, lawmakers gave the government permission to borrow EC$13 million to go toward the completion of the airport.
Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace spoke of the US$16 million loan at a campaign rally in Mayreau Saturday night.
Speaking at a town hall meeting on the southern Grenadine island, Eustace 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.”
But Gonsalves told I-Witness News that opposition lawmakers do not read the Estimates of Income and Expenditure.
“They go on about all sorts of things but don’t read the Estimates properly,” he told I-Witness News.
In his Budget Speech to Parliament in January, Gonsalves said planned expenditure on airport development at Argyle for 2015 totals $74.7 million.
He said the estimated cost of the airport’s construction has been put at approximately EC$729 million, about EC$189 million of which represent in-kind contributions.