By Ray Chickrie
The third deadline, December 31, 2018, for the completion of the “new and modern US 150 million” Cheddi Jagan Airport (CJIA) won’t be met and unconfirmed reports suggest it will roll into the first quarter of 2019. Instead of the country getting a new and larger terminal, the US$150 million “expansion” project by the Chinese company, China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC), will merely extend the current terminal for arrivals and “gutting and rehabilitation” of the existing terminal for departures.
As I have written many times before on the subject, the structure is nothing iconic. There won’t be a “brand new two-storey terminal building, complete with skylights and a glass roof, along with provisions for eight passenger air bridges according to the original plan, which changed several times.” The current government decided on two air bridges and then recently changed that to four since there can be four planes on the ground at the said moment.
This is rather startling and a big surprise to the public. This all comes as Guyana is “leading the way in 2018 for new oil and gas discoveries followed by Russia and the United States as energy exploration rose for the first time in three years,” according to the Houston Chronicle recently.
Where is the vision? Where are the projections for future growth and development? Did the coalition government blunder and “bastardize” the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) project?
The almost completed structure is unattractive. It is a rectangle made of concrete slabs and looks more like a warehouse in the tropics. Have these leaders not travelled so much and seen some fine airports abroad. Why such poor taste and standards for Guyana and Guyanese?
The airport “expansion and modernization” cost continues to increase according to a Kaieteur News (KN) report. The old car park area is likely to remain and won’t be replaced with a new one, it alleges.
According to KN, “The contract drawings indicate that a new design parking lot was planned for the US$150 million expansion project. There are other questions about what is clearly emerging as an overpriced project. For example, the airport project will not have a new parking lot when it is handed over.”
“Instead of the old terminal building being torn down or used for something else, it has been gutted and renovated. The government hasn’t explained where the huge savings that would have been made from the adjusted project have gone to. Rather, they have been quoted as saying that the US$150m will suffice. The project is now almost two years overdue,” KN wrote.
The original contract dates back to the previous government of President Bharrat Jagdeo, and it was a grand project, but instead it turned into an ugly blunder by the ruling coalition in power.
Kaieteur News alleges that it requested “the ministry of public infrastructure for a tour of the airport project but the tour never happened. Officials have said that US$150m project was a fixed-price one that could not easily be modified. In any case, the government has not informed the people of Guyana what is happening.”