Sections of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) are expected to be opened in the coming weeks, with the contractor on target with the US$150M project for December.
A number of additional works will also entail the Government heading to the National Assembly this year for more financing.
The disclosures were made yesterday by Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, during a tour of the Timehri facility with Parliamentarians and other stakeholders, minus the Opposition, who boycotted the event.
The completed airport will boast four boarding bridges, escalators and elevators, bigger baggage carousels, and more check-in counters. It will also include automated kiosks for returning Guyanese to scan their passport to help reduce waiting time.
A longer runway and bigger apron and improved taxiing will lend for a better experience that is designed to attract bigger planes from Europe, Asia and Africa.
Present for the tour yesterday were Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge; Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Annette Ferguson; Minister within the Ministry of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma, and a number of other ministers and parliamentarians.
According to CJIA’s Chief Executive Officer, Ramesh Ghir, President David Granger and Cabinet members toured the airport project in January and were updated on the progress.
When completed, the airport will be 60 percent larger than the current facility with double the concession space. It will allow for more duty free shopping, and more local and international food and beverages concessions.
Ghir noted that it was a challenge keeping the airport, a 24-hour affair, operational while carrying out the works.
Ongoing collaboration is happening with stakeholders to reduce processing time and have the necessary automated security, scanning and border control systems in place for the handover.
He said that it is a monumental task to expand and rehabilitate a facility that operates on a 24-hour basis, directly employs 1,000 persons, processes 1,700 passengers and, kg of cargo on a daily basis.
According to Minister Patterson, it is difficult to envisage the reality of the project from two-dimensional photos. The intention was to get MPs who are charged with approving funding to have an understanding of the project and the magnitude of work involved, he said.
He warned that the tour was designed also for last-minute advice by stakeholders and it would be nigh impossible to make adjustments after sections of the airport becomes operational.
The airport is getting ready to open the new departure lounge and check-in areas within weeks.
It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the works scheduled have been completed, Patterson revealed.
The minister also disclosed that more money will be needed for works not catered for in the original plans. These will include landscaping, fencing around the airport to cater for the longer runway and for security cameras and other related works.
According to Minister Greenidge, there is interest by at least one US airline to fly to Guyana.
This is in addition to American Airlines which has signaled an intention to start Miami flights from December.
For the busy, high demand North American route, Guyana currently has Fly Jamaica, Suriname Airways and Caribbean Airlines.
A new airport, Greenidge said, is bound to attract more operators, especially with the growing extractive sector, like oil. However, the minister warned, the airport will have to pay attention to security.
Meanwhile, questioned by media, Patterson urged the airport be looked at from a nationalistic view. He denied claims by the Opposition that the tour was a ruse to get support of the National Assembly to ask for more money.
Insisting that the project is open for scrutiny with the books being audited by the Auditor General’s office, he said that Opposition Parliamentarian Juan Edghill, who has been critical, has a penchant of being “economical with the truth”. He challenged Edghill to raise questions.
With regard to whether Guyana received value for money, the minister said yes. He disclosed that on taking office in 2015, his ministry discovered that the contractor, China Harbour Engineering Company, had been paid 70 percent of the monies with less than half of the work done.
With the “boat already gone ah fall”, and Cabinet insisting that it will not spend a cent more than the US$150M, Patterson said they had to work with the contractor. He believes that under his watch, there was value for money and it will be a project that all Guyana will be proud of when completed.
The project has been delayed by at least two years because of poor monitoring and other challenges.
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