While admitting that improved air access would benefit the British Virgin Islands, Chairman of the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association (BVICCHA), Louis Potter wants government to give the proposed $250 million airport expansion project serious consideration.
Potter has also made a case for the local business community to get a bigger financial allocation in government’s proposed recovery plan.
Of the $721 million expected to fund recovery, the business and economy sector is expected to receive $262.9 million. However, only two percent ($4.4 million) of that $262 million-sum will be pumped directly into local businesses.
The remaining $250 million (95 percent) will be earmarked for the airport expansion project.
The BVICCHA Chairman said more funds should be allocated to business and economy, which he described as an important sector.
“One may argue that the benefits that will come for businesses may not only be the direct benefits because the other sectors will also spill over to the business sector. But we still must accept that the quantum going to businesses [in the plan] is extremely small,” Potter said.
“There is no question that the business community is the engine that drives the BVI economy, and if we want to get them up, it is important that we support them and give them a boost,” he argued.
“There is no reason why the quantum going to businesses should just be two percent. It should be something like five to seven percent or higher.”
Detailed study needed for airport project
Though noting that money allocation in the plan needs to be revised, Potter accepted that the territory has challenges in moving persons in and out of the territory in an “expeditious way”, especially during crises such as the hurricanes.
He said expanding the airport would solve that problem.
“Some of the hoteliers; when you say airport expansion their face light up. But it’s a lot of money that must be put up to be able to accomplish that. We also have to understand that where the airport is, there are a number of limitations to it with respect to the length, so there are some challenges. But, it is something that needs to be looked at very, very carefully, and a solution is needed and we need to get the right one,” Potter said.
When asked whether he thinks the project is timely, Potter responded that the expansion is ‘necessary’.
The National Democratic Party government plans to expand the runway at the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport from 4,645 feet to about 7,100 feet so larger aircrafts can land in the territory.
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