The National Democratic Party government is likely to miss the time-line within which it said it would have been able to signed a contract for extension of the runway at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport.
Premier Dr D Orlando Smith had announced that his government would have been in a position to sign within three months, a contract possibly with the preferred bidder on the project – China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).
On December 27 last year, he declared: “Negotiations will now get underway with the preferred bidder with a view to concluding a contractual agreement within three months.”
It is almost three months since the premier made that statement, and his government, up to last week, was yet to even start negotiations with CCCC.
It is not clear what has been holding up the process.
Responding to questions posed a few days ago (March 9) in the House of Assembly, Premier Smith told the territory: “No negotiations have begun, and no contractor has been selected for the Terrance B Lettsome International Airport runway extension. The process is that a preferred bidder is selected to negotiate with. If negotiations are not concluded with that bidder, then negotiations will commence with the other bidder.”
The other shortlisted bidder – IDL McAlpine – had promised to undertake the proposed runway project at a cost of $198,910,525. But its bid was rejected when Government selected CCCC as the preferred bidder.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Meanwhile, Fraser, a few days ago, asked if Premier Smith sought permission from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ( FCO) to negotiate and do business with the Chinese government, which is the owner of CCCC.
The premier replied: “Again, no contractor has been selected for the Terrence B Lettsome International Airport runway extension project, nor have we commenced negotiations with the preferred bidder. No request has therefore been made to the FCO for permission to negotiate or do business with the Chinese government.”
Premier Smith, who also in the minister of finance, has been challenged by some of his own Government colleagues to prove that the British Virgin Islands can afford the airport project at this time.
The airport runway, Government said, is to be extended from 4645 feet to about 7100 feet.
Premier Smith has maintained that the project is needed in order for the territory to accommodate much larger planes, and to effectively solve the costly problem being faced with airlift.
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