BVI News

Fraser reads gov’t mind – SSB to fund airport project?

The building that houses the Social Security Board

Members of the National Democratic Party government raised no objection; they merely listened in silence as Opposition lawmaker Julian Fraser attempted to read their minds regarding funding of the proposed airport runway extension project.

Fraser told the House of Assembly a few days ago that he was prepared to predict that Government would show up in the parliament, seeking approval to borrow money from the Social Security Board (SSB) to fund the controversial project at Terrence B Lettsome International Airport.

“The next thing I don’t want to see happening; they gonna come here in a few weeks or months, and they will be asking the Social Security to finance the extension of our airport runway. It (Social Security Board) is a lending institution now,” said Fraser.

He also predicted a number of reasons the government – as usual – will give for seeking a loan from the Social Security Board.

“The argument will be good, and we are gonna end up approving it (the loan) because it is a viable investment in the development of the territory, and the Social Security has the money, and they are investing it overseas; why not invest it here. You going to borrow from a bank anyway, so why not borrow it from our own institution. It’s a good investment. That’s what we gonna be doing.”

“I want to make sure that the government knows that as, much as they think, there are others who are with them in their thoughts,” added Fraser, who also represents the Third Electoral District in the House.

Julain Fraser

Members of the government have been split over whether the British Virgin Islands can afford the runway extension project at this time.

As a result of the contention that has spilled over into public domain, Premier and Minister of Finance Dr D Orlando Smith already missed a deadline he had given for the signing of a contract to start the project.

The government, in December last year, announced that China Communications Construction Company was selected as the preferred bidder. This said it could deliver the project at a cost of just over $153.4 million.

Too much cash in hand

Fraser, in the meantime, said the Social Security Board seems to have too much cash, and doesn’t mind throwing it around.

“It seems as if they don’t know how to deal with this cash,” he further said as Government declared a few days ago, its intention to have the Social Security Board invest in the struggling National Bank of the Virgin Islands.

It was within that context that Fraser also mentioned the likelihood of the airport project being funded by the Social Security Board.

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