Premier Dr D Orlando Smith yesterday indicated in the House of Assembly that not many airlines were interested in the ‘opportunity’ to fly direct between the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and Miami in the United States.
But he was rebuffed by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie, who questioned how the airlines could have known about the ‘opportunity’ when the ‘opportunity’ was not made public.
“I don’t know how they would know if Government didn’t make it public,” the Opposition leader quipped.
Government had hand-picked the privately owned BVI Airways to fly the route. It also invested $7 million into the said airline.
Still seeking answers regarding the controversial deal, the Opposition leader asked Premier Smith a barrage of questions in the House yesterday, May 11.
One of them was whether any business study was undertaken to test the viability of the route between the BVI and Miami.
Premier Smith said a study was done at a cost of just over $20,000. That cost, he added, was covered by both BVI Airways and Government.
The premier further told the House that he will not make the findings of the study public at this time.
“Due to the commercial nature of this report, and because of where we are right now, it would be prejudicial for me to provide copies of this document,” he said in response to the Opposition leader’s request for a copy of the feasibility report.
After being denied the report, the Opposition leader noted: “The answer is that you cannot make it (the report) public, which is the same answers we got with the port [project] – and we saw what happened there.” In relation to the recently completed ‘port’ project, the government had ducked several questions that were posed in the House. The project ended up costing over $30 million more than budgeted.
In the meantime, the Opposition leader zeroed in on the premier’s declaration that Government had helped BVI Airways to fund the feasibility study.
The Leader of the Opposition questioned why other airlines were not asked to fully fund the study, instead of Government having to help.
“Having other airlines do their own case studies and then see which one you would have selected; why wasn’t that a preferred option, where Government wouldn’t have to pay for any study at all – and then just choose the best one?” the Opposition leader asked.
That was when Premier Smith replied: “There were not many companies that were interested in looking after this kind of opportunity; that’s why.”
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