Singapore Group Contracted For $350 Million Vanuatu Airport

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PM touts direct flights, job opportunities, future infrastructure

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 31, 2013) – Work on Vanuatu’s new US$350 million (about 33 billion vatu) International Airport, along with remedial work on Baurfield Airport, and upgrading of Pekoa Aiport on Santo, plus improvement works on Norsup and Whitegrass airports, are set to begin following a signing agreement ceremony between the Vanuatu government and the Singapore group known as Vanuatu Trade Development Private Limited (VTDPL). The cost is twice the annual budget of Vanuatu.

Signing on behalf of the Vanuatu government on Saturday evening were the Prime Minister Moana Carcasses and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Natapei.

The Executive Director of the Singaporean ‘Vanuatu Trade Development Private Limited’ David Mak and General Manager Eric Ong signed on behalf of VTDPL Group.

Speaking during the signing ceremony Carcasses said this is a single major infrastructure project of this magnitude before and after Independence.

The prime minister said there will be direct flights into and out of Vanuatu without having to transit to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji or New Caledonia to other parts of the world.

"This is an answer to our people towards a major significant economic progress, and therefore awareness must reach the population of Vanuatu that everyone will be part of single most important economic infrastructure development of this magnitude.

"We understand that there are pros and cons from some people and quarters regarding the project but we proceed with it for the benefit of all," Carcasses said.

He said a formal government statement will be issued about the project this week, however, he acknowledged the presence of the local media during the signing ceremony.

Prime Minister Carcasses also stressed the magnitude and extension of the project in creating job opportunities for the unemployed ni-Vanuatu people, more tourism industry infrastructure such as hotel, motels, restaurants, local food supplies and tourism and related activities when the new Vanuatu International airport is completed in 2016.

"This is a very ambiguous project of its magnitude and I want to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Natapei, for leading the Government Task Force to being this major project to this signing agreement this evening," Prime Minister Carcasses said.

The Singapore VTDPL Group Executive Director, Mak said in response to the prime minister that the construction company will begin shortly first with the survey of the new Vanuatu International Airport. Once this is completed, the actual construction work in building the new International Airport will begin and is estimated to be completed by 2016.

"Today the company is very proud to be awarded the project through the cooperation for the new international airport. Once completed Vanuatu will have direct connection with the rest of the world. We estimate there will be one million visitors –tourists annually and these 1 million tourists and visitors annually will need food, accommodation, transportation and cultural and other activities. It is the beginning of the new era to move Vanuatu economically into the future," said the Singapore Group Executive Director David Mak.

He told Daily Post: "This project will create jobs for the people of Vanuatu even prior to the actual construction of the new Vanuatu International Airport. Vanuatu needs a catalyst to start shaking up the country’s economy and we believe that this project of the new international airport is that catalyst. We believe this is the biggest project in Vanuatu.

"Once completed the new international airport will take on the aircrafts of the size of 747 Boeing but with this type of aircraft being faded out, the new international airport will take on similar size of the aircraft; wide bodied aircraft that can make direct flights into and out of Vanuatu to other destination around the world that travel 10,000 to 13,000 kilometers.

"Vanuatu will need more hotels, restaurants, transport systems, local food and meat supplies, cultural activities, more investors and yes Singapore visitors and investors are waiting for the completion of the project," the executive director told Daily Post in an interview.

[PIR editor’s note: Former Finance Minister and current Vanuatu Liberal Democratic Party leader Willie Jimmy has warned against the deal, reportedly producing documents showing the Singapore company lost an appeal case against the government of the Maldives for construction and repair at the Male Airport in 2012. That contract was reportedly worth more than $500 million dollars. Jimmy says the proposed investment is too big for Vanuatu, and airport developments must be made on a stage by stage basis.]

This is the first time that the Vanuatu Government has signed this type of project which the contractor will design, build and operate under the concession agreement signed Saturday evening for 50 years.

At the end of 50 years, the Singapore VTDL company will transfer the entire project to the Vanuatu Government free and to be owned by the Government and the people of Vanuatu. This means there is no loan involved on the part of the Vanuatu government.

This project is the first of its kind signed under the Act of parliament and both present and past governments as well as the past parliaments were involved in the various stages of its plans but was not implemented.

The ceremony was witnessed by Government Ministers, Senior Government Officials, MPs and political supporters.

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