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An Order to increase the departure tax at both airports from US$5 to US$10, which is slated to be implemented by March next year, was approved by the Senate, yesterday (December 14).
“The proposed $5 increase will result in the airports remaining competitive in what is called the mid-range of airport charges, when compared with regional airports,” A. J. Nicholson, Leader of Government Business in the Senate said.
Commenting on the Norman Manley International Airport, Senator Nicholson said this increase would expedite moves to improve facilities there, as current funding could not complete the upgrading project in a timely enough manner. He added that the increase would bring the fee to a level with neighbouring jurisdictions.
“The Airports Authority has been aggressively pursuing financing for the project in both the development and the commercial banking markets and is well advanced in finalizing the financing required,” he said.
Speaking further, he explained that, “the revenues of the Norman Manley International Airport could not, without an increase in the airport improvement fee, support the debt payment and debt service ratios required by the Authority’s financiers, so the Boards of the European Investment Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank have already approved the loan applications in the amounts of US$40 million and US$11 million, respectively”.
Senator Nicholson said that the redevelopment of the airport was a pressing necessity, due to the fact that most of the airport’s infrastructure and important equipment have exceeded their economic usefulness.
The Government, in October 2003, approved a contract for US$6.98 million for the preparation of 20-year Master Plan and architectural engineering designs for the modernisation and expansion of the airport terminal building. The plan is currently being implemented.
According to Senator Nicholson, Phase One of the project was 40 per cent complete and scheduled for completion by October 2007.
The scope of work, Senator Nicholson said, included the installation of four passenger loading bridges.