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NDP Gov't allocates 33% of Recovery Plan $$ for controversial airport project

- takes VIP President Dr Natalio D. Wheatley by surprise as NDP Backbenchers were opposed to the project even before the 2017 hurricanes
The National Democratic Party (VIP) Government, in the Draft Recovery Plan, allocated some $250M or 33% of the $721M that was estimated would be needed to help the Territory recover over the next 5 years, towards the controversial Airport Runaway Expansion Project. Photo: VINO/File
President of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Dr Natalio D. Wheatley is of the belief that Government is simply taking recovery funds to fund old controversial projects and acting the same way before the hurricanes. Photo: Facebook
President of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) Dr Natalio D. Wheatley is of the belief that Government is simply taking recovery funds to fund old controversial projects and acting the same way before the hurricanes. Photo: Facebook
Second District Representative Hon Melvin M. Turnbull in February 2017 had joined the chorus in objecting to the airport expansion project being executed now while Junior Minister for Tourism and At Large Representative Hon Archibald C. Christian had said Government should take a second look at the best approach possible for the expansion of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport runway. Photo: VINO/File
Second District Representative Hon Melvin M. Turnbull in February 2017 had joined the chorus in objecting to the airport expansion project being executed now while Junior Minister for Tourism and At Large Representative Hon Archibald C. Christian had said Government should take a second look at the best approach possible for the expansion of the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport runway. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- Even before the destructive hurricanes, Irma and Maria of September 2017, the public, the Opposition, media and even elected members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Government had opposed the Airport Runway Expansion Project at Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport at Beef Island going ahead as they felt the Territory could not afford it at the time and that there were many other priority areas that needed addressing first.

It therefore came as a surprise that Government, in the Draft Recovery Plan, allocated some $250M or 33% of the $721M that was estimated would be needed to help the Territory recover over the next 5 years, towards the controversial Airport Runaway Expansion Project.

Among those taken aback was President of the Virgin Islands Party (VIP), Dr Natalio D. Wheatley, aka Sowande Uhuru, who appeared as a guest on the radio talk show BVI Have Your Say, hosted by Doug Wheatley and aired last Wednesday January 3, 2018.

Recovery money to fund old controversial projects?

Dr Wheatley is of the belief that the government is simply taking recovery funds to fund old controversial projects. “I looked through the recovery plan and there is not a lot of evidence that we are doing things differently. What it seems like to me is that we’ve actually doubled down on our agenda from before. The ruling party has actually doubled down on the agenda that they had even before the hurricanes passed. So, there is no great evidence that we doing anything differently.”

Case in point, according to Dr Wheatley, is the airport runway expansion project. Prior to the hurricanes in September 2017, the Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL) and Deputy Premier Dr The Hon Kedrick D. Pickering (R7) were at the forefront of the project that was to see Chinese company, China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) extending the runway of the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport by about 2,455 feet. The estimated cost was $153 million, a figure now increased to $250 million, as stated in the recovery plan document.  

“You have a recovery plan that has been priced at 721 million dollars and more than 33% of that is allocated to the airport, $250 million for the airport,” said Dr Wheatley.

Giving some debt to the debate Dr Wheatley reminded listeners that, “There is quite a lot of consternation about this whole idea about investing such a large amount of money in the airport given our economic troubles, and this was before the hurricanes. Now you have a hurricane that has estimated billions of dollars of damages, more than our Gross Domestic Product (GDP)- 300% more than our GDP, so you have more issues as it pertains to your economy than ever before.”

He continued by saying, “Even before the storms we have members of the NDP government that questioned whether this was the time to do this development… based on our finances. The Premier, the Deputy Premier who have been pushing for the airport would be aware of all of the opposition to the airport, but despite that they have decided that they are going to double down on this desire to have an airport at the tune of 250 million dollars. I have to wonder if something’s really wrong with us to take that approach after all that has happened.

It was in February of 2017 that NDP Backbenchers Hon Deloris Christopher (R5), Hon Alvera Maduro-Caines (R6), Hon Melvin M. Turnbull (R2) and Junior Minister for Tourism Hon Archibald C. Christian (AL) during their contribution to the Appropriation Act of 2017 in the House of Assembly (HoA), objected to the airport project going ahead now.

Listing a number of areas that need attention including road works, the ports, and immigration, Hon Christian had said the question has to be asked whether the territory can afford an airport expansion project at this time.

It seems now; however, the Territory suddenly can afford it, with recovery funds.

Premier Smith defends airport runway expansion

It was in November 2017 that Premier Smith defended the desire to continue with the project. “One of the lessons learned from the hurricane is that emergency access in and out of the islands is critical in the event of a hurricane or other emergency,” he explained while making an address to United Nations pledging conference held in New York, USA on November 21, 2017.

“Precious time was lost after Irma in getting flights in and out of the BVI through regional hubs because the runway at our airport is not long enough to accommodate long-haul jets. We intend to extend the runway to ensure this never happens again and that direct emergency access from and to the US, Europe, and Latin America are guaranteed for evacuation and relief purposes,” he continued.

‘That is not the correct approach’- Doug Wheatley

However, that argument is not flying with everyone. Respected talk show host and retired civil servant Mr Doug Wheatley said, “I think that is not the correct approach to take at all.”

Dr Wheatley too did not buy that argument explaining that, “Assistance was able to get in. In a few days we had assistance from the British. I don’t think that is a strong enough reason to spend 250 million on the airport when we have so many other pressing needs.”

Dr Wheatley also compared the amount given for the airport expansion project to the other sectors. “We spoke about building greener BVI, what really is in the recovery plan that suggests that we are going to build the BVI greener? I see that we have allocated $750,000 to promote alternative energy, not even to make a serious investment in alternative energy, but to promote. Less than a million as opposed to 250 million for the airport. That shows that we are not serious.”

Other strategies to ‘going green’ were identified, areas where monies could have been invested in. Projects such as recycling, landfills and investments in agriculture deserved more monies to ‘put our monies where our mouth is’ when we claim to be going green, Dr Wheatley explained.

26 Responses to “NDP Gov't allocates 33% of Recovery Plan $$ for controversial airport project”

  • 123 (09/01/2018, 14:56) Like (20) Dislike (2) Reply
    something in this for somebody
  • Eagle and Buffalo (09/01/2018, 15:29) Like (34) Dislike (1) Reply
    Hurricanes Irma and Maria, along with the historic 07 August 2017 flood, caused approx $3.6B in damages. This is approx 300% of GDP. From the $3.6B estimate, the territory has a myriad of critical needs. And to propose to spend $250M or 33% of the $721M five year recovery budget on one (1) project, it is unbelievable. The controversial airport extension project is a want and is unaffordable. The BVI critical needs are more than available funding so funding has to be allocated on a priority basis. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room., ie, who is the extension really for? Is the extension for a wealthy few investors or for the masses? Should the masses sacrifice to pay for a loan that primarily benefits a wealthy few? No..


    Let’s us lead like eagles, not careen off the cliff like buffaloes.
  • Blah Blah Blah (09/01/2018, 15:53) Like (4) Dislike (37) Reply
    Everyone was against the Pier Park as well now look at it!
    • @ blah blah blah (09/01/2018, 16:20) Like (13) Dislike (1) Reply
      Stop tell lie fool we were concern about the $tom over run. NOT A MAN OR WOMAN WAS AGAINST THE PORT PROJECT AS VIP ALSO HAD A PORT PRJECT
    • pat (09/01/2018, 17:18) Like (17) Dislike (3) Reply
      yeah, now look at it... students are banned, chain stores are leaving, it is like any other mall in the Caribbean with no character.
    • and (09/01/2018, 22:42) Like (7) Dislike (1) Reply
      yea look @pier park 4 months later no roof some of us are out of work open your eyes fool
  • Inspector Gadget Cousin (09/01/2018, 17:14) Like (22) Dislike (0) Reply
    No project nothing to thief. Think.
    • Lord o (09/01/2018, 17:54) Like (3) Dislike (0) Reply
      The Airport project requires also our Airline. They should walk hand in hand. Why should I have to fly over St Kitts to go to Antigua to spend 8 hrs in Antigua then go to St Kitts. St Kitts is closer to the BVI its before Antigua.. With our own Airlines we can work closely together with St Kitts and offer the Caribbean travelers better traveling service...
  • All about Jobs (09/01/2018, 17:47) Like (7) Dislike (2) Reply
    How many living on island workers would be hired? That's the question.. To me its all about Jobs. Jobs. Jobs..Would there be a fair and transparent process for hiring?
  • cay (09/01/2018, 17:57) Like (30) Dislike (1) Reply
    just like BVI Airways this will blow up in their faces
  • voice (09/01/2018, 18:26) Like (23) Dislike (1) Reply
    You will understand why the government is unhappy about Britans intervention with the loan. They still want to have reckless spending. Why put our money in a Chinese government company? No accountability about seven plus million dollars in an airline that we will never get back. Now we want to give a Chinese gov. Company 33 percent of the loan. Hope Britain blocks it. Something is wrong somewhere. Tell us who is expecting what.
  • Wonder (09/01/2018, 18:28) Like (21) Dislike (2) Reply
    When is U.K. GOING TO take over the BVI from the incompetent NDP? It has to be soon, I just hope it is soon enough to make a difference. Does the U.K. really care about the individual BVILANDER??
  • NDP supporter (09/01/2018, 19:09) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
    They need a very large project to get the money to fund the campaign.
  • Captain Kangaroo (09/01/2018, 20:44) Like (0) Dislike (9) Reply
    I love it how so many belongers drive very expensive vehicles and dress fancy in this warm weather, and go out to
    bars and restaurants and act like stuck up white SNOBS during all of this. Too damn funny. Drug sales profits
    must be through the roof to pay for this. I hope someone doesn't accidently drop a nuke here - that would be
    funny too! Ha ha ha.
  • NezRez (09/01/2018, 22:17) Like (17) Dislike (0) Reply
    The recovery money should be to restore the infrastructure first. The roads are deplorable, dangerous, unhealthy and just plain scary.
  • See (09/01/2018, 22:40) Like (41) Dislike (0) Reply
    Recovery money for a useless runway . Roofs mising , schools destroyed , roads a joke , sewage everywher , CGB polluted , crimes going unsolved . But we need to spend precious dollars on a runway with no need . Stupid and insulting beyond words . People with half a brain know major airlines will not fly here . Fix the country with the money like you are supposed to . THAT IS WHAT IT IS FOR !!!!!!
  • Unbelievable (09/01/2018, 22:51) Like (13) Dislike (0) Reply
    Is this information for real? What madness to take precious recovery funds to extend an airport. The necessity of that airport extension does not hold water - please start thinking about the good of the many and repair the infrastructure e.g. roads and buildings that were damaged; even put programmes in place where persons might learn how to cope with such traumas. Please stop wasting or stop proposing to waste funds critically needed for recovery purposes. Next Hurricane Season is just around the corner!
  • See (10/01/2018, 08:13) Like (9) Dislike (0) Reply
    So what will it be politicians ? The cookie jar or the good of the people ? We are all watching ... and so is the world on this one
  • in a shelter (10/01/2018, 08:14) Like (17) Dislike (0) Reply
    what is wrong with the BVI Government i am a bvislander living in a shelter since Hurricane Irmaria. my roof, windows, door and all my personal belongings were all destroyed by the hurricane to this date the landlord has not called much less passed to see if his/her apartment stood up in the storm. my concern is why is the government hell bent on keeping money in their pockets but has completely forgotten about the people that put them in power to lead. YOU HAVE ABANDONED US!!! the government has crown land what happened to it why cant you build tempory homes for persons who lost everything in the storm to live in until they can try to find someplace suitable and affordable to rent why take our hard tax money and use it to buy TREES to beautify beaches etc Why use it for a failing airline project why are those issues of high importance to you when you stood before us all the people that elected you and promised that you would be there for us and look out for us NDP YOU HAVE FAILED US and are continuing to do so.
  • MoneyTalks (10/01/2018, 09:58) Like (9) Dislike (0) Reply
    And you can bet that the $250 Million won't be enough when they build it. $500 Million at the end and they'll claim we still got a good deal. And the Chinese will own a large % of the BVI for the rest of days.
  • Gwen (10/01/2018, 11:29) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    Who can we go to, to overide this idiotic movement that the people don’t want? How dare they waste our money on nonsense when we need personal safety every day. OUTRAGEOUS!
  • SMH (10/01/2018, 12:17) Like (9) Dislike (0) Reply
    Can't we get this present Government Dissolved? What is it really going to take to wake the VI People up? Come on! When will all these shenanigans be over with? Come on...I HAD respect for these ministers as humans, but they don't seem to have any moral ethics or integrity there of!
  • Windy (10/01/2018, 12:45) Like (6) Dislike (0) Reply
    So wrong. Why don't they just say 1/3 of the recovery funds are going into their pockets. LONDON HELP
    • Reply (10/01/2018, 21:38) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
      But this is what happens when you live in a country where "who yuh know" and "grease a palm" trump law, order and discipline
  • Hue (12/01/2018, 10:03) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    What this government must understand, one does not spend millions to extend the airport runway unless there is an agreement with those larger planes want to come. If they do not show an interest we will be wasting money that can be used to develop other areas. Not because other Caribbean Islands have done so we have to follow. Already you hear things like how do they line up for landing. Tell the people the truth. Who are we trying to accomodate? The bigger private jets. Those big planes that land in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands are not going to fly to Beef.
  • imagine (12/01/2018, 13:30) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    They need to build the airport for the imaginary airline that is coming!....And to let CCCC build it?...LOL.... the first good wind will blow it into the ocean.


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