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“What’s the hurry?” Caller asks Gov’t on airport expansion project

- suggested that Gov't allows BVI Airways to begin their service first to see whether enough persons prefer to fly directly to the VI so that the immediate need to extend the airport runway would be justified
A caller to a local radio show has called on the Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith administration to slow down and engage and educate the populace and to paint a clear picture of the pros and cons before sealing the controversial airport expansion project deal with the Chinese firm. Photo: VINO/File
According to a radio show caller, the people should hear from Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith (AL) before he signs off the deal with the Chinese company for the extension of the airport runway at Beef Island. Photo: GIS/File
According to a radio show caller, the people should hear from Premier Dr The Hon D. Orlando Smith (AL) before he signs off the deal with the Chinese company for the extension of the airport runway at Beef Island. Photo: GIS/File
Radio talk show host Doug Wheatley said while the people have the power, they do not use it and allow a selected few in Government to make stand-alone decisions. Photo: VINO/File
Radio talk show host Doug Wheatley said while the people have the power, they do not use it and allow a selected few in Government to make stand-alone decisions. Photo: VINO/File
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- A caller to the Speak out BVI show on ZBVI 780 AM with Doug Wheatley, has called on the Premier Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL) administration to slow down and engage and educate the populace and to paint a clear picture of the pros and cons before sealing the controversial airport expansion project deal with the Chinese firm.

“I think we need to hear from our Premier before he signs off with anybody,” the caller said. “So I’m saying I think we are overstepping ourselves right now and I think we need to slow down. Because we are already on to something, I am puzzled as to what is the hurry? We are on to something…”

That something the caller is referring to is the recent pumping of $7 million into a defunct BVI Airways, which has not flown a single flight yet. The caller holds the perception that the service needs to be tested out first and taken one step at a time.

Creep before you walk

He said currently the present aircrafts can use the existing runway without fear.

“The old people say you got to creep before you walk,” he continued, saying that presently the air crafts are able to transport over 100 persons, and if these flights were to be doubled, it would move to being able to transport about 300 persons per day. He also suggested doing a test on that for at least 12/15 months, to see if the marketplace is in fact right for that kind of atmosphere and also to monitor the frequency of travelers coming directly to the Virgin Islands.

“Because what would happen in that period of time we would end up with overbooking and that would prove to us that we need to increase the traffic, and we need to create the diversity in that area,” he surmised.

What will happen to Trellis Bay?

Trellis Bay is known for its full moon, New Year’s Eve and other parties, and is a hub for many of the main and private island ferries, and others in the marine industry. It is a laid back spot with “something always happening,” and this caller is wondering what will become of it if the airport extension project was to go on.

“Are we going to destroy Trellis Bay because of this? And how is it going to affect the economy? Because remember the boating community and the marine section is one of the biggest contributors to our economy right now and the people who are investing in that area.”

How can three ministers make the decision?

“I am puzzled as to how the system works as to cabinet making a decision as it were now into putting the country into a big project such as the airport and I am having a challenge whereby the rumors have it that within the cabinet some of our ministers didn’t agree on the approach. And I am wondering how three ministers could make a decision on behalf of the country?” he asked, calling on the Premier to expound on how the protocol works.

“He needs to explain to us under which laws and regulations give three ministers alone the power to put us in such a position without speaking to us because we are not a silly people, we have never been. We are more eloquent people now and I think it is only fair that once we getting into big business we should have a serious board meeting with the people of this country to say whether or not we are the ones who would appreciate going this direction.”

People don’t use their power

Meantime, host of the programme, Doug Wheatley said while the people have the power, they do not use it and allow a selected few to make stand-alone decisions.

“We the people are very powerful but we are not exercising our power. We are allowing just a minority of persons in the governmental system, the elected system, in the cabinet system to make decisions where they think the territory should go and not engaging with the population, and not engaging the population as to where the population thinks the economy should go,” he stated.

“The government is not responsive in many ways and is not responsible in many ways. It is not for any government to take it upon itself and make major, major changes in the direction of the economy, or the direction of politics without massive input from the population.”

Premier Smith had confirmed that China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) Ltd was chosen instead of another company that had a local partner to extend the runway at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island for a bid of $153 million United States Dollars.

According to the Premier, there are no concessions and giveaways being negotiated by his government with the Chinese.

22 Responses to ““What’s the hurry?” Caller asks Gov’t on airport expansion project”

  • vgboy (18/01/2017, 12:54) Like (12) Dislike (0) Reply
  • Schuups (18/01/2017, 13:08) Like (4) Dislike (29) Reply
    Mr Premier you were elected and selected to make decisions on our behalf. May God continue to guide you in moving the country forward. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't so look up ,block the noise and get the job done. My Prayers are with you for continued sucess in making the VI a successful economy.
    • Concerned (18/01/2017, 13:55) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
      @SchuupsThis is being selfi because the best thing the Priemar can do to save face is come clean with the people that elected him. Have diologe with the people so the LITTLE man can understand if you want them to to appreciate what you trying to do for the people.
    • voiceofthevoiceless (18/01/2017, 14:41) Like (22) Dislike (1) Reply
      First of all he was elected to serve us meaning we have the power not the Premier so he should listen or seek our counsel when making major decisions like this that will affect our present/future. Secondly, block the noise suggests that he should continue despite the many who are not in favor of this move at the time. That is dictatorial. Thirdly God is there for guidance for those who chose to ask and listen to his guidance. How do you know the Premier did either?

      This is the kind of ignorance that has brought us here. The caller made a brilliant suggestion in that you can use the BVI Airways model as a case study for the viability of flights to the mainland. Would that not make sense before you put 153-200 million in a venture ?? Unless the viability of the commercial flights was never the reasoning behind the expansion? It makes perfect common sense.

      In the meantime shore up your ferry service system and other services to the major hubs. Our country is in a precarious financial state with a debt 173 million plus another 153 million and dwindling revenues which just fell by 7 million to 323 million.

      We cannot afford this project at this moment, simple.
  • drake (18/01/2017, 13:53) Like (11) Dislike (0) Reply
    The rush to get this project going is they need to get the money in their possession before their time in office draws near to an end.
  • What Now? (18/01/2017, 14:16) Like (2) Dislike (17) Reply
    Where was this caller during the planning stage of this project, all these questions were already answered the 1st term under this govt. The caller is also talking about two completely different things, investing in an airline and a much needed new airport. Why depend on one for the other? We are already losing economically because of both. You can't just not test out the airline industry, if anything it's the hardest company to start. You will lose before you gain in this industry. So if with stop this project that could have happened years ago, we will be ages behind. We need the project now.
    • voiceofthevoiceless (18/01/2017, 16:42) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
      @ whatnow

      When were those questions answered? I recall that just before the snap election the NDP sought approval from the UK Government but were turned down. We did not even know that they had submitted the proposal for approval that was subsequently rejected until the information was revealed from a request by our local press in the UK via their Freedom of information act. Let us not be disingenuous here. I do not recall any forums or meetings to discuss this or any other deal. This Government has led us blindly to this point and continue to do so not just on this matter but on numerous matters that have since come to light.

      Two completely different things? BVI Airways will fly from EIS-MIA no? The airport expansion is about improving air access by allowing for airlines to fly from EIS-MIA and hopefully to other US destinations?? BVI airways is a small scale version of the airport expansion so it is a perfect model to work with.

      They said we were losing economically by not rushing into a deal with the TPP and that cost us 30 million and counting. We signed a deal with Norwegian/ Disney who are not even the big names in the cruise industry and right now we still behind in cruise ship arrivals compared to other nearby destinations. Beware of the persons who say we have to do this now or we might lose it...Scaremongers.
      • He is Right (18/01/2017, 17:19) Like (0) Dislike (2) Reply
        @voiceofthevoiceless he is right, all the trellis bay discussions were held during the meeting the minister had at the East End Community Center during the 1st term. Many of the concerns were addressed. If I remember clearly, the would still have the bay and access via a passage way will allow for the marine traffic. As far as the business not one will be touched just improved.
        • voiceofthevoiceless (18/01/2017, 19:18) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
          @He is right

          First, one meeting with the East end community for a 200 million dollar project that all the taxpayers have to pay for? East End alone will fund it?

          Secondly, the plan then is different to the one now as they have selected a cheaper option and the bidder is different so then they need to revert to not just East End but have several meetings throughout the various communities to discuss not only the environmental effects but the viability of the project. How will it be paid for? Can we afford it? This is a meeting that occurred 4 years ago are you serious?

          Thirdly our financial position 4 years ago is much different to now in that first of all we have accumulated more debt up to $ 173 million. Then our revenues are heading in the wrong direction. We are simply not in a position to take on this project.
          • He is Right (18/01/2017, 21:14) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
            It had in meeting in town to? Why are you acting brand new? This project was even presented by the previous govt minister who wanted to build the runway in align with scrub island. The Govt met with the people, maybe you was not aware. but all the news agency locally had all the proposal outlined and plans for the Trellis Bay area.
        • Trying Times (19/01/2017, 01:39) Like (4) Dislike (0) Reply
          @ He is Right, I am from Virgin Gorda and was living in the area above EE/LL Community Center. I recall the minister opening the meting in this manner: My Government has decided on the expansion of the TB International Airport. His stance was that, basically he didn't come to discuss the pros and cons against it. It was a "Done Deal Decision". I recall persons in attendance such as Mr. Keith Flax raising concerns and agreeing with the expansion but not what the Minister presented. Similarly in agreement with the expansion, (and with several points of concern) was Mr. Michael Helm, architect and long-time resident of the BVI. When Dr. Pickering had enough of the disagreements and alternate suggestions and scaling back, and didn't have any thought out answers or explanations, he simply said: "It is a Severing matter". I couldn't imagine he would say that; not giving any answers or addressing the concerns of the attendants. I don't recall any professional person from the airline/airport design business accompanying or agreeing with him or who addressed the concerns raised. As a matter of fact, that is where/how Minister Pickering got the "Done Deal" name pinned on him. The caller is right.
          Another Important point I haven't heard discussed is the figures Dr. Orlando threw out in his budget speech. Who provided him with those figures? It sure sounds like someone/s who is anxious to close the deal and collect their check. Those numbers are just "Probability numbers; (just as they were favoring Hilary to win the US elections)
          We don't know what the effect of Cuba's opening up will have on our tourism; we don't know what a Donald Trump Presidency will have on our Financial Services. We most likely don't know why BVI Airways failed on their prior try at providing Bvi/Usa connection service.
          What about Hotel/Villa occupancy. For those figures of $500-million in 5 ears to make sense, we would have to have at least one 300-400 room hotel operating from from day one of the airport's completion.

          How We got to this point? It appears that we have over-relied on Financial Services and forgot bout tourism; while places like/especially SKN in just the short few ears of abandoning their sugar Cane Economy for tourism, causing us to awaken. SKN had 6 Cruise ships last week Wednesday or Thursday, with passengers in excess of 16,000. They are opening a 126 rooms hotel, (a Park Hyatt brand - with Kittitians heading their Marketing and Human Resources Divisions) by March. Meanwhile Nevis has attracted a $160-million hotel development (with Funding already in place).
          How the saying goes again..."If you snooze you loose"? Its only been 52 years since BVI opened its doors to tourism. How long since NDP bought Prospect Reef as a Tourism Training Center?....only 12 years (in 2005)
          • born here (19/01/2017, 10:50) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
            Kittitians and Nevisians, think out of the box, they are go getters, they dream big and are very passionate. They are leaders all over the world, and you will not find another group of people that really like their country. I speak of the general populace not the politicians.
  • grench (18/01/2017, 14:22) Like (11) Dislike (0) Reply
    They are rushing because they are not sure if they will be elected again so they have to set things up now so the money would be flowing to there pockets and friends
  • Concerned (18/01/2017, 16:05) Like (12) Dislike (1) Reply
    If the Premier really felt this project was important for the people, he would make it transparent and lay all factors on the table. It is a major item and needs more than the Premier meeting with the Chinese to do a deal that few besides he wants. There are lots of ways to get tourists here better than the new airport that will destroy Trellis Bay one of the busiest and nicest places on the island. After the airport cuts off Trellis, there will have to be a port to all the out islands out side of the airport. The airport kills Trellis, kills Marina Cay, Kills Scrub, Kills Guana, Kills Virgin Gorda. No test on noise for East End communities?? And on & on. If you are going to do it, do it right. Where is the Deputy Premier? This is his portfolio. Has he finally realized it won't work???
  • dog (18/01/2017, 16:39) Like (8) Dislike (0) Reply
    I have asked about this often. thank you for speaking up on the radio about this. my comments are below:

    "If the airport was efficient and busy- fine- expand. But as it stands, it is mostly empty with irregular flights and low passenger counts. where is the airline promise? if that doesn't work, why expand? small planes still come. also, where are the financial audits for the past 9 years before airport?"

    "Have they done EIA and SIA yet? Noise and sound pollution over resident communities? Flight paths and descending over areas? Planes are VERY loud. there is enough citizen and legislator concern against the timing and effectiveness of this project. Again, big expensive projects are being rammed through without accountability. A contract that can change bid after signing? where are workers going to live?"

    "no matter how much larger the runway gets, there will still be transfers in the states, and even in the state to state, there are more than likely several stops along the way. The idea of "direct flight" is impractical and pandering to the rich and famous over local economy which really doesn't get much of the pie. See what small planes can carry now before moving on expensive and impractical runway."

  • 911 (18/01/2017, 18:06) Like (1) Dislike (2) Reply
    China gives gift
  • Puzzled (18/01/2017, 19:33) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    I am not sure that Dr Smith, Mark and Pico could contain themselves at that point.
  • Nurse Betty (18/01/2017, 20:13) Like (1) Dislike (5) Reply
    Tolians.can be counted on to shower each other with negativity and discouragement. Well done is not in their vocabulary. Doc knows his people well. Do what must be done and keep on trucking.
  • The Solution (18/01/2017, 20:22) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    Fix our existing ports! $15m to expand West End terminal. Tourists love the ferry from St. Thomas where they get to see other Islands. It is the service at Immigration and reliability of the ferries that is the problem. $7m to enhance Road Town. $10m to separate passengers from cargo dock on VG. $7M to enhance VG airport. $3m to enhance Anegada airport. Government needs to buy 2 new ferries in a public private partnership to ensure the ferry schedule runs on time. When we recoup our money then the ferry companies can own the new ferries. Give BVI Airways another $5m to ensure we have 2 planes going to Miami regularly. Give Braithwaite Family $10m to buy new planes to fly Antigua, St Maarten and Puerto Rico regularly for connecting flights from Europe and UK. Work with every airport mentioned to ensure that BVI has a preferential terminal. Let us clear our passengers one time in PR, SXM and Miami to ease the Immigration line.

    Lastly leave the airport expansion for 2020 please. By then we would have built up some equity in our investments and increased fees. Then and only THEN can our economy afford the airport expansion.

    My plan calls for less than $70million. And ALL of our port infrastructure would be upgraded (not just one). We would have increased our assets. All of that development can be done by local contractors so the money stays HERE!

  • one eye (18/01/2017, 21:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    I have no answers for what is currently overrunning my country but I live in hope that those who govern and those blessed with the training and skills would come to our rescue.
  • Engineer (19/01/2017, 10:30) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    If the VI needs an international airport, Anegada is the perfect spot. Building on Anegada will save at least 80% of its current cost and even 50% if persons are relocated.
  • NefariousPlot (19/01/2017, 11:22) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    When VI govt can't pay its debt Tourism- Financial services, taxes will increase when VIlanders can't pay the increase taxes land will have to be sold another St John!!!!!

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