The Government of Dominica continues to work towards fulfilling its promise of building an international airport.
The village of Wesley was chosen as the site and works have begun to relocate residents of the area.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit stated that these has been a long awaited project spanning over three decades and numerous governments.
“The international airport project has been at the forefront of development talks for over three decades and even more. Successive Governments have gone through the paces of conducting relevant studies, identifying appropriate sites, and purchasing land and property to prepare for construction. In fact since our independence in 1979, every ruling Government has declared its intention to build an international airport in Dominica. But this Labour Party Government is going to make it a reality. Your Dominica Labour Party Government is ready to get the international airport of the ground,” the Prime Minister noted.
He went on to list a number of achievements which has already been accomplished towards the development of what will be Dominica’s biggest infrastructural project.
“In the past year we have settled on the site in Wesley and acquired property through careful negotiations with land and property owners in the area. We also created an International Airport Development Company (IADC) with a fully appointed board of directors. We will officially sign an agreement with Montreal Management Consultants Establishment to begin the construction of our international airport,” PM Skerrit stated.
The Prime Minister has also announced a date for the signing agreement between MMCE and Government. The agreement, which will be signed on June 9 2021 will signal the start of construction work on the airport.
He noted that once the agreement is signed, Government will start negotiations with various airlines.
“Even before the airport will be completed, we will be engaging an international firm that will assist the Ministry of Tourism in marketing the country and promoting the airport so that we can start signing agreements and having commitments from airlines saying that ‘yes once your airport is completed we will land in Dominica’. So we are not going to wait to build and then speak to airlines. We are going to be speaking to airlines almost immediately as we sign the agreement,” the Prime Minister went on to state.
“As Prime Minister I must assure you of my commitment to this project, because I am convinced that an international airport will open so many new avenues of economic opportunity for our country. Various sectors including tourism and agriculture will be significantly enhanced and a host of new employment opportunities will be created for citizens in various areas of expertise and skill,” PM Skerrit further added.
CEO of the International Airport Development Company (IADC) Mr. Samuel Johnson stated that the IADC is focused on starting up an organization that can truly fulfill the mandate and expectations of the Government such as interfacing with the key stakeholders, the developer and Government to ensure that the agreements that have been signed are fully executed and the technical specifications that have been set out are in accordance with those agreements.
He explained that the construction of this international airport can provide numerous short term and long term benefits to the island.
“One of the things that I have seen being on the ground is some immediate short terms benefits that are happening. In terms of going through the acquisition process there is a significant injection of capital into the site area. And even in the construction of the new housing that’s going on, there is immediate ramping up of the construction sector that we are seeing. In the medium term, while the airport is being constructed you will also a lot of ancillary support services coming along in the area to support the workers. But long term really. In addition to the tourism, there is also significant benefits from a business standpoint. There are significant business opportunities in terms of new restaurants, new services, entertainment all being impacted by the ease that tourists and stay over visitors will be able to come to the island,” Mr. Johnson stated.
Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Mrs. Missi Henderson noted that so far Government has acquired about 267 properties from various property owners. This is averaging to about 505 acres of land which is now vested in the state.
Approximately 86 percent of negotiations are already complete with the goal to complete the rest of the negotiations by the end of December.
“We had about 71 built properties on the airport site. During the negotiations, we offered them various options and they had to select the option that is most suitable for them. So one of the options that was afforded to them was the one for swapping and to allow Government to build for them. So currently we are building thirty homes at Jo Burton, a combination of two bedrooms, three bedrooms and four bedrooms. Some of them chose the option to do a duplex and what was special about that initiative is that we allowed the home owners to see the designs before and they could see the designs and even tweak they design if the wanted. The architectural designs were done by local contractors and the construction is being done by local contractors. And between September to December we should see person have access to their homes,” Mrs. Henderson explained.
Meanwhile, Project Coordinator Dr. Colin McIntyre stated that MMCE is the best option based on the fact that there has been a partnership established between MMCE and the Government of Dominica.
“We have one option and the only option that is not going to place any burdens on Dominica is the CBI option. This is why we have decided to engage Dr. Haiden and MMCE in discussion. We have every single confidence that, based on the track record of MMCE, in terms of what they have done in Bellevue Chopin and the housing structures around the country, and apartment complexes and those going on right now, and our health centres, and everything else. So MMCE has a proven track record and Government is of the opinion that MMCE is the best option,” Dr. McIntyre noted.