Only a fraction of a $35 million Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan that was granted nearly five years ago has been utilized, Minister of Works and Utilities Alfred Sears revealed yesterday.
Sears said an IDB official called the loan facility, which was meant to go towards the improvement of four Family Island airports, the lowest-performing loan in the region.
“I told you I met with the IDB country director yesterday,” Sears said in the House of Assembly.
“What was disclosed is that, due to a number of factors, the $35 million that the IDB committed for airport development in 2017, from 2017, out of the $35 million, only three percent [has been used].
“And what she told me … is that this is the worst-performing loan in the region.
“So, what is happening here? And this is why we are working very closely with the IDB.”
The 2017 IDB loan was intended to improve the infrastructure at airports in Exuma, North Eleuthera, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, and Treasure Cay, Abaco.
The loan has a term of 25 years, with a five-and-a-half-year grace period and a LIBOR-based interest rate.
Sears, however, noted that the government had also planned to finance some of those airports, in part, through public-private partnerships (PPPs).
The matter came up when discussing plans for the Grand Bahama International Airport.
“As you know, there would have been a number of changes to this particular program,” Sears said.
“Portions of it were taken out and put into a PPP.
“… We would have been given a presentation to the Cabinet by the Airport Authority at the Ministry of Tourism and the question is being determined whether Freeport’s airport should, in fact, be part of this PPP.
“In other words, first of all, you have these two parallel tracks.
“There have been number of changes. There have been extractions from the original design and questions are being raised and conversations taking place whether the PPP should incorporate the airport in Freeport.”
However, East Grand Bahama MP Kwasi Thompson, who served briefly as minister of state for finance during the Minnis administration, said Grand Bahama’s airport was never included in the IDB facility.