THE Minister of Public Works and Transport, Javier Chaves, announced this week he will allow the Comptroller General’s Office to decide the fate of airport rate hikes at JuanSantamaríaInternationalAirport.
Chaves and the Technical Council of Civil Aviation (CTAC) have put on hold a request by airport operator Alterra Partners to raise fees for users of the airport until the Comptroller makes a decision.
The fee issue must be solved so that financing and construction at the airport can continue, Chaves told the press on Tuesday.
Alterra, which owns a renewable 20-year concession to operate and renovate the airport, requested the hike last year to ensure the “financial viability” of the project (TT, June 27, 2003).
Renovations to the airport that have yet to be completed include boarding areas and a main ramp, according to La Nación.
Part of the debate centers around the amount Alterra has spent on development and financing – obtaining credit for the project. The amount allotted for these expenditures in the original contract was $3.4 million, but last year Alterra figured the amount at $18 million.
In November CTAC determined $15.4 million to be the appropriate figure. Now the Comptroller must decide if this interpretation is correct in order for financing from the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank to continue and for any decisions on rate changes to be made, Chaves said.
So far Alterra has invested $120 million in the renovation of the airport, Chaves said, adding he expects the total investment to reach $180 million.
The fees under consideration for increase are charged to airlines and companies operating in the airport in a number of different areas, and are usually passed on to the public through plane ticket prices.
CTAC asked the Public Services Regulation Authority (ARESEP) to raise the fees for seven aeronautical services by 21.88% to 167.49% and lower 14 fees by between 1.79% and 9.52%, according to La Nación.
In March 2003, the Comptroller General’s Office slammed Alterra for what it said was excessively increasing airport fees the previous year, to the tune of more than $21 million (TT, March 28, 2003). The Comptroller said Alterra overstated construction and operation costs.
Chaves said he is confident that this issue will be resolved and Costa Rica will continue building the “most modern airport in Central America.”