Airport Dispute Nears Resolution

February 4, 2005

GOVERNMENT officials said thisweek that after two months of negotiationsthey may soon achieve what theycouldn’t achieve in the past two years: aresolution in their dispute with AlterraPartners concerning the contract to renovateand operate Juan SantamaríaInternational Airport.Meetings this week between the ministersof Finance and Public Works andTransport, Alterra officials, and representativesof the 10 international banksfinancing the remodeling of the airport,have proved fruitful, although not conclusive.A preliminary agreement was reachedlast December between Alterra and thegovernment (TT, Dec. 24, 2004). Thatagreement was presented to internationalbank representatives in negotiations thisweek.The bankers have requested certainclarifications in the financial equilibriumof the proposed agreement and wantupdated numbers on how much theremaining renovation projects will cost.Transport Minister Randall Quiróssaid he is confident that the requestedclarifications will be incorporated into thedocument within 15 days, according tothe daily La Nación.The recent advances are “the greatestin two years,” Quirós said Tuesday at thePresident’s weekly Cabinet meeting. “Butthat doesn’t mean we have a draft readyto sign.”However, a draft could be ready tosign by the end of this week, he added.This would mean the TechnicalCommission of the Civil AviationAuthority (CETAC) could have the agreementfor its review by the middle of themonth, and the Comptroller General’sOffice at the end of the month. The comptrollerwill have 45 days to study the proposal.The bank representatives have giventhe disputing parties until June 15 toreach a finalized agreement, or else theywill not continue financing the renovationproject, the daily La Repúblicareported.Work must restart by then forAlterra to realistically be able to repaytheir debt with interest, according to thedaily.Last year, the banks suspended thefinal $30 million of Alterra’s $120 millionloan until the dispute is settled, effectivelyhalting the renovation project.

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