Karla González, head of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), announced Wednesday that the ministry, the Civil Aviation Technical Council (CETAC) and private consortium Alterra Partners have agreed on a new initiative in the ongoing negotiations regarding Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela, west of San José.
Alterra has a contract to operate and remodel the airport, but the company and the government have been tangled in a contract dispute related to the financing plans for the construction since 2003. In this most recent development, all parties have agreed that the government will receive 35% of profits on the airport over a certain limit, instead of 20% as originally established.
The change was submitted Tuesday for approval to the Comptroller General’s Office, whose report questioning Alterra’s financing plans in 2003 sparked the original conflict. A letter from President Oscar Arias, expressing his support for the contract accompanied the proposed change, according to the daily La Nación.
Rodrigo Arias, the President’s brother and spokesman, said Wednesday following the President’s weekly Cabinet meeting that although a letter to the comptroller from National Insurance Institute (INS) President Guillermo Constenla urged the comptroller to reject the contract addendum designed to resolve the ongoing conflict, the letter does not reflect the position of the Arias administration. Only the President and González are authorized to express that position, Rodrigo Arias said.
González said government representatives involved in the negotiations are in no way implying Alterra should withdraw from the contract.
The contract addendum has been rejected multiple times by the Comptroller’s Office, with the most recent rejection sending Alterra, CETAC and MOPT back to the negotiating table (TT,May 5).
La Nación also reported recently that Alterra is delinquent in its payments to the 10 international banks financing its project to remodel the airport. This month, the company paid only 51% of its semester payment for its $120 million loan from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), making $4.26 million for interests on the loan but not the $4.1 million due on the principal.
Mónica Nágel, executive director of Alterra Partners Costa Rica, told La Nación the lack of financial equilibrium in Alterra’s contract with the government is the cause of the company’s payment problems.