San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Skies Clearing for Airport Renovation Plans

The project to expandJuanSantamaríaInternationalAirportappears headed for take off once again with the approval of additional financing this week.


Two weeks ago, the Comptroller General’s office rejected the transfer of airport operations from Alterra Partners, a subsidiary of Bechtel Corporation, to U.S.-based Houston Airport System Development Corporation (HASDC) because of lack of guaranteed funding for the expansion.


In the latest effort to get the ball rolling, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the agency which previously financed Alterra, announced it will remain as the main creditor for the project.


In addition to the IFC, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) will provide $100 million in guarantees. OPIC will cover a $70 million credit, and IDB will cover the remaining $30 million.


Last month, U.S. bank J.P. Morgan backed out of providing the required $100 million guarantee due to the sagging international economy. As a result, negotiations with the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) regarding new airport tariffs were delayed (TT, Feb. 20).


In an effort to increase trust in the process, Public Works and Transport (MOPT) Minister Karla González visited Washington two weeks ago and met with potential creditors to confirm that the interested parties had a solid credit flow to back up the project.


“What the (MOPT) minister did was the responsible thing to do,” said Adolfo Lobo, the comptroller of airport project. “Such actions show how serious the country is about this project.”


HASDC announced this week it will provide $40 million of its own money in order to guarantee the completion of phases I and II of the project, which entail the remodeling of the terminal building, the demolition and renovation of boarding bridges and of terminals C, D and E.


If the comptroller general approves the new stipulations added to the contract, then the construction, which was completely halted in 2007, will begin again in May. The estimated completion time for both phases of the project is 18 months.


IFC will provide $10 million for the first six months of the project starting in May, pending the approval of the comptroller general.


An approval by the comptroller general will mean an end to an almost ten-year saga where much has been said and little done. “This could be the best thing that could happen for the country,” Lobo said. “But we will respect whatever the comptroller general decides.”


If the new stipulations are approved, HASDC will hold the concession for a period of 25 years, an extension from a previous 20-year clause in the contract.


The Costa Rican Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) expressed its support regarding the new announcement and urged the comptroller general to approve the revised contract.


“All of the countries in the region have bet on their airports, and without a doubt, it has generated a good environment among their visitors,” said Gonzalo Vargas, president of CANATUR, in a statement this week. “This is what we need, especially knowing that from tourism we get the highest quantity of currency for the country’s economy.”





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