May have to ‘waive off’ that landing because of cloudy skies

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Barbuda has been in the spotlight a lot in recent times. A number of issues have propelled our sister isle into the spotlight with most centred around land use and ownership stirred in with a healthy dose of politics. Many will complain about the issues close to their hearts, but at least Barbuda is getting a bit of the spotlight shone on them and they should do all that they can to take advantage of the attention.
Like Antigua, Barbuda has its fair share of conspiracy theorists and there is no issue more appealing to them than the proposed airport and all the politics and economics surrounding it. We have been peppered with theories as to ‘who will get how much to build what, when’ that our brains are being overloaded. That said, the curious thing is, the conspiracy theories generally match; which is not the norm. Usually, those offering up these kinds of theories differ in major ways but in this case, the differences are minor.
And when you examine the facts (or what we have been told thus far), the odd dots begin to get connected and patterns begin to form. So, sit back while we do an examination and maybe at the end of it, you may count yourself as a new member of the league of conspiracy theorists.
The two most recent bits of news regarding the proposed Barbuda airport came from Barbudan MP Arthur Nibbs and Minister of Information Melford Nicholas. Nibbs informed the nation that the construction on the proposed new airport had been placed on hold pending approval from the relevant authorities. More specifically, he stated, “With respect to the airport we are awaiting the approval from the Directorate of Civil Aviation because you can’t just go in there and start to build an airport.”
That coincided with Minister Nicholas informing the nation that the tender for the airport would likely be waived because there was a group that was bringing financing. This took us by surprise because we had been previously told that the financing was already in place. 
It was our understanding that the land lease funds from De Niro’s Paradise Found and DeJoria’s Peace Love & Happiness hotel projects were to be used for the financing of the airport. Then there is apparently some sort of agreement where Paradise Found has a heavy hand in the planning and the operation of the airport. By the way, the government pegged the land it was contributing to the “joint venture” at US $1 million. To be clear, “joint venture” is their terminology, not ours.
Fast forward and there were a couple of delays with the ground-breaking, followed by a pre-council election ground-breaking, followed by another delay, coinciding with the news that financing was still required and a waiver of tender was likely to be sought, followed by … well, you can see why the conspiracy theorists are salivating.
In any case, during the campaigning for the council election, the prime minister indicated that the airport would have cost about US $15 million. Then we heard that the number would change because the original plan called for a 30-foot apron would need to extended to 45 feet.  Luckily that will only cost us an additional US$1 million, or so. We are now told that the airport could start as early as September, come in under $16 million, and be done in a year. So far, budget and plans for the terminal are non-existent to the best of our knowledge. Therefore, at this point, we really should be more accurately referring to this as the $16 million runway project.  
So, while the conspiracy theorists may have answers, we are news people so we have questions … lots of questions. 
Let’s start with the numbers. If the original quote for the narrower runway was US $15 million then how can the wider runway cost us only about US $1 million more? That just highlights the possibility that we were being screwed on the first quote. Are both quotes from the same company? And how about that financing? Are we so broke that we cannot muster US $4 – 5 million to preserve transparency and not have to waiver a tender and introduce a cloud of suspicion? We spend close to that
kind of money on buildings and paint companies
with the snap of a Cabinet finger. 
And how much is that financing going to cost us? Couldn’t we just make it a condition of tender? Meaning, any interested parties must provide financing to the tune of X dollars at Y per cent for Z years. Maybe other companies would gladly lend us a few dollars to secure the contract.
We join the conspiracy theorists in wondering just who and which companies will benefit from the sub-contracting that will come from this project? Already, the favoured company is said to have a connected comrade smoothing the bumps, so we will wait and see.  
There also seems to be a bit of a conflict in how much homework was done and how firm the prices are.  People are questioning how we can be this far along, that we have plans, can start in September and have quotes when the clearing only just began? What about the environmental studies? What about the soil studies that would be critical for engineering, etc, etc, etc?
Things are already changing at a rapid pace and one has to wonder if this will be one of those runaway projects where there will be never ending changes and money needed because there was pressure to just get it done. Will Barbuda fall victim to our age-old problem – never time, or money to do it right, but always time and money to do it over?
A dense cloud seems to be approaching Barbuda and that may cause this landing to be “waived off” due to the lack of clear line of sight and turbulence. Remember, aviation does have its rules.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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