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Bauefield Airport

The Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project Vs the VDTL Airport Deal

On May 8, 2015, the World Bank issued a press release announcing the Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project valued at US$59.5 million.

The amount approved as credit by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors will be to improve the safety and efficiency of Vanuatu’s aviation sector and as stated by World Bank “a critical pillar in Vanuatu’s continued social and economic development, and a key part of its disaster management and recovery activities.”

World Bank Pacific director, Franz Drees-Gross, has recently told Radio New Zealand that “there is no need to extend Bauerfield’s runway.”

“Right now we think with those upgrades Bauerfield has the capacity to serve Port Vila well for many years to come. And right now there is no lengthening of the runway that is contemplated.”

The press release continued that the “Bauerfield International Airport will receive urgent runway rehabilitation and a new domestic terminal.”

Franz Drees-Gross did not just stop there; he went on to say “we will also be conducting lighting, cabling and navigational aids, both at Bauerfield and some outer island airports.”

The US$59.5 million for the project will be funded through a credit from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.

The current statement by World Bank is another plus to China’s remarks that it will look to improve the main Airports for the Vanuatu Government.

The Chinese Government assistance also came with support from World Bank valued at US$200 million. Totalling the amount would provide us a figure of US$259.5 million. If the World Bank does provide another US90.5 million to upgrade other Airports in Vanuatu, the total would be US$350 million which will match the US$350 million offered by a Singapore Company which the Vanuatu Government refused because of a 50 year concession to manage the Bauerfield Airport.

The Government will be praised to have wisely stopped the Airport deal and in its patients secured a better option which will see all operations for the Bauerfield Airport remain with Vanuatu and not some private foreign company.

In the process the Vanuatu Aviation Investment Project “will finance the strengthening of Vanuatu’s aviation regulator and institutions by developing an Airport Master Plan and an Aviation Sector Strategy, as well as delivering targeted technical assistance and training to identify and support the sector’s long-term needs.”

World Bank is also financing another similar project in Congo known as the Congo – Goma Airport Safety Improvement Project.