The World Bank provides US$159 million in loans to four Caribbean countries, including Dominica and Grenada, to help improve air connectivity.
The World Bank has announced that it will provide Caribbean islands Dominica, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Haiti with concessional loans to help improve each of the country’s airports and air connectivity. Part of a series of Caribbean Regional Air Transport Connectivity Projects, the four loans total US$159 million and are aimed at enhancing regional connectivity and increased safety and resilience.
According to The World Bank’s Country Director for the Caribbean, Tahseen Sayed, nearly 9.1 million tourists visited the Caribbean in 2019. “No doubt those numbers will be different for 2020 with border closures and the halt in tourism,” said Tahseen in a press release at the end of May, “however, while the borders are closed now, it is an opportune time to prepare for when we are travelling again”.
Furthermore, the volume of freight attributed to air transport in the Caribbean small states “increased 50% between 2016 and 2018” explains Tahseen.
The loans will be used to finance projects that will enhance “the overall resilience of key connection points in the Eastern Caribbean” explains Tahseen, enabling “countries to better accommodate diverted flights, emergency landings and post-disaster relief flights, and improved regional capacity and collaboration in the sector”.
Recently, the World Bank worked with the Governments of Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia to develop a series of projects to improve their airports and air transport sectors. “US$75 million will be used to improve safety and resilience of the air transport sector in these countries, and another $84 million project was also approved for travellers,” explains Tahseen. “The new projects will help these airports comply with international safety standards and will improve connectivity in the Caribbean.”
As the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ambassador Irwin Laroque, explains “an increase in air travel can boost growth and employment”.
And certainly, the Caribbean islands depend upon reliable and frequent air travel to help sustain their economies, many of which rely on tourism. For Saint Lucia, for example, tourism is the island’s biggest industry, accounting for 65% of GDP.
Furthermore, Caribbean countries are at high risk from natural disasters, and these projects will provide critical infrastructure and equipment to support increased resilience of the airports and the air transport sector.
While Dominica’s economy continues to suffer the impact of Hurricane Maria in 2018, the twin-island state of Antigua & Barbuda suffered Hurricane Irma in 2018, which resulted in 97% of the population of Barbuda moving on to Antigua.
“As we are also learning, air travel is also vulnerable not only to climate-related disasters, but to other crises, like the current pandemic,” says Tahseen. “When speed is essential, supplies, equipment and personnel are rapidly flown in to provide support where it is most needed.”
The Republic of Dominica, which has been planning on building its first international airport from the revenues earned from its Citizenship by Investment Program, has received a US$13 million concessional loan from the World Bank, which includes a 40-year maturity date and a 10-year grace period. In Dominica, the project aims specifically to improve safety and airport resilience readiness to natural disasters, and to strengthen the capacity of agencies handling air transportation operations and airport investment planning.
The Grenada project, to the value of US$17 million, will support increased safety and efficiency of airport operations and navigation, make climate resilience improvements and strengthen the country’s capacity in civil aviation and airport management.
And Saint Lucia will receive US$45 million with the aim of improving operational safety and navigation and enhancing the resilience of airport infrastructure to natural disasters. This will include improvements to the runway of the Hewanorra International Airport and its associated facilities, such as runway-end safety areas, airfield drainage, and crash and fire rescue facilities. Activities will also include installation of modernised air navigation systems, and institutional strengthening in air traffic control and management.